Most designers are aware of Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design, and, if you aren’t, you should definitely check it out. Rams created the entire visual language Apple is still using, and products he designed over fifty years ago are still being made today. He made the ten principles in 1970, when he decided he needed an objective way to criticize his own designs.
The list was originally made to critique physical products, but lately web designers have been using the principles for interactive design. While the list works wonderfully with interactive design, there is one issue stemming from how long ago the principles were established. In Rams’ time, there was no interaction design, UI, or UX. It doesn’t take into consideration the constantly changing software out today.
Fourty years ago, when Rams created the ten principles, designs were mostly for print or physical products, which rarely were updated. This is as far from true now as imaginable. That’s why Wells Riley, designer for Kicksend, has proposed an eleventh principle of design.
Good Design is Iterative
Iterative design is flexible, and reduces the friction created from growth and change. It is common to think of every project with an “end date.” Designers usually consider themselves finished when they hand in a design, and get their money. Unfortunately, that manner of working will usually result in a total breakdown when it comes time to integrate new features.
Fixed, complex designs lead to complete disasters when it is time to update. Big companies have the money to invest to overcome this issue. Small companies, which normally need to update at a much quicker rate than huge corporations, can’t afford to not iterate on design just as quickly as engineers can code.
So how do you make an interative design from day one?
- Responsive Web – Responsive layouts allow pages to respond to different mobile and desktop browsers, which makes for much easier design changes. Sites using responsive layouts can make small changes constantly to continuously mold their entire product and brand image.
- Less is More – Designers love to build complex and interesting sites, but aside from possibly confusing visitors, these intricacies are also blocking fast updates from happening. Instead, stick with only what is essential. Minimalistic approaches to design allow for innovation. Think about Google’s front page. It is simple and clean, which makes it spectacular when Google Doodles show up to highlight an important day in history. If the page was cluttered with extra nonsense, the doodles would be harder to implement, and their effect would be severely diminished.
- Ship Every Day – Don’t ever let your design go stagnant. As any art student knows, there is always room for improvement in a design, and you should always be working on improving it. Use customer feedback and research, as well as your constantly growing knowledge of what is new, so that your designs grow at the same rate you grow as a designer.
The Ten Principles Rams set down 40 years ago are still an important way to critique your own designs, but, as with any list 40 years old, it needed an update. By adding a focus on iterant design, you will be able to criticize your own work objectively while making sure it works for the constantly changing field of web design.