The Beatles were a gigantic success, and they started by playing as cover band. The great artists of history, often studied and reproduced works by other artists, absorbing every bit of genius that they possibly could. It seems to me that many people clamoring for originality don’t fully seem to understand that they stand on the shoulders of giants.
Quotes such as Carl Sagan’s that to bake a pie from scratch you’d have to first create the universe, give us some perspective. As a web designer, I often find myself using a theme or a framework and wanting to get into something where I’m able to build something from the ground up. When is this appropriate, and when does it make sense to use shortcuts in development?
First of all, the real end of all web development is to have a functional, beautiful product that works for the client, getting site visitors to connect with them, read more articles, or buy a product.
I find the use of frameworks or themes to be ways that I can work more on these key issues rather than grinding the flour, so to speak, using the pie metaphor. A client is paying you to effect a solution, not satisfy your creative ego. And when the client is myself, or if we were discussing a painting or what have you. Sometimes I’m not well equipped or in a position to go out and find the flowers or seashells to grind up and create the paint for the painting, or have the time to create the responsive framework for a particular project if it’s a passion project.
To make use of shortcuts when they are there is important, though hopefully not to the detriment of the final products effectiveness and quality.
This is why I like to sketch, wireframe, and visually design before I ever choose a theme, framework, or decide to build from “scratch”. Perhaps the functionality is pretty ready-built that you need a for a particular project, but don’t let that define what the visual design should look like. Take a look at websites built to inspire great design, Make note of the things you think are your favorite websites on the web. When you make art that seems derivative, know that in fact some of the greatest designers of all time have done this as well. It’s just a matter of doing it well, and doing it in a way that is targeting for your purposes. Don’t create derivative website designs that are not taking into major consideration the audience that you are looking to attract.
I see this with new designers who think every delicatessen or jewelry store should have a website that looks like a designers portfolio. Just because it looks amazing on a marketing agencies website, does not mean that it will work for any and every client you have. However, it’s not a bad idea to go out and find inspirational websites that center around the industry of the company that you’re looking to build a website for.
Don’t be afraid of finding the best of the best, and being deeply inspired by them. The photos, branding, messaging and other elements will set your website apart. Creative and fresh layouts are hard to come by, but the more you absorb the best designs on the web, the more you’ll be able to wield these visual conventions effectively. No-one wakes up out of bed on there first or last day of design school, or after watching 10 Lynda.com tutorials and suddenly knows how to create delicious looking websites. Be inspired, and prosper.