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Designing the "Future Of" Sites : Comments

By Ryan Nichols

August 13, 2007


mark rushworth

August 14, 2007 1:30 AM

Did a journal article on the FOW ( ... sites and noted how they done scale up. As a site demonstrating the future of a thing i’d have thought they’d be cutting edge and bullet proof… All in all a bit of a let down for me.

Matthew Pennell

August 14, 2007 2:28 AM

@mark (and everyone else): The Working Designer articles are purely concerned with the process of visual design, giving us a valuable look into the mind of the designer as they share their secrets and working practices. We’d appreciate it if you could try not to pass judgment on the implementation and/or markup of the finished site (which may not have actually been done by the article author).


Tom Maton

August 14, 2007 4:39 AM

I think the visual impact of the sites are great and give out exactly the right impression what they are trying to promote. Excellent!!!

And the visual process mentioned for designing the site looks so simple to follow when piecing together a site. Great work.

Barbara Gavin

August 14, 2007 5:28 AM

Very interesting article.

Having recently been through a similar exercise with an in-house team, this validates much of what we did.

Thanks for a well thought out case study.

Dennis Eusebio

August 14, 2007 6:05 AM

I noticed you used mood boards in your design process. Do you find it really helpful? Sometimes I find clients get confused with it.

J. Jeffryes

August 14, 2007 7:43 AM

Excellent article! I like the fact that you revealed some of the details on how you handle the discovery phase of your branding. Too many articles try to keep the process secret, which makes the article so much less useful.

I’ve found that presenting the color palettes as abstract blocks instead of thumbnails of existing sites prevents clients from being influenced by non-color information in the thumbnails. How do you (Ryan) or any other designer that uses thumbnails prevent the non-color words, design, etc. from biasing the client?

Kisan Bhat

August 14, 2007 8:25 AM

Great article and thanks for sharing with us the
real experience of web devlopement.

I am wondering if the eDMs and DMs has the same look and feel as the website.

Ryan Nichols

August 14, 2007 10:04 AM

I agree. I have always been skeptical about mood boards with clients and never found a good way to use them. What I failed to mention here is that we only used them INTERNALLY. I found them invaluable to use with other designers to study and pick apart “look ‘n feel”. If everyone in the room is design minded, you tend to be able to get each other with out the confusion.

J. Jeffryes:
I think you were referring to the mood board no? Again, I agree. We’ll always show swatches to communicate color to a client. Even more effective is combining your swatches with an example of them in use, such as a fake ad. Then you get a real feeling for how much of the various colors your proposing to use. Again, the mood boards were strictly internal.

Kisan Bhat:
By eDMs do you mean electronic direct marketing? (forgive me for not knowing the acronym). We did do an email template for them which matched the branding. However some of the other materials they produced later varied a bit. In one case a designer had used the logo for an online ad but didn’t keep it at all consistent. I hope that designers learn to pay close attention to branding and what should be stretched and what shouldn’t in each piece. When smaller companies like Carson Systems don’t have a thorough style guide or inhouse marketers to ensure brand integrity, it’s often left up to the contractor.

Brian Artka

August 14, 2007 10:08 AM

Great Article Ryan. Its nice to follow ones process from start to finish and read about the tiny things that make so much of a difference in getting an idea right. Great job on this one.

radar pangaean

August 14, 2007 11:04 AM

I’m not a designer, but i still enjoyed reading the detailed description you provided of this process. Thanks for sharing it.

John Macpherson

August 15, 2007 2:10 AM

Fatastic article and really helpful to young designers, like myself, learning the field. Thanks!

matthew Smith

August 15, 2007 6:14 AM

I take a bit of time each morning before I begin my day as a brand new web design freelancer/business owner to scan my feeds for the best articles. As you can imagine, my time is crucial to me. Its with that in mind that I have to say thank you for writing a thoroughly educating and edifying article Ryan.

Opening the process is extremely helpful to someone in the beginning like myself. I would love to see more detail on the psychology of handling a client. I loved to see the way you pushed Carson Systems on the Acronym idea. That takes guts and instinct. I recently had a similar situation where I steared a client away from a flash intro page that they were dead set on. Its difficult to help the client, who hired you to be a professional, to maintain the belief in your professionalism and loosen their grip on the project so that they can do their business well, and you do yours well.

I’d also like to thank digital web magazine. This continues to be one of the crucial resources for Squared Eye (my business) for informative articles on the design, business, and some of the more geeky aspects of our field.


J. Jeffryes

August 15, 2007 7:26 AM

Thanks for the answer, Ryan! It makes a lot more sense if the mood boards are internal. We do something very similar, I have an archive of a hundred or two great web pages I’ve found, when approaching a new project I compile a PDF of sites that share features, colors, or techniques that would be appropriate for the site we’re designing, and we use that for inspiration. I hadn’t thought of arranging them all on a single sheet in thumbnail format, I’ll try that on our next project!

Jermayn Parker

August 15, 2007 10:22 PM

Enjoyed that article a lot, good for people to read, look and follow. Thanks :)

matthew Smith

August 16, 2007 4:57 PM

I’ve been thinking about the article today and wondered more about what is in your brand questionaire, and when you decided it was right to give it to the client? I’ve been working on developing the right request for proposal (several possibilities for different scenarios), and I’m finding that I have a long road of trial and error ahead, but I’d love to learn some more about plumbing your clients for their “story” from a group like yours.

I can imagine a good deal of what’s in there is time well spent and won’t easily be handed out, but I’m inclined to ask rather than assume that you all aren’t ready to create a resource for that kind of great material?

david urieli

August 21, 2007 12:57 AM

why the site:
isn’t similar to the sketch?

Ryan Nichols

August 21, 2007 11:02 PM

I also got a few requests for this via email so I figured I could just post it and let you download it. The link is here: I hope you can get some use out it!

I would use something like this right away. Once the project was finalized I would send it to them and setup a kickoff meeting. Stakeholders would usually glance through it prior to the meeting and we would walk through the questions together in person or over a conference call. I would never ask that they fill it out though. Most of the real magic came when I could don my journalism hat and probe deeper into the answers during the meeting.

Actually the FOWA conference that we came aboard for already came and went. It was up pretty much as you see in the screen shots for about two or three months I believe. The version there now is an iteration they did for the next event. I think each of the three conferences has passed by now and the sites have been altered for the new events. Ryan has just recently hired a full-time designer in-house. Their new designer is pretty good and I’m excited to see where he takes it from here. Im not sure who did the flash work on the current site though.

matthew Smith

August 23, 2007 5:02 AM

Thanks Ryan!

Petr Freiberg

September 11, 2007 1:42 AM

Well, for my part are the colors chosen very carefully. They are neither too bright nor too dimmed, they are just exactly as they should be. Nice work.


September 13, 2007 4:40 AM

Tri this javascript!

Using our JavaScript example from before we can do this:

var name = “Jonathan”;
function showme(myname)
{ alert(myname); // will display “Jonathan”
alert(name); // will display “Jonathan”

Ben Bodien

September 18, 2007 7:49 AM

Brilliant insight into a very strong creative process.

I’d already noticed the FOWx sites for their great design and information hierarchy, but reading this highlights a few aspects which I hadn’t noticed. This just goes to prove that great design really is invisible.

I do have to wonder what happened to Tara Hunt though in that polaroid mockup!

Marcel Schlattmann

September 20, 2007 12:18 AM

Thank you guys (and especially Ryan of course) to let me have a look into your minds.

I really do think of new ways to start a identity or web design. I had always just talked to the clients, using such a questionair is a great idea. Think I’m going to establish it myself.

Hope to set it up the right way (getting the right information..).

But also thanks for sharing your idea about using example pages for color shemes. I now see, visualizing it, will work much better than talking about colors.

But one question: Aren’t you afraid that your client may want to have one of the examples pages? As some kind of copy or so? Often my clients say: I want something like and in most cases it’s extremly different to what we had talked about, just because the client is fascinated about the page itself.

So much thanks for sharing, I really go out somehow different.


jamie neely

October 25, 2007 12:35 PM

An honest and concise article. Having the skills (and balls) to take a website from branding through to completed design can be daunting. It’s refreshing to see a healthy mix of process and gut in your method :)

Sorry, comments are closed.

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