June 12, 2010

W W W dot

Webdesign is the best example I can give relating to my own experience of over-ambition. Webdesign is hard. That is to say, designing a website isn't hard but designing a good website is. What's tricky about designing a website, more than anything, is getting the balance right. And that balance can be any number of things, from features/content, Form/Function, Colour/Weight.

Now, I'm no webdesigner, I've only gathered this experience from working on and completing around six of my own webdesigns. So I don't claim to speak from a position of knowledge, I'm speaking from what I've learnt from exploring my own ideas.

To get back to over-ambition, another aspect of Webdesign I find so frustrating is limitations. When I put pencil to paper, I can do whatever I feel like- fulfilling and finishing that notion is my only challenge. With Webdesign, there is concept and reality and often sacrifices between.

As example- http://99reasonstowin, the homepage of FELICITY underwent a massive overhaul not long ago. V1 served a purpose, hosting my comic on its own two legs and allowing readers to come, read the comic and experience what it had to offer. I had no reason to redesign the website, outside of my own personal perspective on it- I felt like it wasn't as good as it could be- dozens of reasons really.

Didn't reflect the character of the comic, the concept, the feel, the colours, the humour, it wasn't 'homely'. Black- a colour that the old design had in abundance is a terrible terrible colour to have on a website and I really hesitated to settle on it after failing to design a site without it prior to V1. Black is a dull lifeless colour void of bounce or reflection, exaggerating only a little- it's depressing to spend alot of time looking at. And I'm not some crazy hippy! There is a science to colours and the effects they have on our eyes and our bodies, colours are vastly important and therefore slapping alot of black around is a good way to loose attention from your audience. And that's another point, interesting to consider, I'm rambling I know but working on a piece of art- our concept of colour and ideas for using it are controlled by our intentions. We'll use certain colours in a comic panel for example to try to invoke a desired reaction or emotion. Websites take this concept of desired effect and multiply it because we aren't thinking about that one time the reader sees a panel, we're trying to think 'How can we encourage the reader to come back or hang about or enjoy it while they're here'.

And perhaps you may read this and think 'He's reading way to much into this' but that is my point! Colour affects us subconsciously and it's an easy way to influence, if we get it right.


When first brainstorming ideas for 99reasons V2 I had a First Person perspective idea, a cockpit, from inside the head of 99, our main character. Below is my first initial concept.

Firstly you can notice my concept is governed by LINES. Horrible lines of RULE. These lines obviously indicating the rough ideas I have in my mind of how the website can actually be constructed, which is the governing thought to design. You can see through my design pretty easily, I'm basically trying to make a piece of art into a website. And that leads me to the next part.

Form over Function, or Function over Form.

It's easy to argue that FUNCTION should always be paramount in design. Infact, I'm not going to argue against that, that'd be dumb. I would argue that context is important to the question, sometimes function can take a back seat to form depending on what it is your trying to convey. In this case, the order so far is FORM over Function- a bad fit. And I'll get into that abit later on.

Important to note now that I do not BUILD my websites. My input is the entire design, graphics and finish. However, everything 'under the bonnet' (The really hard bit as I call it) is done by my good friend Darryl Walker over at Icarus Wish. So by this stage, I've passed my initial concept(above)to him for input on what is actually possible within the previously mentioned limitations. That leads to a revised concept, below-
The limitations this design idea are pretty staggering. To begin, the white box you see center of the image is the intended visual cut off area, ideally for me I didn't want the viewer to see much more outside of that box. That of course is ignoring the possible viewer coming to my website on a large resolution, or similarly, a vistor coming on a small resolution. Without distorting, warping or pain stakingly piecing together, the intended background image cannot exist purely in that cut off point. HENCE! Extended image. Which was a nice idea but it would have caused further issues.

One of which being my content box idea, 99 holding a datapad, my idea being an independent content navigation. Meaning simply that the 'cockpit' image stays static, or locked, while you scroll the content in her datapad. This is problem because firstly, it's too small. Secondly it's too low, some users would log on and not even see the top of the datapad, and thirdly it's going to cause problems being independent from the whole window.

These are all issues that can be resolved using clever code or design skills- I'm aware of that. Flash for instance is one such way to make this design a reality, but when problems occur so readily and do not have an obvious solution- you begin to realise that FORM should not be taking priority of FUNCTION and that if you are causing problems for yourself designing it, how is anyone going to navigate it?

However at this stage in design, my affection for the concept caused me to push on, trying to patch over the holes caused by previous concepts-

In this concept you can see the perspective from the initial design has altered quite significantly, allowing a larger and higher up content box, as well as a wider more 'roomy' cockpit image. Despite glaring issues with the idea I did somehow get as far as even rendering part of this in the intended fashion, seen below. It's when I got this far though that I realised I was reaching too far.

And that is because, this entire concept so far has only covered the Homepage of the website, how could it incorporate the Comic page, how would you read the comic? Would it have the same image for all pages with different datapads? Different arms holding the datapad? How does the user get home or navigate from pages other than the homepage. It becomes a nightmare because one piece of the puzzle has taken so long to get nowhere. And that's where I want to point back to the fact that designing websites is hard. And to ignore even, the previous statement of quality is hard, the actual physical elements of creating each individual part, designing each individual page, the content, the flow, the navigation- it's a TREMENDOUS amount of work to follow through on an entire design ethos.

So, keep it simple.

Red White and Black are FELICITYS colours, the team wear the colours between them, the ship sports them, the theme of Crimson runs through my work. These colours are so obvious as representation of Felicity and yet they weren't present in the webdesign, not in abundance. Keeping it simple, I birthed the idea below-

2010 saw the rebranding of Felicity, I had redesigned the logo, tightened the style, explored artistically to resolve questions I had begun to answer and I took all of that on board when approaching a new look for the website. I wanted it to show character, stand out and communicate Felicity but over all else I wanted it to be-

Neat, Tidy, Clean, Approachable and most of all Easy to Navigate. Simplicity goes leaps and bounds because all of us can connect to it, some read farther than others but all are welcome. And it's an obvious thing- often ignored. Think about when you visit a website COVERED in links and boxes, content- mess of words. You don't ease into that site, often you'll simply just leave to gather your information elsewhere.

On alot of my goals for V2 I feel I succeeded, in the sense atleast that I feel I have a homepage for my comic that is an extension of the comic itself not just a website where you can read it. I feel like it's easy, it's simple. Of course the process of getting it there wasn't! But when you've forced your friend to sit up to 1 am on a work night so you can see the pieces of your design become reality it is an awesome feeling. He may hate you with a burning passion but isn't that what friends are for? Hurrhurr.