Dano Manion

Design Notes

What is Design?

  • We can loosely define To design as:
    • deciding upon the look and functioning of ( building, garment or other object), typically by making a detailed drawing of it.
    • for the web: deciding upon the look and functioning of (a website, user interface or app), by creating detailed, informative and helpful guides and digital representations of said product.

Heuristics of Good Design

  1. Elegant Simplicity /over/ Conspicuous Featurism
    • Too many features = bad!
    • It’s always easy to add features, it’s hard to take them away
    • Maya principle - Most Advanced Yet Acceptable Aestic
      • If something looks too average looking people aren’t into them, however if you move more and more towards novely, just to the right of center, you find the sweet spot.
      • Generic--------------o------(HERE)-------Novelty
      • Think what would happen if you applied this to landing pages, email newsletters, or any other web widgety thing.
      • “progressive reduction” - when you apply actumzs razor to products
  2. Inside-Out Craftmanship /over/ Bait-And-Switch Craftsmanship
    • Craftsmanship MATTERS!
    • Great Designers are finatical about final execution
    • Don’t Bait-And-Switch Craftsmanship
      • 3 sided brick homes
      • the unfnished surface in a dresser
  3. Embracing Failure /over/ Fearing Failure
    • Failure is part of the process.
    • Learn to fail fast, build and break through those prototypes
  4. Never Leave Well Enough Alone /over/ If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
    • Design tastes keep moving and evolving
    • Your design has to constatly move with it
    • “Design is not actually timeless”
    • Don’t just improve the weaknesses, improve the STRENGTHS as well! (Continuous Improvement) TQM
      • How can I use the best of webdesign and dev to futther the products I build
  5. Reframing Problems /over/ Accepting Problems
    • Don’t accept the problem as defined, what do people really want
    • When asked to redesign a drillbit becaus sales are down, rethinking that it isn’t drillbits people want. It’s holes! but wait … maybe it’s more about a solution to hang a picture and no holes at all. Rethinking the problem!
  6. Customer Doesn’t Know What’s Right /over/ Customer is Always Right
    • it is the intersection need of customer needs and engineering possiblities
    • customers opperate in a contrainted frame, innovation comes from thinking beyond what people already know
    • focus groups don’t know the answers Example: the Walkman would have failed a focus group
    • put engineers in wheelchairs to find the flaws people bound to wheelchairs may not know what’s possible
  7. Analogical Insignts /over/ Analytical Thinking
    • Compairing things vs over-analyzing everything
  8. Eat your own dog food /over/ Observe Dogs Eating
  9. First Principles /over/ Fashion Trends
    • Ignore Trends, focus on principles
    • Check out the natural world and mimic the natural world
    • The Queue drum vs carrying water barells in Africa
  10. Zealous Missionaries /over/ Indifferent Mercenaries
    • Great designers are crazy pitchmen. They learned they had to learn to sell and pitch and convince them of THIS way vs not
    • Become a leader and master showmen
    • Get used to the idea that you have to sell yourself
    • Go from invisible to visible
  • I wonder if it’s also true that great designers are hyper-learners, always exposing themselves to new ideas and content.

Steps in building a website

  1. Come up with purpose statement
  2. Research and Discovery
    • competitors, your client’s industry, audience, goals, relevant design styles
  3. Build a Content Hierarchy
    • Create core content
  4. Build Sitemap
  5. Sketch Ideas Down

Planning a Design

  • The most important part of a design project is Content
    • how it fits together
    • how the content hierarchy works and fits together
    • work with real content
    • when receiving content from a client, mark good content green, okay content, amber, and unnecessary content red, discuss with client
    • create a hierarchy, how does content relate to each other?
      • always think how it fits
      • Think about using headings, lists, quotes, imagery and more to break up the content and make it easier to communicate more focused messages to the users


  • Get a sign-off on content hierarchy
  • Pattern Libraries are like Style Guides but describe usage
    • can be sign-offs

Thoughts on Content and Layout Design

Sketch Down Ideas

  • Avoid using a computer first, sketch out ideas by hand first.
  • Note down as many ideas you have as quickly as possible.
    • Go with the flow
    • Play around with whatever you’d like
    • Sketch out whatever
  • Experiment!
    • try something, iterate and move on
      1. Have fun with it
    • Pick up a sketch book and sketch away!
      1. Explore your ideas
    • The main point of sketching is to get ideas down and explore them
    • The more time you spend on this step the better foundation you start with
      1. Document your ideas
    • Write about what you have done and why. PROCESS!
    • *This is why I have started creating _process folders in my projects. A place to add my process. I wonder if I should further celebrate the process by creating a page dedicated to it?
  1. Sketching for Ideas
  2. Sketching for the Web
  3. How much should a custom WordPress website cost?

Great bit from the web

Good Designers vs Great Designers

Good designers take orders and hand over exactly what a client wants. Great designers dive deep to uncover what a client actually needs.”

Questions to ask

  1. Have you ever worked with a designer before?
    • To help setup expectations

Becoming Leonardo: How Great Designers Think