Eight sassy design principles that underpin great web design projects

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Here are eight core fundamentals that tend to underpin website design and development work. Although take these with a grain of salt. Perhaps, if you’re in the mood, add some lemon and vodka which tends to add further creative fuel to design projects.

1. Be innovative

The best graphic design pushes the boundaries and involves critical thinking about approach and UI. It’s always a good idea to stay abreast of changes to industry standards and then know when to break the rules too.

2. Start with a problem

All design from graphic design to web design to industrial design, should take a problem and solve it. Think in terms of UX and the presentation of information. Make sure that the content on the site is useful to human visitors. And also useful to robots parsing the site. SEO and exceptional content are equally important to good design and should work hand in glove.

3. Be unobtrusive

Keep the design as simple, clean, unobtrusive as possible. Create systems and navigation that are transparent and simple to use. The best design doesn’t scream out for attention, but is subtly beautiful. It announces itself with a whisper and a murmur.

4. Understand aesthetics

Space and Grid: Information on websites should be ordered in a logical way for the eyes of visitors. Work the white space really carefully.

Typography: Keep it tight with only three different types in a maximum of six sizes used throughout the site.

Colour Choices: Keep in mind colour choice, along with integration of an overall brand identity. There’s an intricate psychology to colour choice in design. It’s important to be aware of that.

5. Keep the end goal in mind

Don’t obfuscate the website or design by adding too many elements. Have one call to action. Then neatly and simply guide the user towards this through the design.

6. Design for a long shelf life

Great web design and graphic design employs classic design principles and isn’t faddish or fashionable. You should use a flexible template that can be changed or modified with new content, images and other small modular iterations. It should be mobile-first and driven by the user experience, rather than pushing an obvious agenda. Future-proofed design looks beautiful on all devices. It uses HTML and CSS that’s easy to read and change as required.

7. Build integrity

The purpose of design is to be open, honest and provide everything that a user needs. A great user experience provides all of the sign posts, guidance and help that is required for the user to achieve clearly defined conversion goals on the website. The purpose of design isn’t just about creating the ‘wow’ factor. It’s also practical and helps visitors to reach a specific goal (or conversion) or to gain a deeper understanding into a subject.

8. Aim to fail fast, and pick yourself up

In order to completely capitalise on your skills, you need to fail fast and early on. Sounds rather counter-intuitive but it’s really not.

James Dyson of the bagless vacuuming empire failed with his prototype vacuum 5,127 times before perfecting his bagless model. Through an iterative process of trial and error he eventually made it. This required some grit, perseverance, determination on his part. In order to succeed, one needs to fail over and over again.

Agile Project Management 101 teaches us that failing fast and early on is a low-risk strategy. This means a project may be more likely to ‘break on through to the other side’ and succeed.


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Arthritis New Zealand

Content Strategy, Graphic design, Web design

In Brief

I undertook a contract role to develop a digital transformation strategy for Arthritis New Zealand.  I was the interim manager of the website, social media and digital engagement.  In charge of improving the website appearance and navigability and reviving and re-introducing old content. 

  • Digital strategy for marketing and operational needs.
  • Digital Content Manager for website.
  • Creation and management of an online community about arthritis.
  • Social media and online marketing best practice training and management.
  • Marketing and comms planning and budgeting.
  • Training staff on using digital tools, content marketing and social media best practice and using a CMS.

Background

Arthritis New Zealand are one of the leading health NFPs in New Zealand, with a strong 20 year history of helping the community.

Although an organisational restructure and a rolling back of the organisation’s visibility in the regional parts of New Zealand led to some disquiet among staff and within the community about the organisation’s future.

The task at hand was to create a digital transformation strategy which encompassed the operational structure, objectives and goals of their changing organisation, so that they could reach a much broader audience through digital tools rather than through face-to-face seminars in the community.

The project needed to encompass fundraising, advocacy and awareness, volunteering, community education, administration departments of the organisation located at three offices – Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland offices.

Recommendations

  • Remove snail mail for fundraising in favour of eDMs and targeted newsletters, augmented with snail mail post where no email address was available.
  • Streamline email marketing and automate and personalise email newsletters using both Hootsuite CRM and MailChimp.
  •  A website revamp based around data-led insights into strategic marketing and future direction.
  • A complete content audit of all content assets: video, audio, presentations, books, web content, user-generated content. Then revamp this content with consistently branded graphic design assets.
  • A feasibility assessment on a mobile app which provides accessible audience-appropriate content for young people and teens with arthritis.
  • The creation of a series of educational webinars which can be viewed live and then archived for ongoing viewing on the website and YouTube.
  • The creation of an online community called ‘Your Community, Your Voice’ where bloggers affiliated with Arthritis New Zealand can talk about their experiences with having the condition or treating others with the condition.
  • Comprehensive training on the importance of using digital tools such as mobile apps, webinars, social media and the website for harnessing change and creating community engagement.

Results

Some of the recommendations in the digital strategy were incredibly successful however for institutional and fiscal reasons, not all of the recommendations were implemented.

On a positive note, I managed to instigate a new way of working in an inter-team collaborative manner. I implemented scrum style meetings within the marketing team as well as between teams over a conference call in order to facilitate collaboration and a more open communication style. This opened up the channels of collaboration and ensured creative, novel ways of working were established.

I created an online community and sourced 20 local bloggers. Then I set up a content and social media plan for the following 12 months which was designed to support and leverage key fundraising dates and events throughout the year. This was a strategy-led content calendar that harnessed user-generated content created by active members of the Arthritis New Zealand community.

A fully functioning online community meant significantly less work for the fundraising, marketing and community engagement teams to find and produce stories.
The ‘Your Community, Your Voice’ online community was so successful that it resulted in a 30% uptick in organic traffic to the website in its first 3 months. The high quality, fresh content on the website put the Arthritis New Zealand website in first place on Google in organic search.
The conversion rate of specific event-based content on the website was measured using Google Analytics. A 30% increase in organic traffic to the online community and effective calls to action meant a boost in conversion by 40% around specific event sign-ups and webinars.
I trained teams across the country on best practice usage of social media, content management and branding. I also trained teams on better ways of collaborating together in groups and aligning together on shared goals. Team feedback suggested that this was highly useful.
I significantly reduced cost for the organisation on the production of webinars by costing and implementing Zoom as an alternative to a London-based branding consultancy charging thousands of dollars for the same thing. Then I trained the teams on using Zoom.
Removing snail mail on several fundraising campaigns and replacing this with 90% email marketing reduced printing cost by approximately $9,000 per year.

Web design and graphic design revamp showreel

Along with the partial redesign of the Arthritis New Zealand website, I also designed marketing assets like social media posts (see below), email marketing templates, slides, conference posts and infographics using Adobe InDesign and sourced royalty free stock images to aid in the brand storytelling.

Arthritis New Zealand poster design

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‘Your Community, Your Voice’: Community set up and management

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Brain Research New Zealand

Content Strategy, Copywriting, Graphic design, Social media marketing, Video production, Web design

Background and challenges

Brain Research New Zealand – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa (BRNZ) is a Centre of Research Excellence which was newly created in 2014. BRNZ involved 4 Universities – Otago, Canterbury, Auckland and AUT along with several independent research institutes and groups and over 300 researchers.

BRNZ’s aim was to advance the treatment and prevention of diseases of the ageing brain on a global scale. BRNZ therefore required a heavy-duty marketing approach to kick it off.

I was the sole-charge marketing person for the group and as such had to be a one-woman band. I also had a zero dollar marketing budget with virtually no access to funding for day-to-day marketing, with the exception of the creation of the annual report and some key research events.

As such I needed to produce valuable marketing assets out of nothing but my own capabilities. I also needed to foster an atmosphere of branding consistency and cooperation between historically competitive institutions, which were now brought together under the same banner for the first time.

I therefore put together a marketing strategy and then executed all of it highly effectively.

Actions

• Management of a database of community members for targeted personalised comms around specific issues, via Hubspot and HootSuite.

• Ongoing community outreach with relevant not for profits and iwi across the country – both online and in-person events.

• Event planning, management and promotion before, during and after events.

• Produce creative, cost-effective merchandise, branding materials and visual branding (myself and via an outsourced agency).

• Social media management and content management best practice training for researchers.

• Measuring and optimising the website using Google Analytics and making cost-effective recommendations for optimising content for SEO and conversion.

• Content, design and digital marketing using free and open-source tools where possible to keep costs low.

• Media liaison with Fairfax, NZ Herald and other journalists and getting researchers stories out into the media.

• Relationship building with dispersed teams and individuals in order to capture and convey research stories to the wider world and get cooperation on key campaigns.

 

Results

 

Community engagement, social media and online conversion optimisation

As a part of my role with Brain Research New Zealand – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa, my role was to engage directly with Not for Profits and Maori Iwi within Auckland and Dunedin and to arrange marae visits for researchers and clinicians.
BRNZ had a stall at Te Matatini 2016 was an outstanding success. I managed to giveaway over 3,000 kete bags with the koromiko seeds and also to giveaway approximately 1,500 notepads. The community outreach and #GrowWithBRNZ campaign online and offline resulted in a 30% increase in Twitter followers along with substantial user generated content.
The campaign also meant a spike in engagement, with over 3,000 views of the website during the week of the event. The conversion goal of 100 responses to our online survey was exceeded and we received over 800 responses to the online survey into knowledge of neurological conditions.
Community events (which I organised and ran) contributed to the group receiving millions in philanthropic funding towards improving health outcomes.

Media interviews 

Read the full selection of stories on Linked In

 

Web design, graphic design, content marketing

I designed a new website for Brain Research New Zealand which was based on usability assessments, paper and online surveys, and research into the existing CMS and what pages were most visited on the site. Also the UX process involved integrating the most important user functionality such as access to new research studies looking for participants, as well as contact information for key clinicians. I designed the site with this and design best practice principles in mind.

Internal communications/ research collaboration

I wrote, designed and produced a pamphlet for researchers to promote themselves internally to other researchers within BRNZ and externally to researchers around the world.

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Annual Report writing, design and production management

This was the first annual report ever produced for Brain Research New Zealand.Therefore it needed to be visually impressive, on-brand and also contain stories of substance and scientific rigour which would impress the target audience – the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) the governing body which provides funding to BRNZ on a 4 yearly basis.

I coordinated the content, interviewed researchers, coordinated the photography and managed the production of the design and printing via a design agency.

Click image to browse the document

Video production and post production

For the opening of several new dementia research clinics across the country, I managed photo shoots and produced a series of videos which featured interviews, speeches and cut aways to stock footage.  See examples below

eDM template design and distribution