What Do You Need to Know About Design?

Paul Boag

On the last episode of the current season of the Boagworld Show, we ask whether every digital professional should have at least a basic understanding of design principles and if so what that should cover?

This week’s show is sponsored by Resource Guru and TeamGantt.


Paul Boag: On this last episode of the current season of the Boagworld Show, we asked whether every digital professional should have at least a basic understanding of design principles and if so, what those principles should be. This week's show is sponsored by ResourceGuru and TeamGantt.


Hello, and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about all aspects of user experience design, digital strategy and working in digital. My name is Paul Boag. Joining me for the last of this season is Marcus. Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Hello, Paul.

Paul Boag: How are you doing?

Marcus Lillington: Good to see you. Good morning.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I'm feeling Christmas-y, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Woo-woo-hoo. I'm not, but hey.

Paul Boag: Oh. Oh, well then that's miserable of you, isn't it? You just crosstalk 00:01:02 put a damper on the show.

Marcus Lillington: Well, I'm not… It's not on the show. It's not that I'm not feeling Christmas-y, I'm just not feeling particularly sort of twinkly and no Christmas trees or anything like that are a part of my life yet.

Paul Boag: Oh, see I've got decorations up behind me. Nobody in the chat room can see them.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, yeah, they'll believe you.

Paul Boag: It's true! Right, hang on a minute. I've got to turn the camera. So there's my-

Marcus Lillington: Oh! Look! Lights! Twinkly lights.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Twinkly lights on that side, and that side we got Father Christmas-

Marcus Lillington: Ah, very-

Paul Boag: … and Darth Vader, bizarrely. I don't quite understand why. Darth Vader's always there. He doesn't move.

Marcus Lillington: He oversees you, Paul.

Paul Boag: He does.

Marcus Lillington: Make sure that you're toeing the line.

Paul Boag: So, this is the last of the season and is a kind of unofficial Christmas episode, right? Because we're going to have a Christmas party for people in the Slack channel, but that won't be released as a podcast. So, that's only for… but if you want to come to that, you're more than welcome to. I have no idea when it will be, you'll need to join the Slack channel to know when that's going to be. But we will do something.

But what I am going to do, is we are going to have a Christmas appeal. We didn't do it last year, I don't think. Did we do it last year, Marcus? Can you remember?

Marcus Lillington: No.

Paul Boag: I've gone very squeaky.

Marcus Lillington: No, I can't remember. I've no idea.

Paul Boag: No. So, in the past, we've tried to raise a little bit of money over Christmas, which has turned out to be quite a lot of money, actually. I've been quite impressed at people because this isn't a big show. It's not like we have tens of thousands of people listening every month or whatever.

Marcus Lillington: We did once, once upon a time.

Paul Boag: Once upon a time, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It was like that. But that's because we were the only show.

Paul Boag: Yeah. The distinct advantage of being the only web design podcast was that we did have a monopoly-

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Totally.

Paul Boag: … and people had no choice, yeah. But these days it's things are different. Sad. But anyway, so this year we're going to run another Christmas appeal. I've already started pushing it a little bit on Twitter and in our Slack channel. So, you can find out more about it at boag.world/charity. So basically, I've got in my notes, I've got the words, "Insert emotional blackmail here." So, the long and the short of it is if this podcast has ever been of any use to you, which admittedly is fairly unlikely, if it's ever entertained you… Again, probably slightly more likely, but not massively. If any of my blog posts have ever been useful, more likely. If any of the books I've ever written have ever been useful, even more likely. If Marcus's music when he was young has entertained you, most likely of all. And as Chris puts it in the chat room, if Marcus's jokes have ever entertained you, then I ask you to make a small donation.

The charity that we're supporting is a family run charity out in rural India, one of the most impoverished parts of India. Essentially what they do is they run a school and a home for Children out in India, especially for girls. Because the way that it works in a very, very rural part of India is the worth of girls is seen as their ability to look after siblings while the parents go and work, sometimes in the cities, right? And so once they've had education up to about the age of 10 or 11, they're normally taken out of school because the parents can't afford not to be working, and their daughter's looking after the family. So normally, only the boys get education after that point.

So, what this school does is it sponsors girls, it pays for the girls to have a further education and stay in education. They've done some amazing work as a result… Because the trouble is, is when they don't have a good education, they're often married off very, very early. Sometimes as young as 13 to 15. It's illegal in India to do that, but it still happens very commonly. But if they get a good education, then that changes. So essentially, what they do is they give these girls an education. They go on often and become doctors and engineers and all of this kind of thing. But they want to start offering the A-level equivalents at the school so that they can really get a good education much easier. But unfortunately that has quite a lot of cost associated with it, especially when it comes to science and technology.

So, we're going to try and raise some money. In total, they're trying to raise £37,000 for these facilities, which for them as a little family run charity with no… I am their marketing department, that is utterly, utterly beyond what they're capable of doing. So, hopefully we can get you guys donating a little bit. If you run your own business, I want you to donate a lot, right? If you work for another big organization, search out someone in that organization that has got control of the money, and get them to part with some. Because it's amazing how many organizations do have… Yes, please, please donate. Go to boag.world/charity you can find out all about the organization, all about the challenges they face.

The other thing I would say is if you run your own business and you send out Christmas cards, don't this year. Christmas cards are massively damaging to the environment. In the UK alone, we send out 2 billion Christmas cards. 2 billion! The average person spends £65 for Christmas cards in this country and it's just such an enormous… A lot of them, over a billion of them end up in landfill. So, it's so bad for the environment, so don't send Christmas cards this year. Instead, donate to this charity boag.world/charity.

But, most importantly, I'm going to take this campaign as an opportunity to prove once and for all that Marcus's jokes are pointless and worthless, right? So here's the thing-

Marcus Lillington: Flawed logic, coming up.

Paul Boag: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It's not flawed logic. Everybody always says, "Oh, Marcus's jokes are the best bit." Right? They always say that and they always take the piss out of me because I share all this valuable content and everybody said, "No, I'm just waiting for the joke at the end." That's what they say. That's the kind of bullshit that people talk all the time.

So, people in the room right now, you have to prove it. Prove to me that Marcus's joke is worth it. So, I've set a very low bar. I've said if we don't raise £50 before the end of the show, then Marcus won't tell a joke. £50. There are currently 10 people in the room, so that's £5 each. That's how much Marcus's joke is going to cost you. And for those listening on the podcast, you prove me wrong. Prove to me that Marcus's joke matters. You can go to boag.world/charity, make a donation there. And when you make a donation, you get the opportunity to make a comment, so you can put in there, "#Marcus'sJokesMatter." Then I'll know that those donations are for Marcus's joke. We will see, when we start the next season, we will see whether or not Marcus's joke matters at all, and I bet you we don't raise over 200 quid over Marcus's jokes.

There we go. Rant over.

Marcus Lillington: Proper rant. I won't pick that apart, Paul. I'll just let you keep that for a while, all right? Oh, cheeky. Chris says, "Do people actually listen to this podcast?"

Paul Boag: Oh, and Lewis has just compared me to somebody standing outside the entrance of a supermarket, which I'm going to take as one of those people trying to raise money for charity. Not one of those homeless people that are just shouting at you. Although, it could go either way. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, that was sort of on the cusp, that one.

Paul Boag: It was on the border, wasn't it? Yeah, absolutely. Marcus, what's your thought for the day?

Marcus Lillington: My thought for the day is entitled, "Getting the Bus."

Paul Boag: Okay. We're now telling children's stories. Yeah. Paddington got the bus.

Marcus Lillington: This is not a children's story, and you'll see why I've called it that-

Paul Boag: Hang on a minute. I want to check something. Dave just said in the chatroom, "Are you trying to sneak a joke in here?" crosstalk 00:10:34

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, every fifth word makes a joke.

Paul Boag: … because it sounds like the beginning… Okay, go for it. Sorry.

Marcus Lillington: And if you can follow that, then if you can follow every fifth word into a joke then you're better than me.

Right. So in true Boagworld tradition, on the final episode of the season I'm going to try and give you a proper thought for the day that's more Radio 4 in style, and therefore completely un-web-related. I have already done one of these this season, but I'm going to do another one.

Particularly relevant to us Brits because we're about to have a general election that could, and I stress the could because I think it's likely that the outcome is just going to be more of the same, but it could radically change for good or bad our lives. In fact, by the time this podcast comes out it may well have already happened. I'm not sure what the date is.

Paul Boag: Coming out on the 11th.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, the day before.

Paul Boag: The day before.

Marcus Lillington: Right. Anyway. So, at the moment we are utterly bombarded these days with messages that are basically extreme in one way or another. On the one hand, you've got people saying, "Don't trust these people. They're all Etonian toffs who would sell your grandmother if they thought they could make a profit, and they're in bed with Trump and they're planning to make you, the taxpayer, pay for their retirement on the Riviera."

Versus on the other side, "Don't trust these people. They're all Communists who will repatriate your house and car, and give them to scroungers who've never done a day's work in their life. And the last time they were in power, the country nearly sank into the sea and it would have if it wasn't for Saint Maggie."

Paul Boag: They have been in power since then, although admittedly not really the same party.

Marcus Lillington: The same party. Nope. Not the same party, no. That was New Labour who were basically kind of mild Tories.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: So, yeah, that's what we've got. That's pretty much it. It's negative mudslinging from extremist positions dressed up as political discourse. This is just a little moan from me because this is my bit of the show, so I can say what I like.

Paul Boag: It is. You can totally go off topic.

Marcus Lillington: But generally speaking, why can't we vote for centrists or centrist policies? Logic says to me that the majority of people think that a fairly centrist, kind of, "Let's make this as fair as we can without bankrupting ourselves," way of going about things is a sensible and logical course to take. So why do we have the only real choice being such a stark and extremist option? But anyway, that's a little moan from me.

Paul Boag: But we've got Liberal Democrats, which supposedly sit in the middle. I'm not saying whether they're right or wrong, I'm just saying are they not that option?

Marcus Lillington: The only real option.

Paul Boag: Well that's only because nobody votes for them.

Marcus Lillington: Well yeah, that's what I'm saying. Why not? crosstalk 00:13:23

Paul Boag: Now I see, right. Because we all go, "They're not a real option," and so none of us vote for them.

Marcus Lillington: But anyway, I think it's got a lot to do with our voting system, and it has-

Paul Boag: So, that's true.

Marcus Lillington: … and the two main parties keeping it that way because it suits them.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: But that's a whole talk for another day, I would say. There's nothing stopping you voting green, why not? But we don't. Oh why? Because it doesn't matter. It won't count, I supposed.

Paul Boag: It's a wasted vote. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, and all that kind of thing. But it isn't, I would say. But I really am going off on a bit of a tangent there. What should we do? What am I going to do? Anyway, this is what this all came down to. I saw this post on Facebook the other day. It wasn't cited who said it, but I thought it was pretty cool so I thought I'd use it as something to mention on the podcast. So this is what they said, "Voting isn't marriage. It's public transport. You're not waiting for 'the one' who is absolutely perfect. You're getting the bus." Hence the title of this-

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: … particular talk. "And if there isn't a bus going exactly to your destination, you don't stay at home and sulk. You take the one closest to where you want to be."

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus Lillington: Okay? So there's two messages there. One, please do vote. And two, be pragmatic about it. And I thought that was pretty wise words that I'd repeat here. I've always voted. My parents drummed it into me at a very young age, people fought for it and you're silent without it and all that kind of thing. So, I guess my thought for the day is that unless we want anarchy, unless anarchy is the thing that we want, then we all need to vote to get what we… You need to vote to get what you want. So, that's my thought for this week.

Paul Boag: Yes, of course, a great thought. I totally agree with that and I think there is a broader thing there about discourse and dialogue and discussion and being a nice human being and not attacking one another the whole time, and not polarizing opinions. That it is okay to accept that not everybody agrees with you. Not everybody who voted the opposite to you in whether it be the American election or whether it be in the Brexit referendum, they're not idiots just because they didn't vote the same as you and we seem to… everybody who disagrees with us these days seem to be idiots. It used to be better when we were young, didn't it Marcus, is what we're basically saying.

Marcus Lillington: Well, yeah.

Paul Boag: Young people today…

Marcus Lillington: I can look back and-

Paul Boag: Because I never called people who voted for Thatcher idiots.

Marcus Lillington: Politicians seemed to at least have some part of their makeup was to try and do some good, and now I'm not so sure. I mean, not all of them. I'm not labeling every single one.

Paul Boag: Oh, no, no.

Marcus Lillington: But I think there are some who only have their own agendas, and that's a concern.

Paul Boag: Joke up day, we currently stand already, annoyingly £45.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, well I'll add to my donation that I've already made to bring that up to £50. Am I allowed to do that?

Paul Boag: You are allowed to make a second donation, yes. Because lovely Aslan has done that, who has already given once and has now given again just to get the podcast ball rolling apparently. But the downside, Marcus, I could, if I was feeling particularly argumentative, I could say that only Michelle has put Marcus'sJokesMatters as the hashtag. So therefore, it's only currently lower than that because she's the only one that used the correct hashtag. I'm a stickler for the rules, what can I say?

Marcus Lillington: I actually don't think that's the right way to go about this Paul. I think you're maybe kind of not seeing the wood for the trees there.

Paul Boag: Maybe, possibly. Right, let's talk about what we're going to cover in this last podcast.

Marcus Lillington: Cool.

Paul Boag: Because we're 20 minutes in and we haven't yet got to the topic of this show, which is very typical for us. We're talking about design. So the whole of this season, basically we've been looking at essential skills that every digital professional needs no matter what their role is, whether designer, developer, project manager, copy writer, marketer, whatever. Right?

So, our final skill, saved the best for last, is design. And in actual fact, I'd left this off the original list, didn't I, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: You had, Paul.

Paul Boag: Which, considering I'm a designer, is a little bit weird.

Marcus Lillington: Maybe you thought that only special people-

Paul Boag: Only special people get to crosstalk 00:18:14 do design.

Marcus Lillington: … get to do this.

Paul Boag: But I don't, obviously I don't believe that. So Marcus pointed this out and we included it.

We're going to start off by looking at why design matters. Then we're going to look at some of the basic design principles that I think everybody needs to know and understand. Then we're going to wrap up with some design resources at the end. crosstalk 00:18:35 So why design matters-

Marcus Lillington: And a joke.

Paul Boag: Maybe. We're still £5 off, Marcus. £5 off the joke. And I think if you vote for yourself… and I'd be more than happy for you to donate, but that counts as a vote for yourself and I'm not sure that goes towards total, if I'm honest. I'm going to hold judgment on that one until after you've given the money.

Marcus Lillington: Ha-ha.

Paul Boag: All right, let's talk about why learning design matters. Well-

Marcus Lillington: No, I've got a comeback on that one.

Paul Boag: Why? What? What?

Marcus Lillington: I will do another donation if it gets to £50. How about that?

Paul Boag: Oh, that's a good idea! I like that. That's a good one. I like that.

Okay, so why learning design matters. Oh, shit. Somebody's just given. Has that just sent it over? No, it's all right. It was just a delay in email notifications. Thank goodness for that. Okay.

"So, why learning design matters," he says for the third time. Most of us have to do some sort of design at some point in our career, right?

Marcus Lillington: We do.

Paul Boag: So, even if you're a project manager, you have to do PowerPoint presentations. You have to do reports, all of which have design in them. Whether or not it's good design, they all have some aspect of design with them. If you're a marketer or a content creator, you have to do email campaigns, website copies, you're uploading images to sites, all of that kind of stuff. If you're a developer, you're making so many small decisions about design all the time, all right? So little things about how to lay stuff out and all of that kind of stuff. inaudible 00:20:23 I just noticed Dave's comment. He says the oppression that I'm putting on people to donate to charity is like booking.com and that is so true.

Marcus Lillington: Dark patterns, Paul.

Paul Boag: Dark patterns. But here you go, this is justification. 96% of people say they want to give more to charity-

Marcus Lillington: Do they?

Paul Boag: … so all I'm doing is helping them do what they say they want to do.

Marcus Lillington: You've really been thinking this through, haven't you? Okay.

Paul Boag: It's true.

Marcus Lillington: So what can I say?

Paul Boag: No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. I tell you I've used that before because when I work for charities, I have to consider how far to push it. I will go much further with the charity if I am doing conversion or optimization for a charity than I would for anyone else because people say they want to give to charity. But the problem is, is when you go to give to charity it wakes up the primal brain, and the primal brain wants to hoard stuff. It says, "I can't afford to give." Even though you blatantly can. We can all afford to give if we're honest. But the primal brain convinces ourselves that we can't. So there is a difference between what we subconsciously want to do and what we consciously want to do. So, I'm fine tricking the primal brain into doing what it consciously wants to do anyway. That's my logic, and I stick with it.

Marcus Lillington: Wonderful. Well, according to Justin Fancourt, "A tenner donated. Good luck." Have we popped over the top yet? I so hope so.

Paul Boag: No, Justin had already. I'd already got his tenner, so that's… No. We're still-

Marcus Lillington: Come on!

Paul Boag: We're still £5 out. Oh dear. So, there we go. Yes.

We're all doing design all the time. But why do we need to make the design we have to do as part of our jobs better? Why do we care?

Well, design will impact how people perceive you and what you're producing. And that's because of something called the Halo Effect where we associate an unrelated characteristic with another unrelated characteristic. So, it's why we think attractive people are more trustworthy. The two don't correlate at all, but in our heads they do. So, in the same ways if we see an unprofessional piece of design, we conclude that whatever is being written or whatever has been presented or whoever you are is unprofessional, even though there isn't a direct correlation between those two necessarily. So it will affect how people perceive you.

It will also impact how likely people are to understand what you produce. If something has got a confusing design, then they find what you're producing confusing as well. It also will affect how likely people are to recall what you produce. So, if you're producing some copy or a PowerPoint presentation, they're less likely to remember what you've said if it's not well-designed.

And it will affect how likely people are to focus on the elements that you want them to focus on. So, if you haven't got a good piece of design, they're going to miss that major call to action.

Marcus Lillington: Good man. Good man. Justin has donated another tenner.

Paul Boag: In order to just… There is a lot of pettiness going on here. Yes, all right. We now get the joke at the end. But if you're listening to this podcast recorded, we've still got the issue of whether or not Marcus's joke… how much Marcus's jokes really are worth to you. So don't forget the hashtag #Marcus'sJokesMatter. There we go.

Marcus Lillington: I hope that goes viral on Twitter.

Paul Boag: Do you reckon-

Marcus Lillington: Worldwide. Global.

Paul Boag: Worldwide inaudible 00:24:20 Marcus's jokes matter.

Marcus Lillington: Wow.

Paul Boag: I don't believe that is going to happen. I'm sorry to disappoint you.

So those are some of the reasons why learning design matters. We all have to do it. It affects how people perceive us. It affects how likely people are to understand what we communicate. It affects how likely people are to recall what we talk about, and we can influence with design whether people see the right things in our PowerPoint presentation, our web site or whatever else it is. So, it is a really important skill that we all need to have.

Let's pause just a second and talk about our sponsor and then we'll come back and look at what designs principles everybody needs to understand and be knowledgeable about.

So, our sponsor for this show is ResourceGuru. ResourceGuru have supported us over the long term, over season after season after season. I'm so grateful for their support and I really appreciate their involvement with the show. It's a great product. If you haven't checked it out, I'd really encourage you to do so. It's a team scheduling tool that is used by organizations like Apple Bee. Apple Bee? That's a restaurant. Isn't it? In America.

Marcus Lillington: I don't know.

Paul Boag: Apple and Ogilvy, as in the ad agency. And Saatchi & Saatchi, and NASA, and Headscape.

Marcus Lillington: Headscape.

Paul Boag: And yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Yep, Headscape.

Paul Boag: Headscape. So with ResourceGuru, you can instantly see who's busy, who's available so you can be confident that your project timelines are realistic and you're always going to have the right resources available when you actually need them. To be honest, there's not a lot else I want to say about them except please, please check them out because I really appreciate them supporting the show. You can find out more about them at ResourceGuru.io/boag where you can start a 30 day trial. No credit card required. They're not going to suddenly start charging you after 30 days. And if you decide you want to subscribe, then use the promo code BoagWorld2019 for 20% off the lifetime subscription.

At the moment there are a lot of deals going on because, of course, it's Cyber Monday as we're recording this.

Marcus Lillington: Cyber Monday.

Paul Boag: I know and it's a lot of bullshit isn't it? Because a lot of these subscription deals that say, "50% off for the first six months." Yeah, and then we're going to screw you over for the rest of your subscriptions.

Marcus Lillington: For your life.

Paul Boag: But with this deal, that's your lifetime deal. As long as you use the product, you get 20%.

Anyway, design principles.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: What do you actually need to know. Now, I'll say a lot of this list I'm going to share was taken from a really good post I found on Adobe Sparks blog, written by Amy Cooperman. Yeah, Cooperman.

Marcus Lillington: Copperman.

Paul Boag: Copperman. Yes.

Marcus Lillington: If you spelt it right.

Paul Boag: Yes, well who knows? Who knows? I never spell things right and I never pronounce them right, but Amy thank you very much for creating that really good post.

I'm going to bang through this list relatively fast because I've spent far too much time on this show trying to persuade you to part with money, and not enough time on actual content.

Some of the things that I think everybody needs to know when it comes to design. The first thing I would say with design is your design needs to be appropriate. All right? So, we need to create a design that will be appropriate to the audience you're trying to reach. And I see this mistake all the time, that people either design for themselves or they design for their portfolio, designers often do that, or they're designing for the boss or they're just… A lot of people that aren't designers design because they like it. It's kind of they think it's cool or whatever else. And it's really important to try and think about your audience and what your audience need to do. So appropriateness is the first.

Marcus Lillington: That's a funny one though, isn't it?

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- that's the hardest, really.

Marcus Lillington: We're kind of living through this at the moment. And it's like how much does the client's desire to like the design matter? Because it matters some.

Paul Boag: Yes, oh yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And it's a tricky one because it may… Their personal opinions on design aren't relevant to appropriateness for their audience, maybe. Maybe they are. It's a bit of a tricky one.

Paul Boag: And it is.

Marcus Lillington: I'm not sure how much we should be standing up for kind of the designing for the user, or sort of saying, "Yeah, okay. All right. We do need to kind of… You do need to like this."

Paul Boag: Yeah, they need to like it because they have to live with it.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: And that's the thing I think is often forgotten when you're in an agency. That you walk away and move on to the next thing. They've got to look at that thing for three years or four years or whatever.

Marcus Lillington: Exactly.

Paul Boag: You know, which is a huge difference.

I think a lot of it comes down to taking the client on the journey with you. That they need to understand what you're producing and why you're producing it. So, you come to like a design because you understand that it's the right design.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: So you can grow to like a design if you're A, part of the process of creating the design, and B, you understand why it is the way it is and how it's targeted and stuff. So yeah, I think that really it falls to us to bring that client with us on that journey. And if you can't do that, if they don't like the design, my feeling is I show them all the evidence of why the design is right, why I feel it's right for the client, and then at the end of the day it's their call. They're paying for it. They live with it. If they want a design that's not optimized for the user, then that's their call. And I think it's really important as well to understand… We always talk about the user needs and business needs, but there is another set of a needs that we never, ever talk about which is the needs of the person that's commissioning the project. Right?

Marcus Lillington: Yes, yes, yes. crosstalk 00:31:06 Yeah.

Paul Boag: Because sometimes their need is just to shut up their boss and move on to the next thing, right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, exactly. It is though.

Paul Boag: And if the boss doesn't like it, you know… And actually I think it shouldn't be that way, but the real world is that way sometimes. So, you've kind of got to live with that haven't you?

Marcus Lillington: I guess that's what I'm saying. I mean, if you can persuade people to do testing as well, it's great. And it's not only because, "Oh look what the user likes." It's also the more you see a new design in situ being used, the more you get used to it and don't need to be wowed by it. So it's like also testing does two jobs. Obviously it tells you what works for users, but it also gets you used to seeing it in context, which I think is a cool thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. I totally agree with that. Okay, so that's the trickiest really out of this list because it's the most abstract and the most wooly, but I did just want to mention it because it's a common mistake non-designers make. It's a common mistake designers make as well, if we're honest.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Yep.

Paul Boag: And now we get on to the more kind of hard and fast kind of things you can do. The first is alignment. Right? Line shit up.

Marcus Lillington: Absolutely.

Paul Boag: I was speaking at a design conference once. It was all design… You will often have a speaker's dinner before a conference and it was all designer speakers. And I looked down the table at one point and we'd all lined stuff up on the table. Right? Cutlery and glasses and stuff like that. And we all did it completely subconsciously. We weren't even thinking that we were doing it. My wife has a go at me all the time for lining things up when we go out, right?

Marcus Lillington: The world is a better place for it, Paul.

Paul Boag: It is!

Marcus Lillington: Carry on doing it.

Paul Boag: Exactly. There we go. So get into the habit of just lining stuff up. Makes an enormous difference from a design point of view.

And these are obviously very, very superficial things that I'm talking about. I'm not trying to turn you into a design here. I'm just giving you little hints. Line stuff up.

Next one. Think about hierarchy of what you're producing. Now, what I mean by that is if everything is the same size and the same color and kind of packed together in the same way and all of those kinds of things, then nothing is going to stand out.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So, you've got to decide what's most important to you and visually distinguish more important things from less important things. The classic example I always give with that is go and look at the Yahoo! Homepage and then go and look at the Google homepage. And the Google homepage is very clearly put the hierarchy all around the search box and their logo. There are other things on the page, but they're much, much more visually small. Right? While in Yahoo! Everything is kind of competing for your attention. Everything is about the same kind of size.

Probably the most common example of this in practice will be when you create typography. When you create text. Make sure your headings are substantially bigger than your body content, so there is a big, clear differentiation between each of the sizes that you're displaying. Header 1, your main header is much, much bigger than header 2. That's much, much bigger than header 3 and so on and so on. So think about your hierarchy.

Think as well about contrast. Readability is a really big thing. If you want people to remember stuff, if you want people to take in your content, they need to be able to read it and that means there needs to be a big contrast. Normally between foreground and background color. There are even tools out there that you can… contrast checkers, that you can use that enable you to check the contrast between foreground and background.

Now, often people talk about this in terms of accessibility for people that don't have perfect vision, and absolutely it's important from that point of view. But it's important for everybody. Good design is high contrast design where you can read what's actually being presented to you. And a lot of designers, especially young designers with good vision, forget that.

Marcus Lillington: Shades. Little shades of gray on white and all this kind of stuff. Yeah, because it looks nice.

Paul Boag: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes.

Marcus Lillington: Hallelujah.

Paul Boag: It looks pretty.

Marcus Lillington: "Oh," he says waving his glasses.

Paul Boag: Exactly, yeah. As you get to our kind of age, then suddenly that shit matters.

The other thing that you need to focus on as you're learning more about design is consistency. Another common mistake people make is that they feel like they have to keep it interesting, right? So we change all the time the design. "Oh, let's do something new and funky on this page." I see it a lot in PowerPoints and that kind of stuff where people try and mix it up because they feel they have to keep it interesting. But actually all that's doing is adding to people's cognitive load. They're having to process and think about everything else.

So actually good design is consistent design. So, try and do a few things and stick to them well. Keep your navigation in the same place. Keep your layout in the same place. All of that kind of stuff.

Next up is proximity. So this is about associating elements with each other. So if you've got navigation, have all of your navigation grouped together on the page, right? If there is a relationship between two elements, for whatever reason, an image and it's associated text. Make sure they're physically next to one another.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: And you've got to be really careful because all kinds of things can break that association, so what you need is just a divider line. A tiny light gray line will be, if it's between those two things, it will say to people, "These two things are not associated with one another. So keep things close together in order to have that kind of association, or put a box around them or something to keep them linked in our minds when there is an association.

Another thing you want to consider is balance. Where possible, you want to kind of visually balance a design. Again, this is quite a difficult one to get right in your head. But essentially, what we're talking about is you don't want a design to appear top heavy. So if you have a big image above something very wussy underneath, a bit of text or whatever, it would make the design look top heavy. Equally, if you have something just on one side of the page and a lot of empty space on the other… Now the trouble is, as a designer I'm going, "Well, that can work in some situations," and it can. A good designer can know how to create a design that is unbalanced and for that to work. But as a general rule of thumb, you want to try and have things balanced on your page. I don't know whether that makes sense or not.

Marcus Lillington: It does.

Paul Boag: Aslan's just pointed out a good link that I was unaware of which is called, an old book but the principles are actually laid on the internet, designingfortheweb.co.uk. Oh, it's Mark Bolton's book. Yes, of course. Now that's an excellent book. I'll definitely put that in the show notes because… Yeah, so I need to include a link to designing for the web as well. Right, just make a note of that.

Next up is color. Color. There is theory behind color. There is thought behind color. You can't just pick the color you like the most, okay? You need to pick a color that is appropriate. There are cultural considerations. So red, for example, we associate with stop and danger here in the UK. But if you're talking about China, it's associated with good luck and prosperity. So, you need to find out about those things. Then there are certain colors that contrast and balance with one another. And there are loads of great tools, we're going to talk about tools in a minute, that will help you pick good colors. So be very, very careful with your choice of colors.

Also, non-designers often pick too many colors. Just go with one or two colors, or three. Don't go with six or seven. Keep it simple when it comes to color. Also remember that 1 in 20 men are color blind, so don't rely on color alone when you're doing design work. So, don't talk about, "click on the red link," or whatever because you can't guarantee that everybody can see that.

Imagery, obviously, is another thing that you need to consider. There's some rules of thumb when it comes to imagery. The first is, only use imagery if it actually adds value. A lot of people will put in an image because, "Oh, this page looks a bit boring." Right? "So, I need to put an image in on it." I can see why you feel that need, and I get it. But actually a big block of color and some bold typography is probably going to be more appropriate than shoving in a piece of clip art that doesn't actually add real value.

And that brings me on to the second thing. Never ever, ever… Unless… No, not ever, ever, ever. There are always exceptions. But in the vast majority of cases, you don't use clip art. And by clip art I mean that kind of low quality, cartoony type of illustration. crosstalk 00:41:57 There is so much great illustration out there for free that there is no reason to use that kind of stuff. Sorry, you were going to say something.

Marcus Lillington: That's all right. The problem with clip art is not clip art in itself. It's what we think of as clip art, which is people just searching on a library of rubbish for something that means, that relates, has meaning to the kind of message they're trying to get across. But they ignore all the stuff that you've just been talking about: alignment, hierarchy, consistency, et cetera, color. They're all like different colors. They're not consistent in style, et cetera. And that's why they look rubbish and make your design look amateur. So, no.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. So Aslan also suggest we need to avoid stock photography, and I totally agree with him. He's absolutely right, but it can sometimes be quite hard to explain what that means in practice. That obvious, what makes something obvious stock photograph that makes it bad. I think for me it's those cliches, so businessmen shaking hands. That kind of thing that is obviously-

Marcus Lillington: People pointing at a computer.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Or very posed pictures is another one. Ridiculously handsome and smiley people. You know? Although, again this is partly cultural as I discovered recently. In America, I think a lot more things are those kinds of what we would consider cringey in the UK isn't necessarily in your particular country. So, it's quite hard to give advice around that kind of thing. With stock photography, the advice I normally give is try and pick something that is a bit quirky or unusual, shot from a different angle than you'd normally see, cropped slightly differently than you'd normally see. Maybe a different kind of color palette to normal. Something just… yeah, it's a difficult one. But I know what Aslan is getting at there.

When you're looking at stock photography, try and pick something with a strong focal point. Nothing that's too busy. I think a lot of pictures get really busy and there's lots of things going on the background. So, often the simplest way of getting good stuff is a strong foreground thing with maybe quite a blurred out background tend to work quite well.

Another thing we need to mention is typography. Typography is hugely important. My advice there is just keep it simple, again. One or two fonts are all you need, right? Often font pairings work really well, so two fonts together. One normally serif or sans serif often is the way people tend to go. But there, going back to what we said about hierarchy, it's different sizes and different weights that you use instead of different fonts.

With typography as well, think about spacing. Space your lines out quite a lot. The line height, that makes a big difference. Spacing, generally, is a really important thing. Leave lots of white space around stuff, right? Don't crowd everything in together.

Then the final piece of advice I would give is simplicity. Keep it simple. Simple images, simple colors, simple layout, simple typography. Nice and clean. Less is more. Think that's everything I wanted to say-

Marcus Lillington: Quite right.

Paul Boag: Is anybody inaudible 00:45:43 I've missed anything? Anybody in the chatroom think I've missed anything? I think that's a fairly comprehensive list to get people going.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. crosstalk 00:45:51

Paul Boag: Marcus, do you think I've missed anything?

Marcus Lillington: No, no. I really basically line it up and think of your audience. That'll do.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Line it up and think of your audience. There we go. That's inaudible 00:46:02 then.

All right, let's talk about our second sponsor. Our second sponsor is TeamGantt. Again, they've supported a lot of the shows this season. I really appreciate their involvement. TeamGantt is a great tool for rescuing your team from project chaos and missed deadlines, all of that kind of stuff. So, it's a great way of kind of mapping out your projects, keeping them on track, spotting project risk before they become a problem. So, TeamGantt makes team collaboration and communication really quick and really easy. You can easily see people's comments on what you're producing. You can see updates relating to a project. You can upload files relating to a project and keep your project managed and on track. So TeamGantt is massively popular and people really rate it very high, so it gets like a four out of five star rating, independent rating, and is one of the top management tools around, really.

You can sign up for a free plan anytime, just give it a go by going to teamgantt.com. But if you want a couple of months free of their advanced plan, which will give you things like time tracking and extra stuff. So go check it out, sign up for the free version, find out which bits of it you're missing. If you need those missing versions, drop Brett, who is my contact there, an email. Bret@teamgantt.com. And he'll give you a couple of months of the advanced plan for free so you can give that a go and really check it out and use it in anger.

So, yeah. Check out TeamGantt, really great sponsor. They've been a great sport as well because they've had quite a lot of abuse this season, so thank you for them and their involvement in the show.

Right, design resources to get you going. These aren't going to teach you how to do design. That's not my aim. These are tools that will ensure you're heading in the right direction, so tools to do stuff. The first one is Adobe Color. Don't create a color palette. Let's say you've got a corporate color, because most of us have got a corporate color we have to work with. So just go to Adobe Color. You plug in your corporate color and it will suggest other colors you can use that go well with it. No thinking, no learning color theory. They'll do all the hard work for you. Job done, right? Adobe Color.

Second, when it comes to fonts I've found a really great tool that basically will take the fonts from Adobe Fonts… Sorry, not Adobe Fonts. What am I talking about? Google Fonts. So, fonts that you've actually got access to. What it will then do is it will suggest pairs. So it will suggest two fonts that go well together so that you, again, you don't have to think about it too much. So it's called fontpair.co and it will recommend fonts that work really well together to give you advice and support in that area. So again, you don't need to think about it. You can just pick a pair that they offer.

Next is, I see a lot of people, marketers and people like that, project managers, having to wire frame websites every now and again.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So, they have to mock up websites and too often, and I've seen this a lot recently, they wireframe them and mock them up in something like PowerPoint or Word. And sure it kind of works, kind of. But A, it's not going to be very good from a design point of view and you're going to make you're poor developer or designer work a lot harder. But B, it's going to take you a lot longer to mock it up in something like that than it would do if you use a proper wireframing tool.

The one I would recommend is Balsamiq. Anybody can use Balsamiq. If you can use Word and you can use PowerPoint, you can use Balsamiq. It's really quick. It's really easy. It'll encourage you to make good design decisions. It's got all the kind of different components you're going to need. Things like carousels and news listings and all that kind of stuff. So, check that out. It will make a world of difference if you start using that rather than trying to produce something in PowerPoint.

Another tool that's really useful for social media updates, you know we have to create little videos and images because they're so much more engaging on social media. People are much more likely to click-through if we do images or videos. But again, we can't always get a designer to do them. We don't always have the right people et cetera, et cetera. There's a great free tool called Adobe Spark that lets you create those things. It's got loads of templates. It makes it really easy. Adobe Spark.

The other thing you're going to need is you're going to need imagery. I said no to clip art earlier, but that doesn't mean that you can't use illustrations. Good illustrations. They're a little bit overused now, you see them popping up everywhere but are good quality and there is a shit ton of them, and they're free. And that's unDraw. U-N-draw, which has got a massive selection of imagery. And you can even put in your own corporate colors so that the imagery suits your particular corporate branding et cetera.

Then the very final thing I wanted to suggest is basically a spellchecker for designers. All right? If you produce a design like a wireframe or something like that, there is a tool called VisualEye, or eyes actually. Visualeyes.design, which is a tool that will give you an idea of where people are likely to look on the page. So, have you got that hierarchy right? Have you got that proximity right? Those kinds of things. So, you can run it through that. It's based on eye tracking study data, so it's not perfect. But it is a really good sanity check if you're not a confident designer.

So there you go, nice little collection of tools to get you going there.

So, moment of truth now. Let's have a look. I need to have a look. We have raised £10, £25, £45, £55, £65.

Marcus Lillington: Yay. Well done, peeps.

Paul Boag: Bollocks.

Marcus Lillington: Well, I've got to do another bloody… I've got to put more money in.

Paul Boag: Yeah, you've got to put money in as well. Don't forget to use the hashtag #Marcus'sJokesMatter.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Go on then, Marcus. crosstalk 00:53:35

Marcus Lillington: I've got two for you. I've got two. All right, this one is from Ian at Headscape which I rather liked. I want to tell you about a girl who only eats plants, but you've probably never heard of herbivore.

Paul Boag: That joke almost justifies the £65. Not quite, but it wasn't bad. That was pretty damn good.

Marcus Lillington: I like that. Right one more. Daryl Snow, who is probably… I've said more of his jokes this season than anybody else so thank you, Daryl. Back on form again. He used to send jokes in by the hundred ten years ago, and then he disappeared for a while. But now he's back. So this one.

Paul Boag: Good.

Marcus Lillington: My brother just admitted that he broke my favorite lamp. I'm not sure I'll be able to look at him in the same light ever again.

Paul Boag: I'd seen that one, which is why I didn't laugh quite as much at that one. I need to stop looking at the joke channel because then I kind of know too much for the podcast. So, there we go. Thank you guys so much.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Just to remind you that you can give by going to boag.world/charity and when you do, don't forget to use the hashtag #Marcus'sJokesMatter.

Let's quickly talk about next season before we wrap up.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, yes.

Paul Boag: Next season we're going to do an agony uncle season.

Marcus Lillington: Excellent.

Paul Boag: So, you're going to send us your problems and your pain in your job. Let's keep it professional, we don't want to know about your sex life, thank you very much. But what are the kind of challenges and questions and frustrations and issues do you face? And me and Marcus are going to try and answer them the best that we can.

So, if you want to submit a question or tell us about your problems you can do so by going to boag.world/uncle. That's boag.world/uncle and yeah, we'll have a season where we answer questions.

Marcus Lillington: Excellent.

Paul Boag: Please, please do submit them because otherwise I have to make them up and then I have to come up with, "It's Bill from Austin," and crap like that and it's far too much like hard work. So, I want you to create the content for me at boag.world/uncle.

Thank you very much for joining us this season. I hope you found it a good one. And join us again in January where we will be kicking off our uhgony 00:56:06 ankle season. And with that, goodbye.

Marcus Lillington: Goodbye, all.

What Do You Need to Know About Design?

On the last episode of the current season of the Boagworld Show, we ask whether every digital professional should have at least a basic understanding of design principles and if so what that should cover?

Course Provider: Organization