Chosing the Right Design Bandwagon

Posted On December 15, 2009

Filed under Web Design
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I nearly made a fatal web design mistake. It could have cost my company it’s future. Why? I almost hopped on the wrong design bandwagon and created a website that wouldn’t have resonated with my users.

Design bandwagons, more politely called ‘design trends’ are a very good thing. They make it so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every new website you make. You can just look at some good examples of what you want and extrapolate.

But the moral of this story is be careful when you do this…

As I got ready to build my surf travel website, I thought about the websites I visit often that I like. I like the new design bandwagon that I’m not sure how to name. It’s the Ruby on Rails, big button, rounded box, san-serif, low intensity colors, and clean drawn images thing that has been going on in lots of new websites lately.  Some examples? Vimeo.com, Twitter.com, Shopify.com

Vimeo

The Vimeo WebsiteShopify

Shopify

The Shopify Website

So when I set out to create a surf travel website, I went straight to a few of my favorite websites and started ‘paraphrasing’ their designs. The result was something I thought looked pretty sweet. Then a friend saw it and said, “Well I like it but it doesn’t look very Surfer.”

WHAT!!!??? But it looks so web 2 point oh-y and nice and it’s easy to read, and it follows good design principles and it uses one of my favorite pictures, and …. … you know what? You’re right. It doesn’t look very surfer.

This is when it hit me. The neato big button rails-y 2.0ey design that I wanted might be fine for a market of tech savvy, possibly hipsterish, late-twenties to mid thirties, internet marketing loving, social media slinging Bay Area or Chicago types, but it’s not what surfers want.

The new fangled rails/web 2.0ey/big buttoney/low-color-intensity websites may be the culmination of years of industry progress and user research and plain old human intuition on what’s ‘good’, but they are not surfer!

So I took a look at some surf websites, and sure enough. Those sites have their own ‘bandwagon’.  I’ll call it electric blue meets black and white with heavy contrast and sharp corners with high exposure ocean and wave imagery thrown in. And every surfer website from magazines to stores to live streams of competitions is squarly within the bandwagon.  Take a look at Surfing Magazine, Transworld Surf Magazine, a contest Website from the Hawaiian Triple Crown, and Billabong:

Surfing

The Surfing Mag Website

Reef Hawaiian Pro

The Reef Hawaiian Pro Website

Transword Surf

The Transword Surf Website

Billabong

The Billabong Website

The proof is overwhelming. These companies have no trouble attracting surfers, and surfers have no problem supporting these companies. If my website was to have any chance of success, I needed to switch design bandwagons.

I think the best piece of advice that my friend gave me regarding choosing the right web design (and therefore jumping on the right bandwagon) was this: Ask yourself whether the webdesign you chose is something that makes you happy or if it’s something that will make your customers happy. Too often the answer is the former, and it should always be the latter.

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