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street art in San Juan, Puerto Rico – March 2017

Here are two phrases every website designer hears with regularity, often during the first meeting or call with a prospective client:

  • I’m not looking for a lot of bells and whistles
  • I don’t want this to look like a “cookie cutter” website

When creating a new website project, one of the designer’s jobs is to gauge just how distinctive the site should feel. This is sometimes, but not always, directly in opposition with the concept of clarity, usability, or other terms that describe how intuitive and obvious the navigation and other features of a website feel. What feels like “bells and whistles” for a certain project might be exactly what another client wants so it doesn’t feel “cookie cutter.”

Most of our design and redesign clients want their sites to appear distinctive without crossing into obscurity or gratuitous complexity. Not enough creativity is a bad thing, but so is too much, and that depends on context. At least most of the time. . . it’s refreshing and energizing when a client says “let’s see how far we can push the design and be as innovative as possible!” Certain clients—especially those who expect a lot of sophisticated visitors with lots of design- or tech-savvy—may want something that feels new and unorthodox, and they may envision an interface that challenges the user a little.

Most of our website design clients want their sites to appear distinctive without crossing into obscurity or gratuitous showboating.

When evaluating a designer for your website build or redesign project, they’ll probably show you several sample websites. Make sure they don’t all look the same, which often implies someone with limited skills or creativity. You should also be sure the more bold and interesting looking sites actually make sense. Many websites that are striking at first glance become puzzling or unpleasant to use when you click around to a few pages and use them the way a real visitor would. If you find a website hard to use, there’s a pretty good chance that the general public will too.

At the creative part of the design process is often fun and inspiring, and we love it when a client encourages us to go a little nuts! But we also want your project to achieve your goals, so we’ll make sure creativity doesn’t go so far as to get in the way of the real purpose of the site.

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