Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Design is a living process

I'm a big fan of Campaign Monitor, both as a site and as a tool. One of the things I really admire about their design is how they have designed every detail. If you dissect the design, it's simple, and straightforward, and not unusual. There's no "one thing" about the design that makes it exceptional. What makes it exceptional is the fact that every single character and pixel has been thought out and carefully designed. It's a great work of usability.

They didn't just design a "frame" for the site, they designed the content as well. This is what I believe truly separates the "ok" designs from the great ones.

Some examples of how they have designed the details:
  • the headings of their tables (data grids) have a subtle, attractive gradient background and a subtle banded scheme with a nice hover/highlight effect
  • every screen shot (features, resources pages) is attractive and neatly cropped
  • the "price tag" on their pricing page is impossible to miss, yet matches the site perfectly
  • the icons are used consistently throughout the site
I also like their clear and friendly writing style, writing is too often overlooked on an otherwise well-designed site.

The method I use to inject quality design at every level of a site, is to design (with whatever tool you prefer) several pages in addition to the home page and sub page. This requires a great deal of preparation. You have to know what content you are going to have, and where it will go. You have to think the content over thoroughly during the design phase. Often it's hard to visualize content without actually having a site design, so I find it's something of a back-and-forth process. Work on the main site design, develop a look; then go design the content pages, go back and adjust your layout...

Design is a living process, it can never all be done "up front", and there is no such thing as taking a template and running with it forever and ever. I'm not trying to create job security for myself, but I do know that well designed sites like CampaignMonitor don't happen by accident.


Dave Greiner said...

Thanks for noticing all the hard work Rae. I completely agree that attention to every detail is what makes all the difference.

Rae said...

You're very welcome! Keep up the great work.