Design Guidelines are Just That: Guidelines


Every design-related industry relies on guidelines to help ensure consistent quality. We’re no different. There are a number of important guidelines related to web design and tons of minor ones. While they’re important to follow, it’s equally important to recognize when they need to be ignored in order to get better results.

There are all sorts of guidelines and “rules” governing design:
* conventions
* consistency
* grids
* patterns
* mental models
* many other things

Designers often seem to think that guidelines, conventions and the like apply mostly to web design. I disagree strongly with this. They apply equally to print and web design; it’s just that because web design is so new (relatively), that they need to explicitly called out for it. Print design has been around forever and the rules come naturally to most designers.

Whatever your focus, guidelines help us create more consistently good, usable and enjoyable designs. But they are only effective as long as they aren’t followed blindly: the most important part of any design (at least any with our UUE Framework) is understanding the goal of the design (what makes it useful). There are plenty of times where one or more of these rules is an obstacle to usefulness.

The designer’s challenge is to recognize when the guideline should be followed and when it should be ignored. If the designer chooses to ignore the guideline, there had better be a good results-oriented reason for that: it needs to make the website (or any design) more _effective_. Not prettier or nicer to look at or even more usable, but more effective. Better at accomplishing what it’s supposed to accomplish.

I’m not sure how to educate people to realize the appropriateness of a design guideline application. I think it may just come with experience, but I’m open to ideas.

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By Josho


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