Website Design Tips - Web Jazz

Every web page, image, and text block gets added with purpose. Wireframes, web design blueprints, create plans for what goes where and why. Planning is crucial when even "simple" websites require sizable investments of time, money, and resources. So what role can improvisation and spontaneity play in a web design's expensive and well-planned reality?

It turns out great web designs incorporate improvisation. Like jazz, great web designs develop themes that may initially feel opposite or disparate. Using ideas, language, and images to make complex stories easy to understand to knit meaning from a web design's musical elements sets great designs apart. Think of a web design's "themes" as musicians. Each instrument needs an independent sound while each sound blends into a harmonious whole.

Listen to the master, Miles Davis, paying So What.

Here are a few of our favorite web design themes.

  • Good and Bad, Best and Worst
  • Biggest or Most Unique
  • Great, Greater, Greatest
  • Significant versus Inconsequential
  • User Generated Content

Good Or Bad

As discussed in Blondie - How To Tease Clicks, lists promote clicks. Lists such as the Five Biggest Survey Mistakes or Top Five Web Designs imply more; they hint at a secret shared. And who doesn't want to know secrets? Don't always use the most hyperbolic. Match your Best and Worst themes with Good and Bad to lower hype and create credibility. If your site only shares Best and Worst lists, you miss an opportunity. Sharing, linking to, and categorizing excellent or bad things creates an opportunity for those things to improve and become the very Best or fall to become Worst.

Biggest or Most Unique

The hunt for unique online ideas presented in novel ways never ends. They are finding, sharing, and discussing the Biggest or Most Unique things, opinions, or people taps into the web's natural zeitgeist - the hunt for cool stuff. Social media drives the never-ending chase. Janet McKean, Found Objects founder, could look at a new gift and know it would be a big hit. Janet's batting average with offerings such as Magnetic Poetry Kit and Zen Boards was well above chance. Not everyone sees unique sure to become big so clearly, so follow and share content from those who can. Given the power, pervasiveness, and rewards from the Birth of the Cool online, every website should develop their instincts or profile, share, and emulate those such as Jacques Slade, who can see the next big thing.

Great, Greater, Greatest

Great web designs create content ladders. Comparison creates understanding and controvery. Controversy is currency online. Yes, controversy can grow into unctrolled brush fires, but sharing well reasoned opinions is sine qua non for any web design. No voice, no identificable feeling behind a web design, means no shares, subscriptions, traffic or conversions. We like content to walk up ladders such as great, greater, greatest because controversy brush fires are less likely when a web design is seen, felt, or understood as fair. Content can also walk down from bad to worst, but be careful. Uncrolled controversial brush fires are more likely with negative content ladders. Negativity can work, but the beam is thinner, the work harder, and not a theme to use more than sparingly.

Significance and Inconsequential

Since it's hard to understand "significant" without the "inconsequential," both play an essential role in web design jazz. Much like content ladders, we suggest discussing significance ten times more than insignificance. Sometimes things you think are significant lose their appeal, standing, and gravitas. Be honest. Admitting you missed something while moving a previously powerful theme to the background marking it insignificant, creates trust. No one is perfect, all-knowing, or without flaw. When you missed something, primarily when your audience identifies the miss, play better next time by recognizing those who helped.

User Generated Content - The 1 - 9 - 90 Rule

User-Generated Content (UGC) adds improvisation, social shares, and vox populi to any web design. Unfortunately, UGC is hard to get. Even the most trusted websites only receive content from 1% of visitors. Nine percent of a site's visitors will share content they love, and ninety percent read and ride for free. Great web designs ask for help. They seek and cherish the 1% willing to contribute. Each group, contributors, those who share, and readers is important; the 1% ready to play saxophone to your trumpet stand above.


How do your web designs incorporate, encouraage, and reward user generated content?

e: martin (at)