A fashion and a web designer have a lot in common. They both design. But they also try to make something that is practical and pretty for their user. They even follow the same steps to get there. However, designing fashion is much more hands-on than designing a website. Fabrics are physically manufactured into a tangible piece of clothing. A web design on the other hand is made of digital pixels that are arranged on a screen. So, where am I getting with this?
It’s simple. By applying the tangible metaphor of tailoring clothes to designing a website, we can make this rather abstract process more concrete and the different steps involved easy to follow. Let me show you how.
6 Steps to a perfectly fitting website
1. Take measurements
As a fashion designer, I start a new design by taking measurements from the model I want to design for. This makes sense, because I wouldn’t create something first, and then see who it fits, right? For example, I would like to design clothing for a female person between 20 and 35 years of age. This woman is of average height and weight. She likes trendy, but casual, and most of all comfortable clothes.
As a web designer, I kind of do the same thing. I do some user research to find out who my users are. I’m interested in their age and prior experience with my own or similar products. I’m also curious how they are going to use my product and which goals they have when coming to my website. I want to perfectly fit my design to their needs.
2. Decide on a piece of clothing
Next thing I do as a tailor, I decide on a piece of clothing. You will agree that a shoe is a piece of clothing, but not all clothing are shoes. While shoes have a sole, some fabric around the foot and most likely shoelaces, a hat might be formed out of one piece of fabric.
As a web designer, I need to make the same decision. A website can have different purposes. There are web stores, blogs, social community sites, and so on. What is it that I want to offer? Do I offer information? Do I want to sell something? Do I have one product or many? Do I want people to just consume on my website or do I want them to act? Maybe even react? Or interact?
3. Know the trends
One of the things that make me a good fashion designer is that I know what people want. However, this is not something that just comes to me. I have to keep my eyes open all the time and observe the world around me. What do people wear? What are the trends? Which colors go with the season? I get inspired and I want to make sure there is a market out there for what I do.
In web design, it’s the same thing. For a new design, I do a benchmark to see what others are doing. I want to know what works and what doesn’t. I look at successful or popular websites and sometimes I can adapt ideas to my own design. Other times, I learn what I should not not. Anyways, it helps a great deal to learn from best practices instead of reinventing the wheel over and over again.
4. Be authentic
As a fashion designer, sometimes I wonder why people still like my designs. There are a couple of things I can’t stand, like ruffles or silky fabrics. I never include these in my designs. On the other hand, I love buttons and zippers and I use them a lot. I guess the answer is simple. People who like my fashion, like my style. Probably they don’t like ruffles either, but they love buttons just as much as I do. So if I stick to my style, people will continue to like my fashion.
As a web designer, I also have my principles and I see it as my responsibility to hold on to them. Actually, in web design, it’s more a matter of ethics. There are things I wouldn’t do, like design for a political party I disagree with, or build a whole website with flash. At the same time, there are things that I think are very important for every website, like a clear structure and accessible content. I will always try to include these. Once people know your designs are authentic, they will trust you as a designer.
5. Sew and fit
When tailoring a piece of clothing, it is important to pause every now and then to see if it fits the model. Even though I have my measurements, I want to be sure I’m getting it right. Imagine I finished a pair of pants and later found out they are too short. I would have to do them all over again.
As a web designer I face the same risk. With early and repetitive user testing, I collect feedback on the different stages of my design. This way, I know immediately if I did something wrong, if something is not clear to my users, or if I missed something. I might just have misinterpreted some results from my user research, which I can now revise. This step can save me lots of trouble later on.
6. Conquer the runway
Finally, as a fashion designer, I proudly present my design on the runway. Here is where I get my recognition and final feedback. Did I do a good job? Do people like it? Will people buy it? If yes, I can make money with my design.
As a web designer, I also have this final evaluation. Once my design is live, I see if it works. Does it drive the traffic I expect it to? Do I reach the conversion I want? If yes, I can make money with my design.
Mark Twain knew it all along
- Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
— Mark Twain (American Humorist, Writer and Lecturer)
The way people perceive us strongly depends on our looks. Just like we easily tend to judge others by their appearance. On the Web, its the same thing. Based on the design of you website, people will decide whether they like or trust you, or recommend you to others. Make sure your website gets the recognition it deserves, and tailor it so it perfectly fits your users.