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Striking the balance in web design

As designers and developers, we’re constantly striving to improve the web. Designers want to create unique and beautiful experiences for users, and developers are focused on building websites and systems that perform.

Personally I am often inspired by my fellow creatives and agencies that I see pushing the boundaries of the web. Plus, keeping an ear to the proverbial ground means I’m in touch with those industry resources that continue to and promote the work of others.

There are so many designers out there breaking ground and furthering the industry in ways that some can only dream of. Naturally, I strive to design at that level.

I’ve been working in this industry for a while now, and I’ve seen a lot of very good websites in my time. Want to be blown away? Take — for example — those featured on and the CSS Design awards. In sites such as these, the level of detail in layout, animation and interaction is off the charts and massively inspiring when considering the direction of our projects. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them leave me wondering ‘why?’

If I was to don my accessibility cap to review it I would pick a lot of these websites apart. Simple and accessible content is just as important as the ‘wow factor’ experience. However, the true creative in me is sitting there thinking, ‘I want to do something just as cool.’

Having said that, I always end up with the same question in my head. What if I proposed that to one of my clients? For me there is often a constant balance to be had between the client’s expectation and me fulfilling my vision for the project. This isn’t a new concept for designers however with some of the newer web trends it is proving more and more difficult to deliver a truly innovative digital experience.

I think this is ultimately because we are bound by our clients, meaning one of the only ways to be more creative and innovative is to get the client to buy into it as well. Clients have become so accustomed to web design trends that it is sometimes hard to sell them something different.

Clients have become so accustomed to web design trends that it is sometimes hard to sell them something different.

Naturally a client has an idea in their head of what they expect, which in turn is often shaped by what they have seen many times before. How many times have we sat in a meeting and heard ‘Oh but our competitor does it like this!’? News flash! This is the exact reason you are looking just like your competitor.

Clients have become so accustomed to web design trends that it is sometimes hard to sell them something different. Equally, during the process of a project you will always come across other stumbling blocks.

Often, the main one (brace yourself for this shocking revelation) is budget. Innovation often means more complication, which means more time, which — as we all know — equates to more money. If the budget isn’t there then you have no option but to work to the budget you have.

This isn’t always a problem — and can often lead to quite a good challenge — but I can guarantee that when the budget isn’t there, innovation will be the first thing to get cut.

On top of all that, you will always come across other more sensitive issues, such as the client’s fondness of the old brand, their fear of change, or sometimes even just a lack of confidence can even play a part. Maybe they want something new but aren’t willing to take a leap of faith to do it. Either way it us up to us as creatives to try and lead the client through this process and show them why it is a good idea. Not all clients will need it and equally not all clients will want it, it’s a tough balance but you just have to trust your judgement.

I would also ask the question of ‘who exactly are we trying to impress?’. A lot of the websites and resources I mentioned before are very industry focused and if they are going to build reputation, it is only likely to be within your peers.

This is where I find myself searching for the balance in web design. And what is it, exactly?

I’m looking to strike a balance between delivering professional, high quality work on time and on budget that clients are happy with, and pushing myself and my team to deliver something creative and different that we can be really proud of.

Now, I’m not saying that we deliver the best web design Newcastle has to offer but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to break boundaries. Like all industries we all want to do work that really excites us and allows us to push ourselves. I suppose the problem for me is that I can see the argument for both sides and that’s why ideally I push for my team to deliver on both.

When it comes to balance, I don’t believe in one fixed scale. In my experience, the balance between client satisfaction and creative freedom will change from project to project. Therefore, it’s important to keep yourself adaptable and understand that in the end, each project has its own unique balance that it’s up to you to find.