As you will have heard, America has a new obsession and it comes in the from the latest Netflix Original Series – Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Yes, it’s hard to imagine, but this show really has taken the nation by storm and it’s beginning to creep over to the UK. Digital Renovators, a web design agency in Halifax, explores how it relates to web design.
The series is unexpected, yet familiar and Marie Kondo herself is joyful, optimistic and confident. You can tell she is the kind of person who loves her craft and enjoys seeing the impact it has on the people she helps. It really is amazing to see how the simple act of tidying up can transform our homes and who we are as people.
So, how does this relate to design? Well, the process has a great human impact which has something in common with a common design practice – human-centred design. The core of this design principle is human needs and behaviours which we use to empathise with people’s problems. Similarly, the KonMari method that is discussed in the show is a human-centred process that is designed to transform the relationship we have with the possessions in our lives.
When it comes to designing a website, the problem can often be messy with layers of complexity, endless dependencies and lots of baggage. What if we could take the lessons from the KonMari method and apply them to our web design processes?
Lesson One: Know what your process is
In design, it is important to focus on the needs of people before jumping head first into the solutions. We build up our designs and test different variations to get the best version of something for our customers. This is why no matter who the audience is or how much the content of our work changes, we will always follow our tried and tested processes.
This is reflected by Marie. She will first tackle clothing, then books, paper, miscellaneous items and finally mementoes. Now, you may take this to mean that every episode of the show is the same. Well, each episode teaches us something new but no matter how much the people, content and impact change from one to the next, the key process behind them all stays the same. The beauty of the process is in the simple understandable and proven steps she takes.
This is why it is important to know your web design process and understand what your goals are at each stage. Knowing these will not only help you focus on moving towards the solution you’re trying to accomplish but they also provide a foundation when you don’t know where to start. Of course, this means having the right tools to complete each task and when you feel lost, you’ll be able to move through the steps in the confidence that you are moving closer to your goals.
Lesson Two: Think about everything before you delete it
It can be all too easy to delete a digital asset as it has no assigned value in the grand scheme of things. However, we are often too quick to forget that they aren’t just pixels on a screen, you have spent time and creative thinking before coming to place them. In the name of speed and off the back of customer feedback, it can be easy to simply make changes without any thought. We often get stuck in an endless cycle of going through different version and familiar concepts that have already been tried.
One of the most challenging parts of the KonMari method is taking the time to thank items before they are thrown away. Those items have served you well and there are certain memories that they will hold that should be reflected on. This is why it is all too easy to become attached to physical objects and why it is so hard to let them go. Largely, this is due to their tangible nature and the sense of “real”, which leads to questions like “what if I need it in the future?”.
We don’t have the same attachment to digital objects because we can’t hold them in our hands, making them easy to delete in a flash. Try thinking before you delete something, remember why you did it and whether it is likely to be needed before discarding it. Alternatively, you could keep a backup of the different versions. The time you have spent taking an idea from a brief and how that relates to recreating later on. If you do need it, you’ll be grateful you took a few extra moments to think before deleting it forever.
Lesson Three: Remember to communicate what’s possible
In web design, we talk a lot about learnability and discoverability and focus tends to fall less on what is and isn’t possible in our interactions. Sometimes this can be placeholder text or setting the context for what’s next. When we communicate the scope of a project it can help us to set expectations and allow our customers to focus on what is possible rather than wasting time on what isn’t possible.
Circling back to the KonMari method, communication is all about visibility. Every object in our home has its own place and we can see it when we open a cupboard or drawer. After all, when something can’t be seen, it’s absence is clearly communicated. It then becomes less about questioning where something can be and more about knowing what’s possible and what isn’t.
Of course, web design isn’t this simple and visibility may not be the right line of communication for each individual design scenario. However, it is important that we communicate the limitations of what we are doing alongside the possibilities. This will help our clients to make quick decisions that help them towards their goals.
Lesson Four: Design for a joyful experience
As a web designer, our job is to create websites that are more thoughtfully crafted where users can enjoy the experience and find the information they need. It’s easy to talk about creating a delightful product but it’s about more than just that. We are creating with a human-centric approach that tackles the problems people are having with design that has intent behind it.
There are a couple of stages in the KonMari method where this thought process really shines. It comes in the categories that objects are placed in which go from what you’re least attached to, which makes people more comfortable with the process. Again this comes through in the benchmark for when you keep items, which is personal joy and this process aligns your comfort and joy that will persist long after you’ve finished.
Web design in 2019 should be about joy. We need to spend more time thinking about people, their goals and what they really want from their project. We need to give them the tools they need to within their website for them to succeed. As designers, we should inspire confidence in our clients, provide them with support, drive efficiency and simplify the challenges they face – this way we can spark joy within our world.