Question about Visual Design Solutions

23 Feb 2010 - 1:22am
4 years ago
3 replies
1164 reads

I'm an experienced web/graphic designer making a lateral move into
the User Interface realm and have just landed an opportunity to
design a small but important CMS system for a client.
My question is: is there an expected number of versions or examples
of user interface visual design solutions/directions clients expect?
In the graphic design realm the expectation was to offer three
solutions and then further develop the chosen one.
Does anyone have any experiences to offer or guidelines they've
found particularly helpful? I have to offer a proposal to the client
in a few days.
Thank you!


23 Feb 2010 - 5:58am
Stephen Holmes

Hi Yvonne,

It depends on the features of the CMS, your understanding of the way
skinning works and how much control you have over the interaction

>From your stated experience as a web/graphic designer I'll assume
that you can produce the visuals but need to plan the way you'll
present and explain the interface interaction components for the CMS.

The time frame worries me. I've found that most custom CMS jobs I do
are about 3 X the work required for reasonably involved print graphics
or campaign sites (as an example) because of the complexity and design
decisions that will be made along the way.

If you have used the CMS before and know what it does, how it can be
skinned and to what degree it can be customised, then you needn't
change you methods all that much, apart from allowing a little extra
time to also present extra visuals that show how a User will navigate
around the site.

I've come from a similar background and I found that when you are
dealing with the AI and UXD as well as the visuals you may need to:

* Modify the timeline for delivery (3 X longer),
* Produce more iterations of your design as you go (3 X more)

The graphic design part of the job is a start, so yes, three designs
are still a good starting point, but they also have to be underpinned
by the user interface/accessibility problems presented to you. You
have to show the customer the design problems before you provide a
solution for them.

Now if you want a more customised CMS that requires you to create a
custom template (or skin), that adds some extra steps and added time
and effort.

Remember you will probably be presenting grids and layouts of each
TYPE of page the User may see in each of your 3 designs (so, yes,
about 3 X more!) and you will need to be able to demonstrate visually
the way the interaction works.

I find that the best way is to create your visuals in Illustrator or
Photoshop as usual and then do layer variations around a base design
and then simply insert them into a PowerPoint or a PDF file and use
the smarts in Acrobat or PowerPoint to add pseudo interactions -
clicks and effects.

Now the big problem you may have is in the level of your own
technical knowledge of how the CMS you will be using works. Make sure
you don't propose a solution that requires an unknown amount of
custom coding. Good front-end developers are hard to find and are not
cheap. If you can code CSS, XHTML or know your way around any of the
JavaScript frameworks you may be in luck, otherwise find a coder who
has the skills and run your ideas past them before you show a client.
They will give you a reality check that will allow you to answer the
customer's questions about cost and timeframe with confidence.

To make sure the customer gets the need for the extra time to do the
job properly, reinforce the quality of thought in your work to them
so that they will respect your effort - and extend your deadlines so
you can produce good quality work!

Good luck

Stephen Holmes

Stephen Holmes
Canberra, ACT, Australia

"When you plant a tree, never plant only one. Plant three -- one for
shade, one for fruit, and one for beauty."
-African proverb

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Posted from the new

23 Feb 2010 - 8:43am

I would just sit down with the client and tell them that you normally
create three initial comps, and then work to refine one of them. But
be careful b/c the client may start picking and choosing pieces of
each design they like and you end up with a mess.

I would be tempted to ask them a lot of questions about what they are
looking for in a design and then just present the one that you think
fits. You can always refine if they don't like it.

Stephen is right, I would be careful about the timeframe you commit
to with a custom CMS. They can get tricky when you start implementing
styles - especially with navigation design and some of the features
that are tough to skin the way you want. Just make sure you manage
the client expectations in what they are going to get.


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Posted from the new

23 Feb 2010 - 7:22pm

Thank you both for you guidance.
I've incorporated advice from both comments and have a proposal

Truly appreciated!

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Posted from the new

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