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Justin on Justin Discount Boots

Smashing Magazine recently issued a challenge in which we were excited to participate--- they asked their readers to justify their design approach. Seems easy enough, but in reality, understanding your choices and articulating those reasons to clients is a challenge that we all face. As stated in the challenge, 'being a great designer is not enough. You can produce outstanding work and be the envy of your peers and yet struggle to convince clients of your approach. The reason is that clients do not understand design the way you or your colleagues do. Therefore, you need to be able to articulate what makes your design right.'

Design can be in the eyes of the beholder, but a good approach can be the one thing that serves as a tipping point when trying to develop a concept for a client and subsequently convincing them it is the best approach.

At Lifeblue we were excited about this challenge and the possibility to discuss our approach to a recent client engagement--- Justin Discount Boots. Oddly enough, our designer's name is also Justin. What are the odds? So here's Justin on Justin Discount Boots.

While Justin is all too familiar with the grueling peer critiques of formal design classes and must often present his work to clients for feedback, his education and professional experience have made it to where many of his design decisions are rather subconscious; because of his training and experience, he believes his instinct knows what would look good and what would work. But as was foretold in the challenge, effective designers must be able to not only understand the 'why' of their designs, but they must possess the ability to explain it to others who didn't spend years cultivating this skill. So last week, we took another look at Justin's latest design creation, the website for Justin Discount Boots, and asked him, 'why?' The following details his defense.

Layout:

The client had predetermined the elements that were to be included on the homepage, but it was up to Justin to decide how those elements were to be placed. He first evaluated the importance of each element, determining which were more relevant in aiding the shopping experience (the main function of the site) and those that served as a call to action and encouraged consumer engagement, and positioned these items with more precedence above the fold to receive more user attention.

The client requested an animated marquee that showcased images and information on the company's selection that Justin positioned on the top left of the page. To the right of this, he chose to present the company's 'Exclusive Custom Boot' option, strategically banking on the fact that the animation to the left would demand attention in itself, and the reader's eye would then instinctively read to the right and acknowledge this special feature. This feature serves as one of the client's more unique points of difference, and Justin wanted to make sure that his design did it justice.

His decisions on layout support the selling function of the site as well as other goals Justin Discount Boots hopes to achieve through it, like customer involvement and the facilitation of a two-way dialogue with their consumers. The user-based approach to this site is reflected in Justin's decision to place common functional features like the search bar and the navigation in their more expected spots closer to the top of the page. So even at a glance, users receive the most important information in a comprehensive and organized manner provided by Justin's layout.

Grid:

Design decisions related to the grid were made based on the concern of making a site with a good amount of information still appear clean, well-spaced and uncluttered. Justin felt that a 10-pixel padding and 20-pixel margins effectively display the page's content in an appropriate manner that provides proper space to distinguish separate page elements from each other, but also avoids appearing cluttered without wasting space.

Color:

The colors used throughout the website were strategically chosen to induce the emotions and attitudes tied to western culture and even more specifically, the client's particular part of Texas, according to Justin. To provide pleasing aesthetics and give a cohesive feel to the site, Justin pulled color from the browns of certain product images and the red from the company's logo. These colors continue to reinforce the western appeal of the site while impressing the elicited emotions on the company itself and its products.

The textures chosen follow suit with this theme and provide a rugged demeanor that appeals to the men in the client's user target. The slightly contrasting colors and textures towards the bottom of the page are, as Justin explains, to give the site a polished, modern feel that identifies it as an up-to-date website design despite its vintage look.

Type:

Justin is well versed in typography and his font choices were definitely intentional. The use of slab-serif carries on with the overarching western idea for the site without coming off as too stylistic and cliché. This large and bolded font commands attention in the content where he felt was necessary in regard to identifying functions and intriguing the user.

This type was contrasted and complimented with the use of a simple san-serif for supplemental information within the content. All caps were often used to provide consistent form for titles and short lines of content so the blocked text would appear clean and easy to read at a glance. Decisions made on kerning were based on proper frame fitting and crisp alignment, and Justin's choices for line height are primarily focused on providing clear readability for the user.

Imagery:

Product images for the site were chosen by the client, but the real challenge Justin had in regards to imagery lied in selecting the encompassing homepage background image, which would play a large part in setting the general mood. The client felt strongly about selecting an image that captured the look and feel of their location in North Central Texas. Several available photos were evaluated on their ability to convey this image.

The scenic image used in the final design is one that both the client and Justin agree successfully captures the preferred mood and general feel for the site and effectively portrays the personality of the client company. It's geographically representative, lighthearted and genuine, but not distracting.

Styling:

Styling of the site's screen elements was executed in attempt to match the western-centered design while still appearing clean and comprehensible. Justin achieved this in using some subtle textures but with extreme focus on keeping features like the search bar, the navigation and in-content buttons simple, clean and above all, functional and obvious to the user. Justin's concern with styling focused on walking the thin line of reinforcing the western theme while taking special care to not have 'too much going on.'

He sprinkled in flair with elements like the aged tag for the website login and the seemingly sewn-on leather patch that houses the option to subscribe to the client's newsletter.

Why This Project?

We are very proud of the work that Justin did with Justin Discount Boots, but we also know 'no good thing is ever perfect'. We would love to get your thoughts and feedback on the site and our design approach. Let us know what you think.

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/09/21/are-you-ready-for-a-web-design-challenge/