How do you design for yourself?

By Graeme Blackwood | 25th April 2012
Our new site was designed for mobile first

We have a new website!

When I was given the job of designing it, I spent a while staring at my blank canvas. Then I thought, "why don't I just do what I'd do with any other client?"

Probably the most crucial element to delivering effective websites is having a clear strategy and prioritising what’s important. After that, things became a bit more simple.

Here’s what we decided to prioritise:

Doing unto ourselves what we would do unto others

Eat your own dog food

First of all, it was important to not only eat our own dog food, but to be seen to be eating our dog food. That meant some tough decisions on what to leave out. And some fighting with each other.

We made some tough decisions on what to leave out

Hopefully, you can’t see any signs of the fighting on the finished site. Unlike on some other sites.

Trust us on this, every time you see a site with more than 10 or 12 main navigational items, it’s because somebody in some department has been fighting to make sure their favourite bit ends up on the home page!

Content strategy

We put a lot of effort into getting our content strategy right.

The first thing we all agreed was to let our work speak for itself. Sure you can Photoshop screenshots of a site into a photo of a Mac, but fundamentally, a website should be linked to and interacted with so that you can check the results out yourself.

We also cut the copy for our case studies down to two or three tweets’ worth (this is really tough sometimes), and gave the whole team their own blog to encourage greater freedom of expression and ownership of the Deeson brand.

Mobile first

With the exploding growth of mobile internet users, this is non-negotiable. We wanted our new website to be designed for Mobile First and to be Responsive. As well as the site responding to the device accessing it, we made a custom font (more on this to follow) to replace many graphics that would normally be gifs or jpgs.


The Golden Grid

I have wanted to use the golden ratio in my work for a while, and this site was a perfect opportunity. I decided to use a high column-count grid which aligned with the golden ratio.

The golden ratio is used all over the Deeson site

Form, colour and value

I wanted to develop a minimalist aesthetic that still had a very strong identity. To achieve this, I set myself more parameters.

Taking inspiration from Constructivism and De Stijl, I decided all the graphics on the site would be rectangles, circles or equilateral triangles, with a few exceptions. I limited the colour palette to red, green and blue for the main site furniture – the colours of the digital space, and used value to weight the page elements, avoiding gradients, rounded corners and other current 'trendy' stuff.

Form and colour

What would we do differently?

No blog post like this is complete without some of the lessons learned, and what we'd do differently. But, in our case, this is more likely to be 'what are we going to do about it?' We're firm believers that an iterative approach to design will gradually refine the best from it, and we're not done yet!

Here is some of the stuff we will be adding or changing:

  • In the focus on getting our case studies and blogs right, some of the other content types didn't receive the attention they deserved, and we are having another look at how we can improve these
  • Everyone has their own blog, but we are going to add photos and a twitter-length overview on each to add personality and context to the posts
  • Site search seemed less relevant initially, but we have fast realised we need it, especially for the blogs. Search is on its way!

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