This article is an excerpt from "Save the Pixel" (1st edition), available as a PDF ebook.
Knowing your purpose is the most important step in any process. It applies to everything you do as a designer. Before you start anything, it's vital to know where you're going, so you know what direction to set off in, and when to stop.
Before embarking on any project, it pays to get totally 100% clear on what you aim to achieve – your goal. What will it be like once it’s finished? What will be different? How will you feel?
Remember, a goal is a state of being, not a state of doing. It isn’t something you do, it’s somewhere you arrive. So “designing a cool web site” isn’t a goal. Lots of talented designers have that purpose and never stop redesigning their sites, because they simply get what they ask for, “doing”.
A true goal is the place you’ll be once you’ve achieved what you’re doing. Just visualising your end point is a kind of magic that helps your mind automatically and invisibly rewire itself to figure out the path ahead, and the next steps.
If you’re involved in web site projects right now, for each try to picture what it will feel like to present it to the client or your boss, or to unveil it to the public. What exact words do people say? Why does the site work for them? What are people doing in response to the site? What feedback do you receive? How does that feel?
This will help you know where you’re going. With your goal clear in your mind, what’s the first step? You should find it comes quite easily.
A web site is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
People don’t visit the iTunes site for the fun of browsing the site. They do it to get music at a fair price, so that they can enjoy listening to the music. Browsing is not the goal. The goal is what comes later - the enjoyment of the music. The website is just a means to get visitors to that point.
When I log on to my online bank account, my goal isn’t “to manage my finances”. I don’t enjoy managing my finances. I enjoy popping open a bottle of wine in the knowledge my finances are in order. My goal is “to know that my finances are in order”. The online banking website’s job is to transport me to that knowledge and that bottle of wine as smoothly and quickly as possible!
Once you're clear on what your purpose here is, but before you start actually making design decisions, get clear on the purpose and objectives of the web site. I find it works to express these in terms of goals as well.
Of course, the goals behind web sites vary enormously. This isn't the place to try to address every possible business strategy, but some general guidelines may be helpful.
Good goals should be:
Firstly, try to reduce and simplify goals, seeking to recognise the core intention, motivation, or foundations that underlie a tactical goal. A good trick can simply be to ask “Why?” or “How?” enough times until you get to an immutable core intent.
“We want a really cool web site”
“We want more people to find out about our products and buy from us”
“We want to sell more widgets to more companies.”
“By becoming known as the most affordable brand of quality widgets.”
Having a cool web site could be a valid goal, but if there are deeper motives behind it, they'll be more useful to bear in mind as you make decisions about the web site.
If one result follows from another, look into the original achievements for specific and simple components that more directly apply to the task at hand.
For example, a web site's financial goal might be reached as a result of increased numbers of visitors combined with an improvement in conversion rate.
While the financial result is certainly important, profit or turnover could come about through other means, so it may not be as useful a goal as focusing on visitor numbers & conversion rate.
A goal only works for you if you can believe in it and keep the vision in mind. If a goal is too ambitious, or doesn't truly reflect business intent, it can't really motivate.
It's better to choose modest goals and practice achieving them, than to be too ambitious and practice failure.
The market rewards leaders, and you can't be the best at 2 things. Most markets today are big and offer lots of choice. People tend to gravitate towards the most highly-recommended provider in any field.
Secondly, people also tend to need something specific, not something generic. While they may put a general term into a search engine, e.g. “Web designer Quebec”, what they actually need is someone who's in their right price bracket, who does the right kind of work.
Plus it's more realistic and achievable to be the best at something specific than something general.
For example, it's more realistic to aim to be the best at creating accessible Frenchlanguage web sites for public service organisations in Canada than it is to be the most sought-after web designer in Canada.
What you want to achieve on a web site can be quite general. “We want more people to be using the site to share their business information”, for example. That's fine as a “want”, but it isn't a goal. Attaching specific success criteria to your goals help focus the mind and intent much more.
Let's take the criterion, “500 new businesses per month are signing up on our site, and adding at least one location.” That's much more useful, because it helps you:
If you're only getting 100 new businesses to this point in a month, you know you're only 20% on track. You can also set milestones in your process (Google Analytics is a great way to help you do this), and measure how many people are getting to each point. You may spot sticking points in your stats, where more people are dropping out than you'd expect, which can help focus your analysis.
“More people are using the site...” wouldn't give you these benefits. By that measure, having an extra 3 visitors per month would constitute success, but would it mean success for the business?
If you found this sample helpful, buy “Save the Pixel” now for instant download!
11 chapters, 22 complete web page redesigns, in 108 pages crammed with professional web design secrets & tips!
Save the Pixel is brillant, just brillant - just what is needed! A must read for anyone who designs and develops web sites.Anne Nortcliffe, University lecturer
After working on website development for years I read the Save the pixel book by scratchmedia. It has revolutionised the way that I think about websites and I only wish I could have read it sooner.David Carr
A real gem of a book.Trent Brown
Every working web designer should read it as it is chock full of great tips and advice for creating great user experiences. An excellent resource even for seasoned Web design pros but it should be required reading for all aspiring and new Web designers but especially wannabes This book demonstrates very well why real design is a lot more than mere decoration and why every pixel counts when your site tries to communicate a brand or message as clearly as possible. Best $30 I spent all year...pixelyzed.com
The principles in this book are really outstanding and really work. I utilized some of the techniques with the getability section and some various techniques, and it helped me close 2 projects worth over $4000 each.MAJ3STIC STUDIOS
I just read Save the Pixel and loved it! Ive read about a half a dozen books on web design, and Save the Pixel says 3X as much in half the space.whynot
Hi, Im a web designer in the U.S. I bought your book Save the Pixel and I found it incredibly useful and helpful. It seems impossible to find information on how to effectively communicate on the web, and this book was a great help. THANK YOU!Jillian Nickell
Whether you are a web designer or a company looking to enhance your web presence, Save The Pixel is a must read.Paul Dixon
If you design websites, you will want to check this out.Bernadot Studios
An easy to read and apply how-to guide to building simple and effective websites. I purchased this ebook a while back and I can say from personal experience that it is worth every penny. It is chock-full of real advice and instruction on building clean, crisp websites that meet the needs of your clients.
“Save the Pixel“ - one of the best books on goal-oriented webdesign.Saint
Ben Hunt has done a great job writing this one, its simple, pleasure to read and - last but not least - cheap.
The key idea is that design is a means of information communication and presentation, which many webdesign companies completely forget. Now this guy reminds it to you.
Having 6 years of design experience, I highly recommend this book to anyone involved in sites production or thinking about ordering a site for himself.
Why should you read it? Simple: you will learn to work less, work faster and work more efficient. Given that the book isnt a thick old-school manual you will read and start to implement the contained ideas real fast.
This book is fantastic! As a self taught web designer I have been on the lookout for this book for years! Thank you, Ben. Not only will this make my decision making easier - it will save me from the hell of its not quite perfect... I GET IT! I am excited to get to work - something I havent been for quite awhile!Wanda
Well worth the money. He has a very no-nonsense style that I think a lot of us as web designers need to re-adhere to.Kara Gates, Base Aesthetic
Any webdesigner should buy and read this great ebook. Unless youre a guru webdesigner already, youre bound to learn something from this ebook. The focus is not on the technical or arty aspects of webdesign, but purely on the functional and communicational aspects of web design. Very inspirational, very nice to read. Especially when youre relatively new in web design, but not a complete rookie, and want to take your general web design knowledge to a higher level, this is an absolute must read!Jurgen Nijhuis, ArgosMedia
One of the best book I have ever read about web design.James Bell
Web Design from Scratch has been on my bookmarks for the longest time now, as I was taken aback when I first chanced upon it. It presented web design in such a structured, educational but yet enlightening way that I could not help but continue to be drawn to its contents. It helped shape the way I design my sites, even though web design is just a hobby of mine. So when Ben released "Save the Pixel", it was almost a given that I would purchase it.
And the book sure did not disappoint. Filled with lots of examples, Ben gave a terrific explanation about how to develop a site, from the concept, all the way down to production, complete with diagrams, theories and frameworks. It might sound like a mouthful but somehow, he made it easy to understand. And what I realize, it can be applied to almost any design work one is embarking on, advertising campaigns, posters, billboards, magazine covers, etc. The concepts presented were something new and revolutionary and challenged the way I thought about what creativity really means. I have read it and re-read it and still found it refreshing and useful.
“Save the Pixel” is certainly a gem that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in design work of any kind, and not only web design.
The book was excellent - short and to the point.Richard Griffiths
A great book from a great teacher.
With very clear principles and with countless ideas, Save the Pixel showed me what I want the websites that I create to be like.
“Save the Pixel” will change the way you design websites.Spencer Norman
I want to recommend a 100-page ebook thats the smartest guide to effective web design out there, and probably one of the best books on Internet marketing that youre likely to find.
The ebook is called Save the Pixel and its by Ben Hunt, a UK-based web designer who has drawn a lot of attention with his very useful online tutorials and articles about Web 2.0 design.
If you are doing anything online, or are considering it, then Save the Pixel will be some of the most valuable stuff youll ever read.
If youre just getting started and dont have a site yet, Bens insights will save you a lot of time and hundreds of dollars in unnecessary design dead ends and fancy dysfunctional sites.
I bought the Save the Pixel ebook and found it amazingly helpful and eye-opening.
Your approach is so simple, I think of it as simple genius. I'm not trying to butter you up but my former company has contracted with web designers in the past to build sites for various products. I always struggled with the designers because the layouts just were not working but I had a hard time figuring out and explaining to them why.
Your ebook made it all very clear.
I finished reading it on the plane home yesterday and really enjoyed it. I found that it provided reaffirmation for some ideas and clarified others. I also found some new ideas around displaying results. The entire concept of simplifying and stripping away to reveal meaning makes a lot of sense to me.
The case studies were really valuable in showing how you managed to clearly represent what the end client will be looking for. The TraceTracker design really blew me away. Well done. Visually stunning and you figured out a way to communicate what the company provides.
Edwin van de Plasse
Its just what I was looking for. I know it will be a lot of use for me to build my new website.
I would have bought the e-book for double the price
For anyone who still cares about quality design and clean, intuitive user interfaces for modern web designs, Ben Hunt is your man.ZenTwist