279 – Design Aesthetics

‘WordPress Business Bootcamp’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley


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We are at the end of Season 2, where we are looking at the Design process, and today we are discussing ‘design aesthetics’.

We are taking contrasting approaches to getting our new businesses running and our first client’s site built. She is a new lawyer with no previous site. She’s called Ms A.


Going Traditional with fixed pricing. He has presented a proposal and contract. Set some expectation on the plan with has a deadline.


Going agile. Minimal viable website with ongoing improvements that are in collaboration with the client. Essentially results based improvement for the lifetime.

Episode 6. Design Aesthetics

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Aesthetics affect a brand’s credibility and perception. The look and feel is probably the thing that first hit us first and is most important to our clients.

Episode intro: The Problem

  • Aesthetics are subjective
  • There is no agreed way to deliver such things
  • We have to find some way to avoid design by committee (the client seeking outside parties) or the loudest voice winning without reference to the overall goals

Ms. A. should be a walk in the park, it’s she’s new to the game and it’s just us and her!

Approaches to design

The visual design first – mock up something and the client replaces the lorem ipsum and stock photos.

I saw a YouTube designer with 400K subscribers do it this way. Apparently he charges 30 – 50K and takes people to task for thinking this is too much. He points to Awwwards designer!


It’s pretty, but you can’t find them via a search on their brand name. Understand what the site is about. The site is Wix and takes 10 seconds to load on mobile. Readability and navigation brakes on mobiles are bizarre things like sliders with one image.


This has worked for me, in terms of just hiring a designer, but this was before responsive when the PDF could explain the entire site.


Tools to help with this might be: Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch.

Build up from the content.

A process like Laura Elizabeth, but I have seen roughly the same approach by other UX designers.

It is mostly “design by number”, but using scientific theory on grouping, alignment, spacing, proximity, readability colour and contrast  The flourishes are added last.


I’ve done this too, but mostly for smaller projects when I suspected that the client had little say, so I could flesh out the design and their meagre responses meant that I had nothing to worry about!


Designer first is more of a vanity thing. How many Awwward winners are changed later for business reasons?

I think that, if they know their stuff, they’re better placed than we are to design a site, BUT they also need to know the tools we use. Lonely Viking is a good example, designer, turned site builder. He did the Page Builder Summit site with no friction…


Consideration to design

Hiring a visual designer. The above would need to be considered. Get them last or first?

Getting the client involved from the beginning. Is this a good idea?

NOOOOOOOOOO! My plumbers and builders would ruin it all!

  • Moodboarding things (getting people to pool things they like the look of from magazines and site, brochures and posters)
  • Showing the stages of the design to the client as you build it out
  • Avoiding Ta Da! moments will probably avoid “make it pop” and “make my logo bigger” feedback

Feedback tools you might use: Project Huddle, Userback, Atarim etc.

I hate these now. Too much “us and them”. Much better to have presented feedback sessions. How can Ms A. suggest what text should be bigger without context to the design.


I never got these tools to work for me. I always got feedback about meaningless things that don’t matter. BUT, if you were getting feedback from a pro designer about your build, that might be different.


Possible sources of design inspiration:

I quite like Themeforest and Monster template as a way of deciding what I won’t do.


I bookmark things I like in Evernote, but I never curate them, so it’s this mess of bookmarks, with no context.

BUT this is about the most important thing that we should be doing. If you’re new to the industry, this is where much of your energy should go. I’m so glad that I’m not new and don’t need to keep up these days!


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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome. So theWP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the wordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again, you've reached episode number 279 entitled design aesthetics. It was published on Thursday, the 19th of May, 2020. My name is Nathan Wrigley. And before we get to the podcast, a few little bits of housekeeping, if that's okay with you. The first thing to mention is that we would really love it really love it.

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It's WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe over there. You're going to find email lists to sign up to, and we simply post emails when we produce new content. That could be the content that you're listening to right now. That's the Thursday podcast. We also do a live show, which we would love you to join.

It's called this week in WordPress. I'm joined typically by three other guests. It's a 2:00 PM UK time and that's [email protected] forward slash live. But there's also things like our YouTube channel. And as I mentioned earlier, our Twitter handle. So that's WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe. Another thing that I always mentioned is our deals page it's forward slash deals.

If you're into buying something this week, just go there, check that out. Now the podcast is a very time-consuming thing to create.

As you might imagine, it doesn't come without its costs. And I'm very happy to say that this week our podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting. That includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me forward slash WP Builds. That's go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for helping us to put on the WP Builds podcast.

This. Okay, let's get stuck into the main podcast event. Shall we I'm talking today with David Wamsley, like I said, is that bestowed number 279. It's called design aesthetics. Now this is a really tricky thing. We're going through our WordPress business boot camp series. And the idea of this series is we strip everything right back as if we were starting out.

Building websites with WordPress for the very first time we've got a client called miss a and we've gone through about a dozen episodes so far. So you might want to listen to those, but this one we've reached design aesthetics. Now this is a really tricky thing, isn't it? Because design aesthetics are really important.

It lends credibility to the brand. The look and feel is probably the thing that hits us first and is most important to the clients that we serve. But it's so subjective. There's no real agreed way to deliver such things. And so we often get into design by committee, which I'm sure we could agree. We all want to avoid.

So how do we tackle design aesthetics? Where do we get inspiration? And how do we communicate all of this with our clients? That's the subject of the podcast today. I hope that you enjoy.

[00:04:13] David Waumsley: Hello, welcome to another in the business bootcamp series, where we relearn everything we know about building WordPress sites and running a web design business from start to finish.

We're now at the end of season two, where we're looking at the design process and today we're discussing design. That ticks. So Nathan and I are taking contrast in approaches as we get our new business running. And our first clients site built, she's a new lawyer with no previous site called Ms. A Nathan, shall we just quickly recap where

[00:04:47] Nathan Wrigley: we are?

Yeah. Just to lay out the position of how we're doing this differently, in theory, although we seem to overlap and agree quite a lot, the idea is that my approach would be what you might call the waterfall approach, the traditional approach, where toward the beginning of the project, you scope everything out.

You get a proposal, you get a contract and then you go away, build the site and come back with the completed product and hopefully get paid because you finished it all on time.

[00:05:17] David Waumsley: Yeah, and I can go in kind of new agile approaches where it's an ongoing process of continuous improvement. So we'll try and get out a minimal viable website and through collaboration with the client, we'll work really over a lifetime to try and essentially improve the site based on the kind of results we're getting from it.

So we'll try and use the data that exists things that we know about the website, and now people are responding to it. So that's how my approach is going.

[00:05:48] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. And then today we're talking about the design aesthetic, which is probably going to be a fairly interesting subject because we had a long old chat this morning about all this

[00:05:59] David Waumsley: didn't we?

Yeah. Obviously ascetics important to a brand's credibility and how people perceive. It's the first thing that people are going to look at and make judgements about. So obviously it's going to be a key thing. I guess the problems were laying out with this is that ascetics are subjective.

There's no agreed way of delivering it. And somehow we have to avoid, horrible design by committee. And I think this is something that you, your system might be more prone to because of the fact that everything is hinged on this finally. And product, if you like, that's being sold where the client has to be happy with it, that they go to be very anxious about everything being in place or how they wanted to look for that point where mine is a bit easier with the agile, because we're saying we'll put something out and we will keep working on it.

We won't spend all of your budget, so I think, we get these issues, don't we with design where it's be easy for clients to start seeking outside parties and to give in their views and everything we all know about that don't worry where that is

[00:07:13] Nathan Wrigley: involved. Yeah. Know my way of dealing with this was always fairly straightforward and luckily I didn't ever have gigantic problems.

I had a few bits and pieces where we were going backwards and forwards, but the way that I always approached it, or let's say the ideal scenario for me was that I would speak to the client, talk about my program. Lay out some time possible timelines and budget and all of that. And then built into that was hopefully a budget for a graphic designer.

And there's a few that are local to me that I really trust and built up a lot of trust over the years. And I would put the designs out to them. They would get paid for that work. They would hand it back to me and then built into that was a process of usually two, possibly three iterations on the design.

So they would select the one that they wanted to move forward with. Mostly, most of my clients just got one design and that was fine. And they were happy with that. Occasionally they would go for two and in a couple of cases, they went for three and they picked the one that they liked. So in a sense, that was a bit of dead money, but they could see the benefit in it because they realized they wanted some contrasting looks to decide what best suited their own brand.

And then go through the iterations, talk about whether they thought that the new, I dunno logo or the font that was being used, or the way that the header on the home page was going to be used was w was it suitable? And we'd go back to the designer two or three times. And then the very final time would be the messaging would be very clear and it would be okay, this is your last pass at this.

You have to write down everything at this point, because after this, the door closes that opportunity to change things is gone. And we're going to assume moving forwards that you're going to sign off on this, which costs they, they had to do. Yeah, that was my process. And on the whole, it worked, I've struck a client, dead with a no, I'm not using it.

I refuse all of these are awful. That just didn't happen. Maybe I set the expectations well enough, but yeah, it always worked perfectly. So

[00:09:29] David Waumsley: in this situation, these would just be mock-ups that they were agreeing to before you had actually built it. Yeah.

[00:09:37] Nathan Wrigley: So what we would do is we would typically ask them how many pages they wanted and because my designer was good at, flipping things fairly quickly and they had Adobe Photoshop to a T I've actually watched quite a few of them work and it is remarkable how quickly they were able to throw things together.

And I would literally, I didn't even know where the setting for most of these things was hidden and they've got all the key strokes figured out. So it was very rapid and yeah, that would be, it we'd get like a homepage laid out. We'd get I dunno, some blog page laid out if that's what they were going for.

Just a variety of different pages that they could see what the aesthetic was, so that they could see what, I don't know what the background looked like or where the logo was going to be fixed and what the menus were. And hopefully most of the stuff which would then be needed on the website, if something a little bit out of the ordinary was needed, you could figure out how that ought to look from because the design was comprehensive enough and it was delivered as a PDF to me which I then sent on to them.

And they would critique the PDF usually by annotating it or by just writing in an email,

[00:10:49] David Waumsley: yeah. Yeah. That's, the two approaches, so whether the visual design comes first or whether it is built up later and that's definitely first and I guess, we were talking about this earlier, reminding ourselves of the present tools like Adobe XD, Figma, and sketch, and that designers will often use because of, they need to.

Different versions, don't they? For the mobile web? Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. Cause I've seen, people walk through those processes where the designer lad, and then the problem for me with that one always is the fact that at that point they genuinely haven't got the content agreed. That's going to go in there.

So you wedge in, in the content into the design a lot of the time, that

[00:11:39] Nathan Wrigley: was a very common problem that the content that they finally delivered really didn't quite work. I'm thinking of an example where we had this kind of, we had some images of ranged in three three columns and the yellow, the intention was that when you hovered over it, a small amount of text would appear just to really, it was more for SEO and things like that, but a small amount of texts would appear.

And then of course the client came. Literally a paragraph of text to fit in this space, which was only intended to be occupied by three, maybe four words. And those kinds of problems definitely occurred. And then it was just a question of going back and saying, look, this, we can go one of two ways here.

We can move the text. So it's visible in a different area, or you can limit the amount of text. What do you feel is better? And w we always got through it. It was never a big deal, but you're absolutely right at the bedrock of this whole conversation today is the fact that I've got to work from a design I've already got.

And you are leaving that right till the end. You're doing all of the, putting the site in the images. Not the images, but you're putting the text there. And the final thing is finessing it with a design totally different approach. And obviously you don't fall foul of those problems that I did, but I guess I'm here to argue that it's clearer and easier for the client if they do it this way.

[00:13:10] David Waumsley: It is. And I think, that's the way that when I started doing it, I did it with a colleague. That's exactly how she did it. She, it was a fairly basic mock-up that she would show them of a home page. They agreed it and then we stopped building it. And that was the way, and it was very much, but again, it's the gun of the agile thing with the traditional it's build it and they will come, the budget goes on the thing that they're going to be.

The approach you're talking about is perfect for that. If you go the agile route, you're assuming that well, you're missing out the key thing about the web, but it's the fact that it's full of data, where you put something out there. You can get some feedback about how real people are behaving and interacting with your site.

So you shouldn't put all your money up there. You should put it into ongoing work on it to adjust it to the visitors you have. So from my point of view, I'd rather go, the let's concentrate on what's the key content we need to get out. And the arrangement of that building upon that SEO. And then once we've got that, and we know what stuff needs to go on the individual pages, following our strategy, then we'll build the design up from that.

There's a someone that I really love how she goes back explaining this law relatives of both it's somebody who she did a couple of sessions, I think, on your page builder somewhere she did. Yeah. Yeah. And it's very similar to other UX designers. I've seen their process. So really they, I guess it's done by numbers.

They're using scientific theory on group in alignment space, in proximity, readability, color, and contrast, and that kind of thing. And slowly you build up from the content, a design, and then the flourishes, if you like, what we think of the aesthetics are the kind of last thing, the color and the little touches that kind of drop shadows, you might add the little splodges or things that go on it.

Or the last thing I like that, at least in the sense that you are building a process in there. And if you can explain to the client that this process is that. It gets them an insight to what you're doing. And as you continue to build out new pages or change things around, they've got that understanding of what's going on, but it's difficult because of course, you're going to tell me how that will go wrong because yeah

[00:15:32] Nathan Wrigley: that's the point of this podcast episode I should, by the way.

And I didn't say it a minute ago, the, one of the key things, which I, when I started to use page builder, I did coach well, coaches the wrong word. I showed the designers that I use, what the limitations were of that. In other words, you're not designing for some sort of magazine print layout where everything's overlapping and it's very complicated.

I showed them how it was all built up with rows and then those rows might contain columns and those columns bound. So they didn't go crazy with the design. They weren't trying to win an award with any of this stuff. It was fairly formulaic, the stuff that is ever present on the web, largely because the kind of clients that I dealt with, they weren't trying to win an award for a beautiful website.

They were just trying to put something out there to gather up customers in the local area. That's mostly what they were trying to achieve. So the getting onto the awards websites for web design, wasn't their primary thing. So they just needed something simple. And so the design. Was built sorry.

The design was created in a way that it was very unlikely that I was going to find difficulty in building what they had designed. Does that make sense? Yeah,

[00:16:50] David Waumsley: it does. And if you were doing miss A's site, you've done some vehicles sites before. Do you think you would get the designer in for that? Or do you think this is just a walk in the park?



[00:16:59] Nathan Wrigley: really good point and I would definitely offer it, but it would be a line item that I would say, no, you don't, you probably don't need this so long as you're willing for me to just browse around a little bit and throw something together that you're happy with. To be honest, I think with this specific case and a lot of the work that I did, that would be acceptable, but there would be other things where I don't know, I had like bathroom companies that needed something quite beautiful designing, and I really didn't want to go in.

Without some, something to back me up with, some design to keep looking at and something that I could refer to as I was building it. But I think, yeah, I think you might be right. Local lawyer just starting out. Maybe that's an expense they can't afford. And so I would definitely be saying, yeah, we can knock that one off the list.

Yeah. I think that.

[00:17:58] David Waumsley: I think, really the design first or last depends on that. I think the approach, I think the builder and they come the website as a product, which you sell and the budget goes on that and effectively your job ends when they agree and it goes live. I think it makes sense to be put into the design upfront, but with the agile, the idea that you're trying to think, okay, no, we're using, we're looking at the interactive nature of the web and the fact that I can give you live data on your customer's behavior.

And we're designing for that on an ongoing process means I think it has to go, the design has to go last because the content and what you put in there and the reasoning behind it, the SEO of the keywords you're looking at it is absolutely essential. So nothing gets designed until basically what you know is going to go on.

Each page is in place. And then that's where the law Elizabeth buildup the design from the content before. That contains the strategy is the only way to do it.

[00:19:00] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's interesting because I think you made the point just a moment ago about the fact that this is a local lawyer, so it might work out and I guess want I have to describe it.

It would be nice if in your arsenal of ways to build websites, you had both the agile and the waterfall. And if it was just, if really the client just needed a simple cookie cutter website and the boundaries of what they wanted were really confined, then I don't know that you would need the agile approach.

So it's about talking to the client at the beginning and seeing what they're capable of doing. We had quite a funny conversation before we hit record about the sort of the way that people were in my neck of the woods, in the part of the country where I live are, and they've got this reputation for being fairly blunt in the way that they speak and not wanting to.

Put it this way. They're not widely known for writing poetry and using probes. Everything is explained in a matter of fact way and it's very straightforward. So I think I would, with the agile approach, I probably would have got quite a bit of pushback. No, can we just get on with it and stop messing about, I don't need to talk to you six times in the next two days.

I just get on with it. Will you and hand it back. Yeah, that was an interesting insight.

[00:20:21] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I agree with that. I think it's still. Even if you're doing an agile, being a people first type approach you, you do, you're trying to get to what they really want from it. Everybody, all the clients and they still come to me that way, which is I want a website and they wanted to do certain things and they're really focused on what they think they're buying as a pro.

They set it up as a product and they have to revert. Now, as I'm trying to move to agile, I have to revert them into go in K, let's try and see what the web can do for your business and not make you spend more than you need to until it's proved that it's worthwhile. And that switched in that round.

Now you are talking the language of the people where I live you, as soon as you bring that, save you until you've won them over. David came over. Okay that's how I resigned.

It's the root into it, isn't it? It's the, I'm not in this true of the agile approach. It is, let's put down the minimal viable product.

Let's not waste money until we know what's going to happen with this. So if we just get the homepage out and it looks okay issue, it's not the most beautiful thing. But then if we see, there might be some reason to put more effort into the design because the perception, it's gotta be hard to judge them.

We'll do it that way. Yeah. So I still end up always not put in that, design up front, but because you're right, if you're going to get some plumber in your neck of the words and the same as where I grew up as well in the UK, people are much direct. They're not going to be interested in me explaining the process, you would have to be sensible about that and just say, work out whether they would just trust you to get on with it.

But I think I've got to get out. If they say I'm not interested, you do it. I'll say, okay, let's just go with it. Let's not because all the old budget isn't going on this end product, let's just put it out as it is, and then see, and we'll improve over time. So I'm off the hook, I can get on and knock something up if they're not interested and put it out and we'll be judging it by other metrics.


[00:22:29] Nathan Wrigley: I guess there's a conversation to be had right at the outset of the project where you're going to be explaining your process because your process is not a typical process, in just about every commercial transaction. You pay for something and then you get it, so you pay for, I don't know, you go to the supermarket and you take things off the shelf and you pay for it and you've got it.

And you walk out and it's done. And there's very few things where there's creativity many people's lives, they just buy you something and they get it. You're going to have to explain your process very carefully. I know that part of this podcast series is about you trying to understand more about what that process is, so that you are better able to explain it to your clients, but you're just going to have to do that.

My process, I think is blindingly obvious. Nobody's going to misunderstand. I'm going to do a design. You're going to agree it. You're going to pay me. I'm going to build it. And we're done. Whereas with you, you're going to have to explain that process. So there's going to be a bit of time lead time at the beginning, as you explain how it's all going to work, not to say that's not valuable, and obviously you're going to try and make that work.

It's just, you're going to have to hold those conversations and know by the time that you're entering into those conversations, what all of the steps are that you're going to walk the client through.

[00:23:57] David Waumsley: Yeah. But in a way, the basic agile principles, fairly easy for someone to understand you just take someone like Amazon who are continuous delivery, agile, effectively, although they don't tend to use that these continuous delivery where they are chucking out these things, that'd be 11.6 seconds.

It's a number that's gone around for, I don't know. Seven years or something changes in their business. And it makes sense. Cause everybody, everybody knows that. I guess if they use Facebook, they realize that they might be getting a different experience to somebody else. So as they're testing out something to see how it works and get feedback.

So if you explain this is the web, it works. It gets you live data ongoing. It's a bit like opening up your shop. You don't just open it up and then pay the bills and leave it at that. You respond to how your customers behave when they come into the shop. The website is that again, think of Amazon.

That's how they might go about it. It started off as a rubbish site. They didn't just build it and say that we're done. They keep delivering all the time. It's an


[00:25:02] Nathan Wrigley: thing to explain. Yeah. We used that analogy last time. Didn't we about the shop and the fact that you don't just open it and leave it.

I've just thought of a chink in the armor of that analogy. And that is you have to have a shop.

[00:25:14] David Waumsley: Yes, that's right.

[00:25:16] Nathan Wrigley: Exactly. Shop is the website. So you have to have it built before you can start finessing. Which is

[00:25:22] David Waumsley: no new this, but this

[00:25:25] Nathan Wrigley: could be interesting. Yeah you, you can, as your building, the shop, you are finessing.

It is what you're saying. And I'm saying, let's just get the shop built, then worry about the shop being finessed and

[00:25:35] David Waumsley: fiddled. It's always going to be the traditional, I think agile approach, because you could say that I'm just doing the traditional, so I get to start it and then it can go out Joel after that one, because everybody needs to do that.

But I would say it's more in the mindset of it with the agile you're committing to the idea that it will be continuous delivery, where when you're going traditional, you're committed to the idea that there is this project, which finishes.

[00:26:00] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. What I really love about your Roger Hall thing is that you like for the last decade or more, we've been constantly told that in order to maintain the relationship with your clients, you need to be telling them about a bunch of scary things which can go wrong and therefore put them on a care plan.

Yours is totally that's flipped on its head. It's, here's all the wonderful things that we can do for you if we just keep going. So you're building up a longterm relationship right off the bat, which are. Mostly missed out on. It was a struggle for me to convert people onto care plans. And I would say more than half of the time that it didn't happen.

Whereas yours is that relationship that long-term relationship is baked in on the promise of the way it's being built right at this.

[00:26:51] David Waumsley: We've got a little bit off here, but just one thought on this one with that is the kind of agile we were talking about this earlier about the fact that when we started in the two thousands, mid two thousands to a point where you could build your sites and that's what we learned HTML, and that's what people bought at that point, or it was built it and they will come.

No one imagined that there would be watching data. There wasn't even Google analytics until I think 2005 basic monitoring wasn't available. So the job of a web designer then was to just, do the technical, which wasn't that technical, you only needed to learn HTML and CSS and you put it out and you gave somebody a product which would last indefinitely at that.

Yeah. Yeah. It's a digital product. And it's interesting now that we're all on the CMS is that we do that. We've got all this backend technology, which we now have to keep that running. We have to sell the maintenance plan, but actually when you think about it the analogy breaks down, doesn't it?

Because you don't hand over a finished product you actually hand over something which is on an agile platform.

[00:27:59] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. It's interesting how that has developed over time. Most people just need a bunch of HTML and CSS on a that's all they need. And, but we don't. Yeah. Give them that day. We, because we've got this complex WordPress architecture going on in the background in order that we can be well agile.

[00:28:21] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. So I, I think that design, so I'm very much in favor of that. Mostly. It's just about trying to communicate the idea is to keep this bond with the client. I think because the agile supposed to be a people first approach where you bring them on board about what changes. So they understand for this lifetime thing, it should be a happiness cycle where you look after the interests of the client, they will then look after the end user, which is what we want as UX designers.

The end user will then reward the client by buying stuff, because they've got that right. They will reward us by doing more of the same thing, yeah. Can I just say happy

[00:28:59] Nathan Wrigley: cycle yeah, in a buzzword friendly world, I think you should ring. It's no longer call it agile. We're going to use that.

We're just going to give you a happiness cycle. That's all you need, and everybody will fall at your feet and love it. Happiness cycle. That's brilliant. Okay. Where are we at next then? Where did we get to in our show notes?

[00:29:22] David Waumsley: Yeah. We were talking about design considerations. We've covered this in a way, whether we'd get a designer in first or last, follow in my idea that you'll build it up from the content because the content is the strategy. So the design is the last thing for me. I think if I needed a visual designer and often I might do, we were looking what we were looking over dribble

[00:29:47] Nathan Wrigley: stand by the way we want us, it's a brilliant website. You should definitely go and check it out.

It's got three big, three B's DRI double B and then an extra B L e.com. Something like

[00:29:57] David Waumsley: that. Almost do you know what I don't? This is the first time I've ever known.


[00:30:02] Nathan Wrigley: pretty sure it is. I'll put it in the show notes anywhere for anybody that wants

[00:30:05] David Waumsley: to click. So we were looking and my plan was defeated entirely.

We saw something by a long-term designer, Dan Cedar home on there, and he'd done all this psychedelic work we were looking at and we just thought, oh, if a website and did that. And it's not going to be Misael, but if it needed that I would have to get the designer in right from the.

[00:30:26] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So we were looking at this website and it was a beautiful psychic, psychedelic design, absolutely glorious, but really out on the edge, it's the sort of thing that belongs on.

I don't know, like the Glastonbury website or something like that. It was very evocative that is going to be, I think out of bounds of me entirely, not just me and a designer, but I think I'm out of the game at that point, because that design is just something my creative juices don't stretch that far, but yeah.

[00:30:57] David Waumsley: Yes. I know I'm just going to be different sites. That's going to be quiet. There was there, aren't going to be occasions. I've got this process in my head where I am, if you like go in the UX designer way and I'm thinking long-term, I'm thinking about that aims. And I'm thinking really of a website as a UI for the end user to be able to achieve the tasks, but there are examples and that kind of psych is that design is a perfect example where the actual field and the Brandon is much more important than that.


[00:31:32] Nathan Wrigley: Really an edge case though, isn't it. And the fact that we were looking on a website like dribble or the awards website, which again has three W's, I believe, www awards with three W's dot com. They're not typical, are they? They're really pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

And in many cases, they're for organizations and businesses that. That can cope with that. They want to be edgy. They want to be different. And our client miss a that's the last thing she wants, I would, if I would have imagined.

[00:32:06] David Waumsley: Yeah. And it's interesting. I, I was watching a YouTube, but very popular YouTuber designer going through his process and need it showed the site and he charges a lot of money and it justifies that and he uses things like awards the website, how much some of those projects would cost.

But really interesting when I was, when I managed to find it, which wasn't easy to find at all, because there was no SEO work on it. There were so many technical issues with it that I was really surprised that you could charge that amount of money, but that was what this organization wanted. But I do notice as well, which is why I stick to my thing is that a lot of those award winners end up down the line, changing their design to something.

Familiar, more practical, more of a a website user experience to help people to achieve that task rather than be so much design led. So yeah. I don't think I'm ever going to get that type of job. Yeah

[00:33:04] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, like I said, I would probably just turn it down because I think it's out of the creative boundaries that I've got.

In my situation, I get the, go ahead. I get the green light to pay for the designer right at the beginning or not, but at least that's locked in with yours. You've done the painting by numbers, but you've looked at some of the data. You've decided what the text is going to be and how to do that.

And you've starting to build up this framework of how the site might look, do you then have to go back to the client and say, okay, I now feel that this is beyond my creative juices. We are going to have to get you to pay for a designer. Is that cause that feels like it could be quite an uncomfortable conversation at that.

[00:33:49] David Waumsley: I dunno, I it's not happening. So I don't know. It's but hopefully, we'd only be pulling in the designer if we felt there was some proof that the aesthetics were letting down yeah. The site. Yeah. And I think then they, hopefully that's the idea isn't it is to work more collaboratively with the client, share the same information.

That's why the painting by numbers approach to design is because it becomes transparent and accessible to the client. If they're not involved,

[00:34:19] Nathan Wrigley: you'd be doing any explaining that may be a possibility, for our client, miss a that's never going to arise. Is it's not a conversation that even worth having no, but if you were to be doing a website for, I don't know, a festival, a local festival or something that it could create that way, couldn't it.

And so it might be good to get get ahead of it and say, okay, we're going to do this much. And then there may be a requirement for a designer. So just bear that in.

[00:34:47] David Waumsley: Actually, you've just hit the nail on the head. I think for me, what, because of those very stylized things, they're there for a certain length of time and they wouldn't Sue agile.

I would go to your way. We'd be designing it from the beginning because with something like that, chances are, it's a one-off website for that year. Yeah. Yeah. It's, there's no ongoing process, lifetime thing where we're improving this kind of place on the internet and watching how you know it literally has.

It's like a poster online. Yeah.

[00:35:18] Nathan Wrigley: I declare victory in that case. That's brilliant. This episode, if

[00:35:24] David Waumsley: you go to Nathan, if you need a post

[00:35:28] Nathan Wrigley: mixing, is what, from what I've said, I wouldn't want to touch you with a Barch

[00:35:31] David Waumsley: ball because it's too difficult

[00:35:33] Nathan Wrigley: for me. So yeah, that's interesting. Both of us have collapsed on this edge case of a website but it really is design driven.

Isn't it? And I think we really were. Pushing a design, which is so extraordinarily out of the remit of what I've ever built, that it's, I would, I probably have dismissed that out of hand. The minute I got the brief, it'd be like, no, this one's not for me. So I don't think it would have been a big deal.

I just, would've got rid of the problem, pushed off my plate and given it to, some friends of mine who might be better able to do it.

[00:36:06] David Waumsley: So we could talk about I guess this was still a play in your case, but getting clients involved from the beginning, now they obviously, in your case, if they are good design and then they should theoretically stay out of it until the thing's built, because they've agreed at the beginning of the that's.

Yeah. Yeah.

[00:36:22] Nathan Wrigley: So I've written on the show notes, the question was, do we get clients involved from the beginning? I've written no, all capitals because yeah, I don't know. I don't know that my process will allow for that level of interaction because. That's just not what I'm doing, there's the design you've signed off on it.

We can't have the tooling and fro-ing oh, can we tweak it a little bit? No, I'm just going to do it, hand it to you. Then we fiddle with it. There's a timeline here and you've got to stick to the timeline. So with the process that I've got, it's a big fat, no, I don't want meddling right. The way through, from start to finish.

[00:37:03] David Waumsley: Okay. But mentally is also that's the pesky glance and this is right. Yeah but there's been a long tradition before we had agile, challenging things of the waterfall been at stages, different processes. And some of that would be involved in the design later down and including the clients in it.

The concept of this mood board in thing I know a lot of larger agencies will do that where everybody, yeah. Texts bits and pieces. They get from brochures and magazines or posters and stuff, and stick them all on one board to try and get the look and feel agreed in a larger organization about what you're going for.

So they do get involved in that way. I think, yeah, but we all know don't we, it's the, it's will live in infamy forever. I think the classic oatmeal cartoon about the design process where client and designer agree, the last site was rubbish. What were they thinking? And then they do this to Dar moment and then the client goes, yeah, it's great.

But, and then, slowly make so many changes that it's awful. We know all the same, all the classic things that we ridicule clients for unfairly, I think make it pop and make my logo bigger. All these things have.

[00:38:28] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So here's an interesting sort of, I think this is about the process and about the way that you structure it.

If yeah. If you are just asking the open-ended question of what do you think about this, then you're asking them to be critical, basically, th they might say, oh, I love this. And I love this. And that's really nice. But most of the time, I think you are you've that open-ended question is opening the flood gates to, can we change this?

I don't like that this is wrong. We certainly can't cope with that, blah, blah, blah. And so you, but your process is about education and about saying, shall we try this? So it's more sort of affirmative and positive, and it's your encouraging the things that you think that they should do? Not just saying, okay.

Have a look at the website, open the flood gates, tell me everything that's wrong. And I think that's a really curious and effective thing about your approach.

[00:39:28] David Waumsley: They said, yeah they made me for, the, I guess the one downside about the idea of getting a designer who mocks up some design and the client picks between them.

It's the fact that what is, what's going to guide them to what is going to be right for them and their users. And I think that's where the floor could be. So in some ways, if it works out well and they can pick a design and go, that's what I like, you get your site built, but they probably won't be educated enough to have made a good decision based on their users.

There'll be thinking from their own perspective. Yeah. And this is largely even whether you're waterfall or agile. A lot of it has been about this mood board in idea is to try and link it in with where you'll go in and try and. Can control the process where you explain to people what you're trying to give off, what's the look and feel what you're trying to communicate to people.

So in some ways, there's, whichever way you go with this, an education built into it. Yeah. I tell you what was really amusing. I don't know if I've mentioned this before. Cause everybody jokes about make it pop. And I was watching a UX designer and she's done a number of courses on this opposite.

That's her living and all through it. She was going through this process by numbers, if you like of making this site. And she goes right, that makes it pop folded about all the time, but what she was talking about. And then this is where the communication is. The clients don't have the words, what she was referring to was how she would manage to separate something out through proximity and how she'd managed to make something stand out through contrast.

Pop actually made sense, and I think that's why we have to go through some kind of process with clients to be able to get to it. If you're lucky, if you can put out a design and they pick one, but as I say, you don't know whether they've picked correctly.

In my experience, I remembered, sorry, let me just go without just, there was a case where we did this once because somebody wanted, this was when I was working with my friend and somebody wanted a website, very cheap for pub. And at that time I said the only thing we can do is take one of the templates that they pick one of these at the time Genesis templates.

And it was unbelievable. They just picked the most inappropriate template you could have done amongst them. And that was the one you couldn't move them off it, once they said, no, I like this. It was all dark. And it just was entirely wrong. Yeah.

[00:42:07] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I guess it's top down, bottom up. Isn't it?

Your approach is very much let's just work with them. And on my approach, it turns out I'm, I am really relying on the designer to think a lot about their business and in some cases, and in fact, in quite a few cases, I actually did have the designer in the room. They had agreed that they wanted a designer and then they came in for that conversation and they weren't really, it was more like they were having an observer role.

So I did my usual asking all the questions, I often did the go wide go deep type of thing. I was never very good at that, but I asked it in my own way to try and explore. And the designer was part of that. So it, the information wasn't secondhand, but nevertheless, I am then relying on. Completely on their ability to pass that and make the correct judgments, but it is only the visuals.

There's no thought about SEO. There's no thought about any of the incredible stuff that your agile approach brings. It was just, I want to design, and now I know what the business is trying to do. I will try to match the design and the design only to what we think that should look like.

[00:43:22] David Waumsley: Yeah.

We had a good chat earlier about differences between the kind of design designers that we know that we admire because they got this ability to be really creative. And what we did, we really were closer to the developer side of things because we learned those early HTML and CSS thing. Just managed to put something together that looked half decent.

But we're mostly, but we was, we came to the conclusion. I think that because of the web, we've converged around this whole user experience anyway, so the designer is no longer the print designer. The designer now for the web has to think about the interaction and has to consider the things that we would still consider from a developer point of view, how that is going to play out on the web.

So I think you could, what I was trying to get to here was the fact that what you were saying about the, you expect the designer to be sensitive to how that works on the web, and and the business and in a way it's gets to the same conversation we had about whether you bring a copywriter in the beginning, because like copywriter could have the conversation with the client about what they're trying to achieve, who is their target audience.

The designer could do exactly the same process for us.

[00:44:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I agree. Hopefully the designers that I've used, they've been doing this work for so long. I would have imagined that those empathic skills, the ability to take the words out of somebody's mouth and their aspirations and desires and all of the things that we discussed in the meeting and convert that into something realistic.

You would imagine that a designer that can't, that doesn't possess that empathic skill and just puts out whatever the heck they want is not probably going to be in business all that long because ultimately, the client's paying. And so yes, and they always did in my estimation know, they came back always with things, which I thought, yeah that's pretty much captured it, but there's two variants.

Let's just see which of those, the client prefers. But it was always that, which do you prefer? Not? Yeah, I'm not sure that one will ever work. So they were good.

[00:45:32] David Waumsley: My favorite was always with, I was telling you earlier about a website from my original hometown and stuff, which had the most hairdressers and it had the most beautiful design.

It probably came from something like theme, forest, but it was so classy and up-market the design, but there was the picture center in this of the owner and she just did not look like the design itself. She was just very much from the area. She as a dock area doing really homely, friendly type looking person.

And it was just so incredible how the design itself was all so complete and consistent, but it just didn't reflect the owner notes, look like them.

[00:46:14] Nathan Wrigley: It's interesting how you can, and you can see that a million miles away can't you. If you've been on the internet for any length of time, you will have come across that site where it's pretty clear that's a template and they've just thrown clearly.

Ill thought through image has been put in and it just red lights start to appear and you start to look at it and think, oh, there's something wrong here. What's going on. And then you want to look for the more things that are wrong with it. It's a strange situation, but I do know what you mean.

[00:46:45] David Waumsley: Yeah. We were looking Muslim. We earlier, cause you've mentioned about plumbers out there would ruined this and we were looking at plumber sites in your local area. And it's really interesting. Cause I think also we have to be in the, in that case it was over stylized for this person. And how were you imagine they probably are.

And th and then I think there's also the case with things like traits people's sites, where if it's two star lights, it's just suddenly you're going to put people off. It's just not in keeping with what you would expect from that type of business.

[00:47:18] Nathan Wrigley: So imagine you had a really pushing the boundaries of.

Of artistic design and it was just for a simple plumbing, local website. There is a disconnect there isn't there, it just, there's something about making a website, which meets the expectation of who's going to be visiting it. If you go to Amazon, you have a complete set of expectations about what that's going to be like and what the experience is like.

And if they made it all wacky and crazy, you'd be what, I don't know. I don't, I can't buy from here. This is too weird. And the same is true. The plumber, the lawyer, whatever, I think. To be success. I don't want to say this, but I'm gonna say it to be successful. You've got to be within the boundaries of what the people visiting.

It will expect. I'm going to be shot for that sentence, but they,

[00:48:06] David Waumsley: No, I know what you mean. And I think, with the one that we're trying to do our miss a w I think we know what lawyers site is, and I don't think most people are interested in it being wonderfully designed as long as it's, it does all of the basic stuff.

Things are aligned and positioned quite correctly. So it doesn't create friction for the user to find the stuff that they need. We're going to be able to do it with probably with basic skills on that without needing a designer. I should imagine.

[00:48:36] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I've gone. I suspect you're about to say what I was going to say.

So gone. I was

[00:48:40] David Waumsley: just going to move on to At the feedback tools. That's what I was going to say. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So we've got tons of them out there. I've been waiting an hour. I think project huddle was the first that came around that.

[00:48:54] Nathan Wrigley: And there's loads of tools into this project huddle.

You found one, which I think you've used in the past called user back. And then there's like atta rim. But of course there's the ultimate tool, which I always preferred, which is called the.

[00:49:10] David Waumsley: You're the tool. Yeah, that's right. That's it. Fuck

[00:49:14] Nathan Wrigley: you. The, I just found that to be the most effective way.

And when I say the phone, a meeting, a phone call. Now it'd be probably something on zoom where I'm, screen-sharing all of those kinds of things because of what we mentioned earlier about the, if you give too much capacity to criticize and you're not there to shepherd that criticism and to react to it in real time, I think that the potential for that criticism to become overwhelming and a great big bomb of information is not helping.

[00:49:49] David Waumsley: Yeah. I tried to use the tool. The clients didn't really get on board with using it. The only thing that I found was quite useful would use the back was that when someone saw us on it that were pointing, actually told me what size they had their browser on surface of his sponsor issue and what browser they were using.

And that was quite useful to check something out. But otherwise for me, it would've been much better to have a presented feedback session where you get to say why you did something like that and why it is. So you've set the standard if you like the feedback to come back. And I think the danger with me is if they could just stick things on randomly saying, make this bigger, they can't use the words that are going to tell me how to do stuff.

And I've heard other things. Fun and conversations on the, make my logo bigger, where they make it huge. And then the client says, and they make it a little bit smaller and, Justin, and they end up back to where they were in the first place. And you just think, yeah, I would like to avoid that kind of thing.

Yeah. I

[00:50:53] Nathan Wrigley: guess the, I guess the pitch for those tools though, is that you don't always deal with the ideal client. Often times where they're absent, they're there. They're not giving you any feedback. They were unwilling to engage with you. They don't bother, or they just, they, they're interacting with the wrong things and ultimately if you have two or three of these meetings and they end up contradicting themselves and all that, it's just a lot of time wasted.

So I think that's the pitch for those tools. Isn't it is here's a tool, teach them how to use it, save time, save a bit of money because you're saving time. But probably explain how it works and what the kind of information is that you want to get back. Yeah.

[00:51:33] David Waumsley: I don't, I obviously have to do stuff online, but I just think with any of the free tools, now you can screen share and you can present it.

And, with page builders, particularly you can even just change some of the things there where they, while they were on there. I just think it's such a more effective way, but I think controlling the nature of the feedback is the important thing to set. If you can explain clearly why things were done, they have to meet that level of standard for their feedback.

And I think that's what frustrates us. If they just randomly say make it pop or make my logo. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:52:10] Nathan Wrigley: I like that. So just to make sure I've understood that correctly, your having a conversation where you tell them why you think it's been done this way, and then the barrier that isn't just to criticize it's to, they've got to better your argument for it to pass.

[00:52:30] David Waumsley: Yeah, hopefully, cause the aim is to get on with the client, is that you're going to go, this is what I've done and this is why I've done it like that. What do you think? Do I, hopefully it's because I think it's actually quite useful, particularly as I'm not a designer to build, to get the feedback from the client because they do have access to snake.

I don't have, which is an understanding, hopefully if I've set that up of their users and what their expectations are. So they should have something valid to add to it. But you just want to make sure that it's at a level that makes some sense doesn't, they have to know that you've used some skills.

I think it's, I think it's the best way of doing it because it doesn't appear like magic. You explain if you like what skills you bring to the project yeah. Through doing that. So I think it's the only way that I can imagine it working. I'd love to hear. Has a completely different approach.

[00:53:28] Nathan Wrigley: All you have to do really as well. And both of us have been insulated from this for goodness knows what reason neither of us have like really fallen out with any body over this. But yeah, but clearly that, that does happen all the time. So those tools might be shielding you from that horror that you once had where, you went into a meeting and it just ended up being a bum fight.

And the whole project fell to pieces after a lot of work had been put in. And so those tools are put into to prevent some of that kind of stuff and insulate you from it. But you and I, for reasons that I don't really know both prefer the in-person on the phone doing a zoom call kind of interaction.

So yeah. Okay. Design inspiration. This is our final bit. Isn't it? Where are we? Where are we even getting ideas from? Just to be clear, I really don't have a designer. Bone in my body. I have this thought that I would like to rewind my life and go into design that I have this thought that I could be good at it.

History shows that I'm lousy at it, but I think it'd be quite a fun thing to do. I love the idea of, designing things and using Photoshop and, but it never worked for me. So I have to go to websites to look, to get inspiration.

[00:54:42] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I think I love this whole approach of builder, building things up man, and putting the flourishes on later.

So I think things like dribble with the three B's is is great because you can look at what other people have done too. I think you can search through different types of things. So if you've got a little benefit section that you might have with three boxes or something, you could say, how are you going to make yours that you've.

A little bit more excited and you can look and see what other people have done in terms of splodges they might put in the background or drop shadows that they might have used. And I think that's a really great way. And I think the same thing, as well, as lots of people collect stuff on Pinterest, that's another place where you can find headers or footers, or just any kind of section that you won't get inspiration on and Canva and stencil as well.

I find those quite useful to look at building

[00:55:39] Nathan Wrigley: stuff. I less so nowadays, but I used to use Evernote a lot just to basically bookmark things. And so I've got a folder in Evernote. I can't even remember what it's called, it's like templates or something like that. And I would just bookmark things that I love.

As I went around the internet, I wasn't looking for something nice. I just found something nice. And I bookmarked it. And with Evernote, you can just add a little note to why you liked it. So I might say, oh, I like the header or something. And so over time I built up those kinds of things. But 10 minutes on that dribble website is just such a good use of 10 minutes.

You'll get so many ideas and so many different ways of doing the exact same thing. It's fascinating, really fast.

[00:56:27] David Waumsley: I used to try and not ever know, but I used to catch him on a seller site that I really liked. I'd do a full screenshot of it and put these in a folder and that never came back to it. They still go back to the idea of looking at something like doable to get the inspiration on

[00:56:45] Nathan Wrigley: Those websites didn't exist.

It they've the sort of dribble thing. And so it was my Kluge way of getting a little repository of my own thoughts, but yeah, you're right. Websites like dribble, they've got search features and so you can go in and write header or whatever and see what comes out. And usually it's dozens were saying dribble.

There's probably all sorts of different ones. We mentioned awards earlier and there's obviously all the sort of template libraries, whether you like them or not online, where you can go and look at what other people have designed. And yeah.

[00:57:18] David Waumsley: I have ThemeForest and monster templates and those as a way of deciding what I'm not going to do.

So there's, so it's, there's a new kind of business to me. There I go and search those to see what templates are, and they're very similar, so in some ways I think because they use the lot or similar templates, copy each other in the terms of the colors that go with. So it's a way if I can, I want to avoid that.

So it doesn't look too much. Sometimes the expectation now that it does look a certain way and with our lawyer, maybe we won't get too far out of that, but I find it kind of reversal is quite good. One of the thing that she, I shouldn't mention. Cause I thought it was a very good tip it's for things like spacing for doing typographic correctly on sites, there's some rules that you can follow out there, but I've heard people say law, Elizabeth being one of them that, great ways.

If you see topography on people's sites, then just go and see how they've spaced out their head as the various headers and the text and the line height that they use in and just steal it, the space in is perfect. Just take it from websites. Then the actual code itself can often be an inspiration as well on other people's

[00:58:40] Nathan Wrigley: sites.

Yeah. Yeah. How many times do you do that? A week where you just click right click and inspect, just to see how they've achieved something. I'm doing that all the time.

[00:58:48] David Waumsley: But, you know what I, until somebody told me about that, I would've never thought I look at it and I see it and I see little bits, but I never thought about some people were good design skills, have the whole system built in.

So it's, it's a consistent space in between the head of wants to threes and fours and the text and the steel, it steal the same line height and the space in that. And I just thought that's brilliant, isn't

[00:59:11] Nathan Wrigley: it? Yeah. Yeah. That's just a nice shortcut to to all of this kind of stuff. So yeah.

Find things on the web and then go and basically steal them. That's what we're saying. That's what this episode comes down to steal other people's good ideas. Are we done?

[00:59:26] David Waumsley: We are done. This is the end of this season. So the next time we chat, we will be moving on to season three. The technical bill will actually be starting to build the thing.

[00:59:36] Nathan Wrigley: And this is where it gets interesting without a lot of preamble. And now we're actually the rubber meets the road and things that maybe you're not, but okay. Season two, Don Benito, well done. And I will see you in a couple of weeks. Yeah. But why? I hope that you enjoyed that. Always very nice to chat with my good friend, David Wamsley.

If you fancy giving us some of your feedback, we'd really appreciate that you can do that by going most easily to WP Builds.com and look for episode number 279 and leave us a comment there. We'd really appreciate it. If you fancy joining in our Facebook group, that's WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook.

You could search also for episode 207. And leave us a comment there. We would be most appreciative.

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We will be back next week. It'll be an interview episode because we flip flop between a chat with David and I, and then an interview with some word presser out in the wider world.

So that'll be next week, but also don't forget. We've got our live show this week in WordPress, 2:00 PM UK time. Every [email protected] forward slash live. Perhaps we will see you for some of that. If not, I hope that you have a nice week, stay safe. I'm going to fade in some cheesy music and say, bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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