I came across a great article today entitled How to Design for Your Worst Client: You. While the article aims to provide designers with tips for designing their own personal websites, there are some some lessons that anyone working on a web design project can learn from.

“Be as specific as you can on what you would like on each page. That means decide on the content first. I know, it’s a design portfolio. You need something to design though. How many times has a client had you design something without saying what content they want on there, or saying they will get it to you soon (meaning the day before it goes live). Don’t do this to you.”

Too often sites are designed without a thought out content plan in place.  This usually leads to last minute redesigns or sites that are squares when they should be circles.  Content should be where you start, not an after thought.

“There is always someone better than you. Always. But remember: That person’s first few websites sucked. Not only did they suck, they might have been the worst website ever created. So why are you trying so hard to have the best website ever in one shot? You won’t get better unless you start making your own sites.

Stop using other websites as a crutch while you aimlessly wander looking for something to spark an idea. Since you have your goals defined and know what content you want, you can quickly move along until you find the elements that match your needs. Then STOP looking.”

In almost all cases, organizations are better off getting something good, but simple up quickly and then improving in an iterative way over time.  Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

One of the biggest obstacles to getting good design implemented is a dysfunctional approval process, as this article on the struggles American Airlines has had attests.

The biggest challenge to better design isn’t getting better designers. The problem is organizational, and the hub-and-spoke decision-making process that was originally created to slash bureaucracy–that is, to create more decentralized decisions and less hierarchy. But the overriding weakness, which design thinking makes manifest, is that good design is necessarily the product of a heavily centralized structure. Great design at places such as Apple isn’t about “empowering decision makers” or whatever that lame B-school buzzword is. It’s about awarding massive power and self-determination to those with the most cohesive vision–that is, the designers. Those are the people with the best idea of what customers want. That’s the essence of design thinking.”

While the quote references problems with the way things are structured at American Airlines, I’ve found that organizations of all sizes and shapes have similar structural problems.  No matter how talented the design team, it is difficult to produce good websites unless the end client has efficient structures in place for responding to and approving your work.  Committees are probably good for a few things, but designing websites isn’t one of them.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.