Dealing with personal opinion in web design

Luke Canvin

Design can be a very subjective matter. All of us have our personal likes and dislikes when it comes to the appearance of the products, tools and websites we use, but it’s important for both the designer and client to set those aside when you’re working on a web design project.

Websites are designed for their audience, for the users that the owner is hoping will visit and complete some transaction or task. As part of the user-centred design process, we research the users; create personas and use-cases for them, so that we can better understand how to tailor the site to their needs. And yet it’s very common for feedback to come in from members of the project team (on both sides) that involve personal opinion. For example, “I don’t really like the use of green in the sidebar”, or “Perhaps the product image should be a little larger”.

We need to remember that we’re not designing for ourselves, we’re designing for our users and so we need to set aside our opinions and think in terms of evidence. On what basis were these design choices made, and is there evidence to suggest that a different approach would be better?

Andy Clark of Stuff & Nonsense spoke about his approach to this subject on the Boagworld podcast offering the suggestion that if the person persists in pushing their opinion then you could offer a compromise:

“We’ll look at both versions, your version and my version; we’ll launch with my version and then we’ll test yours separately and see if it’s better.”

This puts weight in the designer’s approach, based on their experience and training, whilst exploring the suggestion and incorporating it at a later date if it proves itself through testing.