People like to say content is king, but how important is design in the overall process?
If they can’t read your content, then it doesn’t matter how great your content is. Many blogs a few years ago, in trying to make a full-time living, got cluttered with ads, and images that made the reading experience horrible. I think the internet has grown to where there’s a great balance of content, and other items that help pay the bills. Ultimately, we’re seeing a trend in going back to simpler designs because a simple design gets to the point, and that point is good quality content.
Through years of owning a blog, a lot of bloggers have taught themselves how to do basic design, and many how to code. Do you think everyone should learn or do you think it requires a certain kind of person?
Everyone CAN learn how to code, and it’d probably save some bloggers some money in the long run to read up on some basic HTML and CSS skills. I say go for it, but always keep in mind the tasks that you are passionate about. If editing your website layout isn’t your thing, then leave that up to someone that is driven by creating, and editing design elements for the web.
There is something to be said though of a person that does have a special eye for design. For bloggers who want to focus on their writing, they may learn the skills to make edits to their blog layout, but major redesigns and creating a great user experience takes someone that has the knowledge to create something fantastic.
What are some of the most common design mistakes you see?
Here recently, not thinking about mobile. Mobile devices usage has skyrocketed in the last few years. There are some sites I manage that the majority of visitors are on their phone. That’s a huge difference than what we saw just 4 years ago. So having a website now, you need it to look nice on a mobile device. There’s no way around that anymore.
But commonly, what I keep seeing over the years is clutter. There’s so much information out there, and so many websites want to display it all “above the fold” that it gets cluttered at the sacrifice of design, and usability. A big part of web design is displaying content in the best way possible for the visitor, and for one reason or another, things get lost and visitors have nowhere to rest their eyes on something. That’s a problem that should be fixed immediately.
On the flipside, what do you feel makes an awesome design, well, awesome?
Simple, simple, simple. The best designs are ones that have just the right amount of color, and structure to stay out of the way. Nothing is more important than to create a structure that reaches a common goal. Subtle colors, a nice grid of lines placed in order to direct people’s glances, and tastefully positioned imagery/photos are the things that make me happy.
With WordPress, a lot of people go with a ready made theme. Are there advantages to having a custom design?
There are plenty of great themes out there. I recommend people to look around, and see if some catch their eye. The reason I say that is most people will find what they need, and what they want in their theme after they’ve used a few different ones. Once someone understands what they’d like to have, then they can go on a hunting spree for a theme with those elements. In my experience, people will find something that they kind of like, but not really what they envisioned, and that’s where a custom design comes in.
Theme designers make templates for the masses, and they’re trying to please a general audience, so when you start needing specific things and functions, then you can call me :)
I’m a fan of Clients From Hell which is a Tumblr full of horror stories from designers. It’s pretty hilarious. Do you have any horror stories to share? Also, when working with a designer, how can people make the process go much smoother?
Really, my stories are nothing out of the ordinary that you won’t see on that site. A common joke among designers is that it always seems that clients want their logo to be bigger and “pop” more. As soon as I figure out how to make things “pop,” I’ll retire.
I think those working with a designer need to understand that it’s a relationship of sorts. When a designer starts cranking out some designs, and it’s not quite to your liking, communicate that, and work together. The more your designer knows your plans and goals, the more they’ll knock your socks off with something you didn’t even know you would love until you saw it.
Where can people learn more about you, and check out your stuff?
My main website is the best place for sure. It contains some of my recent work. Also, you can follow me on Twitter and Google+. I’m always down for a good conversation, so tweet at me and I’ll be sure to respond.
Mike Stenger is a writer with a love of all things technology.