Podcast 48: 10 ways to ruin your design

Paul Boag

In the 48th episode of Boagworld.com we look at ten ways to produce a lousy design! We also look at some of the highs and lows of the mobile web as well as review an extremely good open source forum system.

Download this show.

To subscribe directly within itunes click here

Ten ways to ruin your design

In this weeks show we take a light hearted look at some basic design concepts and the relationship between client and designer. This manifested itself as the top ten list below:


One of the most classic design mistakes is not knowing when to stop. If you are looking to really mess up a design, be sure to continually pick at it far beyond what is reasonable. Although it is good to strive for perfection, a design can be ruined by constant reworking.

Failure to prioritise

Too many designs are full of different elements all screaming for the users attention. Failure to prioritise what is important on a page can lead to chaos, with all of the design elements on an equal footing. Designing like this leave the user totally confused as to where to begin.

Saying too much

The web equivalent of verbal diarerra can have a disastrous impact on design. Trying to communicate too much information can overwhelm users and leave a design looking busy and confusing.

Choose the colour palette from hell

Colour can make or break a design. A bad choice of colour is not only visually unappealing, it can also hamper accessibility, usability and drive users away. If picking a colour palette is not your strong suit then there are lots of tools around that can help.

Design by committee

One of the most common problems with choosing a design is that more than one person is involved in the decision making process. Because design is subjective you will get a different opinion from every person you show. The more people you show the more opinions you get. If it is necessary to keep all of these people happy you often end up with the lowest common denominator at the end of the day and then nobody likes it.

Fail to communicate

Conflict between designer and client is a sure fire way of destroying a good design. When a client expresses concerns about a design it is important they clearly explain their objections and that the designer doesn’t become defensive. A designer needs to be able to justifying their design approach but should always be willing to compromise.

Micro manage the design

Too many clients micro manage design work. They request specific design changes rather than focusing on overarching issues. If you find yourself micro managing a designer you should either change the designer, produce a new design from scratch or let go of the reins and let the designer do his job.

Clutter the design

White space is essential to good design. Pushing too much content above the fold and so forcing the white space out will wreck a design. Good design should have space to breath and as any art college graduate will tell you, the space between elements is as important as the elements themselves.

Design for a specific machine

What looks right on one PC will not look right on another. Browser, operating system, monitor, video card all effect how a site will look. Be careful that you don’t craft a design for a specific machine (either your own or the clients) but rather make sure it looks as good as possible across as many machines as you can test on.

Let technology dictate your design

If you want your site to look dull and boxy then just focus on the technological constraints. Good designers don’t worry about how they will build a site (at least in the initial stages), they focus on getting the look and feel right. Sure, you will probably have to make some compromises later down the line, but don’t start off that way.

In the news

With the summer over we are suddenly inundated with news:

Also in the show

I discover that I don’t know anything about Web 2.0 (at least according to this fun little site), we run down 10 reasons why you should get a Mac and discuss the infamous "this site is best viewed on…" message. Finally we review the best forum software I have seen for a long time.