“Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler
I used to feel the same way when it came down to designing a website.
I would have all these general ideas of what should happen on the site, but then I was faced with this white emptiness and an infinite amount of possibilities.
The simple task of laying down the first line felt daunting!
If this is your struggle as well, read on, because you’re in for a treat!
It turns out that the problem is with the “infinite number of choices” when thinking about design. If you only had two colored crayons to choose from, you would not spend to much time picking one.
The key is to limit your choices to just a few!
If going down from “infinite” to “a few choices” makes you cringe, consider the fact that most designs that work were built within pretty restrictive design systems.
But now it seems like we just shifted the problem. Instead of figuring out where to start, you wonder how I choose my design system restrictions?
I will argue that this is a new and different problem. Because you don’t have to choose these restrictions, they are instead imposed on you by the project you want to create.
What is this project for? Who is it for?
When you answer these questions, you will build a set of features and an audience for these features. Within these answers, you will find your constraints.
For example, let’s look at color. Instead of randomly choosing a color or thinking of something that is appealing to your sensibilities, you would serve your audience better by reading on the psychology of color and choosing the one that conveys the message you want to convey to your audience.
The same applies when choosing the fonts for your design. If you know how different people perceive different type-faces, the font choice will be an obvious one.
When it comes to the overall design and layout, you are again constrained by creating a clear hierarchy. You don’t just jam everything in there; you need to consider what is most important and prioritize accordingly. It also helps if you sketch first the features and build up from there, instead of figuring out what the navigation should be like when there is nothing to navigate to.
The web needs to be accessible, so you need to create proper contrast with your color, provide appropriate text sizes for your labels and enough space around the buttons.
When you write all these restrictions down, you are left with very few options to choose from. And starting the work on your design will be much easier, especially if you focus on the features or the main call to actions and build from there.
Build your constraints first (from the requirements of your audience), and the design will flow from there.