Personalities in Web Design

In every industry, in every workplace there are personalities. Some are funny, great or inspiring whereas others are hateful and annoying.

The web design industry is just the same as any other. We probably house the largest group of individuals that can be classed as having some kind of emotional dysfunctional disorder from one day to the next. It’s in our nature to be on the ball one day and hiding under our desks the next. Some of us need company when we’re working and others need a dark room. Some listen to music and some need peace and quiet and with this, we find the different personalities appearing. In the one industry where we have a very large community (especially in the United Kingdom and United States) that often visit conferences, meet-ups and socialise, there are still a few who just don’t/can’t get on with each other for whatever reason. Let’s take a look at the a-typical personalities in web design.

The Legend

If you imagine someone on par with how Zeus was in greek mythology then you’re probably getting close to the web industry legend. This person has been around, they’ve done everything on all levels and are well respected. They listen and still learn, they rarely bark but when they stamp down their mighty fist you had better damn well listen. They don’t talk for the sake of it, they don’t force you to listen but if you did you’d learn more in 5 minutes than you could in 5 months. This is ‘The Legend’ ladies and gentlemen, give them the respect they deserve.

The ‘I Know Better’ Person

You offer your advice but this person really doesn’t care. No matter what you’ve done and what you have achieved. The fact that you might be able to offer some valuable information, the ‘I Know Better’ really couldn’t give a monkey. He/She is so full of their own importance that they feel like you’re attacking them by offering advice instead of just listening and learning. Nothing you can do is good enough and they are not always right, but they’re never wrong.

The Belittler

Whether you’ve just started out in the industry or you’ve been in it years, this person couldn’t be any more of an ass. You’ve done something great, they’ve done something ten times better and it doesn’t stop there. You could have been perfecting your design for weeks, getting feedback and iterating and when this person sees it they laugh, they snigger and shout you down but they NEVER offer you any constructive feedback. They feel big standing on their soap box acting the big man. They forgot where they came from and where they started. This person doesn’t deserve to be in ‘our’ industry.

The Sheep

Lacking in creativity or just in awe of the so-called web-celebs, the sheep is a follower. They’re not scared of following trends but are very scared of straying from the norm. They may not have a style but they’re sure to be very inspired by the people that do. They approve of anything said by anyone, they rarely ever disagree to make sure they’re liked by everyone without realising that everyone else would just like them to have their own opinion. They never do any real harm, they’re just there in the industry, following in line.

The Grey Man

Undeniably the most dangerous person in the industry for you. The grey man stands at the back of the class, watching, listening and learning. They live for what they do and no one ever sees them. They never over indulge in industry discussion, they’re happy to go un-noticed from a vocal point of view. Every time they finish a piece of work it wow’s everyone but because the rest of the industry doesn’t know who they are they don’t stay on the radar for long. The grey man will professionally develop faster than anyone else in our industry and generally the grey man will become ‘The Legend’ at a later date.

The Helper

The Helper’s are like our industry Red Cross. They have band-aids, magic cream and more. They love helping out whether it be offering feedback or creating tutorials. They love writing and speaking to help make our industry better on a whole. They’re generally very knowledgeable and liked because they give something back when everyone else doesn’t have the time. They make money from doing what they love, giving back to the industry with those little things, that we need every day.

The Hater

The Hater is like the classroom bully but with less sense. They just can’t get on with anybody. They lack respect when it should be given and don’t really care about any opinions or views from the time-served professionals. They have to critique everything in a negative manner, nothing is every positive. Whilst these hater’s don’t give any respect to the rest of the industry, they don’t deserve any either. At some point in the future they’ll realise that they went about everything wrong and if only they’d listened and kept their mouth shut, everything probably would have turned out better for them.

Do you recognise any of the above personalities? I’ve met some of them and am happy to class some of the people I know as ‘The Legend’ status. Have you met anymore personalities that I’ve not listed above? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Why your design will never be complete…

With all the good intentions in the world, you’re setting yourself up for a big fall if you think that thing you’re in the middle of designing is ever going to be complete.

A big shift.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve been in the same position, in the early days. Way back when we were designing static websites with just a few pages it was quite easy to work through the process of designing and building. Over the course of a year we might only have to add one or two things but probably nothing which would change the physical design of the templates we had already constructed.

We as designers no longer design websites. FACT. Whenever someone asks what I do, I generally say that I produce the DIBI Conference because avoiding answering the long drawn out answer for what I ‘really’ do is just easier. Answering ‘I design stuff’ just doesn’t cut it anymore and if the person you’re talking to is non-design and non-technical they look at your completely blank anyway. Websites are old news, they’re the 5 pager you designed for your local cleaning service. Due to the huge array of content creation systems like WordPress / ExpressionEngine / Joomla, we as designers could in essence create some templates and then let the user develop the content. That is all well and good if creating content is just what your client wants.

A website is no longer a website. It’s a business, I’d go as far as saying that 90% of websites are predominantly the main money earner in most businesses. Whether that be direct revenue like advertising, product buying or the lead in for a sale. Within every business things change, and when things change adjustments have to be made. Designers need to listen, look, analyze and improve our designs on a constant basis. Just because things might work for the first few weeks after a design has launched doesn’t mean it will in a few months.

Iteration, Iteration, Iteration…

We don’t plan, sketch, wire-frame, structure and architect for nothing. We need to listen first and act, if something needs to scale, it needs to scale! If it’s going to scale then you had better get it in your head that the design will change over due course. Iteration is key, if you’re designing and building something, get it out of the door early and sit back and watch. Analyze how users are using it, what can be made better and just because it is live don’t ever think that its done and dusted.

Tell your clients…

Clients tend to think that once they have their ‘website’, web app or system that everything is finished. They find it hard to understand that just because it is live it’s not actually finished. I’ve tried to explain this multiple times and have ended up with that cold blank stare. I’ve since figured out a much easier way to discuss why the design and development of a system is never complete and this is what I say.

You buy a brand new house, it’s very big and strong. It’s made of bricks, has a sturdy waterproof roof and you’re all ready for moving in. The removal men help you move in putting all of your worldly belongings in the right place. Two weeks later you notice some cracks appearing around the door and window frames. Not because the house is breaking, but its settling in to its foundations. Nine out of ten times these little cracks just need filled over. Over more time you’ll realise that you need a lampshade, carpets and a new colorful wall in the entrance area to the house. Your house is never finished, in the same way as your new system will never be finished.

Take Note

Your design will never be complete because it was never meant to be in the first place. It can only ever be great as perfect is only ever in the future and you’re not there yet.

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Did you not see that big button? – User Test

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a new project. An extension of the Codeworks Connect Jobs in Digital area, to make it a stand-a-lone system. This article is a follow up on the ‘Evolution of a Button‘ article, where I detailed a user test of various buttons to end up with the most performing button when it came to design and color.

A 10 Person Test

This test was intended for a small amount of people, primarily to test the ‘call to action’ button on the homepage. I wanted to find if it was the correct colour, size and wording to ensure the user had the desired reaction. This would then enable me to either change the button or remove it completely. I chose a set of questions, so that the users could feel comfortable using the site before going for the ultimate question.

The questions were;

  • Can you go to
  • Can you view the permanent jobs?
  • Can you search for a web design job?
  • Can you navigate back to the homepage?
  • Can you post a job?

At first I thought these questions seemed fairly simple, surely just browsing around any website was easy? It should be, I’d designed it to be easy… right?

It Wasn’t

Apart from looking over someones shoulder, I’ve never actively watched how ‘general users’ as I call them, use the internet. I ended up sitting on one hand and biting the other just so I didn’t shout WTF at the top of my voice. I figure that ‘general users’ have no logic? Or I have too much? Or everyone just does everything differently? I’ll go into the full test at a later date, it was surprising to say the least but ironed out some major problems that I didn’t even realise we had.

The Design

I’ve been calling this design ‘comfortable’ from the start. It’s not in your face and you just feel comfortable and ‘nice’ when looking at it. It was meant to restrict if not indefinitely remove problem areas, it was designed so you could browse with ease to take away any browsing problems a general user might have.

Jobs in Digital Website

Jobs in Digital has always helped in three areas, these being Freelance, Permanent and Graduate job vacancies. It has always been a much used service of Codeworks Connect and something which the members of Connect have always wanted.

The Test

The test was straight forward, I asked the questions, the users navigated and I made notes. The first four questions of the test were simple, they were meant to get the user navigating so I could pick up reactions of the pages they were faced with. Hat tip: Silverback, the User Testing app from the guys at Clearleft is awesome for this if you’re in the position like me to have 10 users ready to go in quick succession.

1st User Test

The first user used words like ‘nice’ and ‘I like that’… all good we were on to a winner. They navigated around the website with ease and getting ready for the last question I brought them back to the homepage before asking them to post a job. Remembering that the whole intention of having the ‘BIG RED BUTTON’ was for people to click it, I went ahead and asked them to post a job. Without a second thought they moved the cursor up, over and past the big red button and headed straight for the text link in the top right hand corner. I then asked them to fill in a few of the form fields before finishing the test.

I needed to find out why didn’t click the big red button, but wanted to word my query in the right way.

Gavin: “Just a quick question, when you navigated back to the homepage and I asked if you could post a job, you didn’t click the big red button. Was there any reason for that?

User: “Red button?”

Users Laughs

User: “Erm… honestly, I just didn’t know it was there…”

I made the notes, surely this would just be a one off.

Post a Job on Jobs in Digital

2nd User Test

Same thing happened, they moved right up and over the red button and hit the text link without a second guess. The conversation at the end of the test went something like this;

Gavin: “Just a quick question, when you navigated back to the homepage and I asked if you could post a job, you didn’t click the big red button. Was there any reason for that?

User: “I just know the links are usually up there, aren’t they there on all websites?”

I made the notes and tentatively thought this surely couldn’t be the case with every user.

3rd – 7th User Test

I couldn’t believe it, they followed the 2nd user test down to a tiny spec of detail. I seriously couldn’t figure out why anyone would not use the big red button.

The users knew where the logo was placed as they had been using it to navigate back to the homepage, so thinking the red button was a logo just couldn’t be. To miss it completely and not even know it was there or what it said took it even further.

8th User Test

The 8th test was completely different, more so because the user used the browser differently, let alone actually browsing. They clicked on links that no one else had attempted, they found difficulty generally browsing and searching. I couldn’t tell whether this was because they felt pressured being a part of the user test or something else. As I neared the end of the test and asked them the final question I could feel it in my boots that they were going to press the big red button and guess what!? They did! I jumped off my seat and party danced similar to Matt.

9th and 10th

The party dance didn’t help, there was no magical outcome to jumping off my seat, as soon as the next users sat down they missed that big red button all over again.


9 out of 10 users didn’t click the button yet we didn’t remove it, I need to test this on a much larger scale to see if it’s worth removing it all together so we’re now tracking on which link/button they click to post a job. Throughout the testing no major issues were found which we couldn’t fix on the fly (I’ll write about this at a later date). At the end of the day, the users thought the big red button was part of the website and much preferred to click a text link because “that’s where the links are…” Looking at the image below you can see how close the button and the link were together, it’s quite amazing how they missed the button.

Text Link versus Graphic Button

I’d like to test colour changes of the Post a Job button to see if that makes a significant difference to the click rate.

Have you done any tests on large call to action buttons and found they were ineffective?

All the bbb’s in Veer

Veer Play-offOver on dribbble, there are regular ‘Play-off’s’ whereby a person or a company post an image and you have to use that image to create something cool. Usually the person posting the play-off then judges all of the entrants and they win a prize. It’s all fun and I like to take part when I have the time.

This week, Veer added a new play-off with probably one of the largest prizes I’ve seen since joining dribbble quite a few months ago. I instantly had an idea in my head that I wanted to play with after seeing the amazing work by Cameron Moll on his posters. All in, the work probably took close to 4-6 hours on and off.

Head over to dribbble to have a look and be sure to check out the larger image via the link at dribbble to see just how many glyphs there are, and if you wish you can ‘like’ it if you either like it, think I’m mad or just want to generally say big effort and nice work.

Build, another boutique web conference.

As some of you may know I produce, with the rest of the guys at Codeworks, the DIBI Conference. I tend not to talk about it around here too much. DIBI this year was a success and a little while before that, Build, ran by the very talented Andy McMillan was also a huge success in its own right. Both Andy and I met up for the first time at dConstruct this year for a good ol’ conference chat and told me a few plans he had for Build. I’ll be traveling across to Belfast in November for my first ‘Build Experience’ and to see why both DIBI and Build were claimed to be ‘Boutique Web Conferences’. I’m very much looking forward to it, and in the spirit of being a top bloke, Andy has create a 10% off voucher which runs out at midnight tonight to get some money off workshop and conference tickets.

If you want to enjoy another ‘Boutique Web Conference’ then get yourself across to Build then we’ll hopefully see you at DIBI next year.

The discount code is 10PERCENT and you need to use it at the Build Conference website.