July 18, 2018

Uncomfortable Development

By Stephen Shaw

The following is adapted from a talk Stephen Shaw gave at a CodePen Houston meetup. Video and slide deck are available below.

Websites can be boring.

They don’t have to be boring, but boring is easy. It’s comfortable. You don’t have to push any boundaries to be boring. Clients usually won’t specifically ask for boring, but by the time the site has filtered through eight committees, you end up with boring.

Boring just… happens, unless we work against it.

Get Uncomfortable

For ELL’s latest campaign, Get Uncomfortable, we wanted to help our clients get out of their comfort zones. To push them beyond what they’ve done before and into new territory. To drive interest in their message by creating pieces that aren’t… boring.

To feel a little bit uncomfortable.

The kind of uncomfortable feeling you get before trying something new. The uncomfortable feeling when you’re stepping out from what you know and into something with real potential.

How do we fight boring?

We fight boring in many ways at ELL, but there are three principles we follow with web projects in particular.

1. Don’t take the easy route.

Copying & pasting content from a Word Document into a template is lazy. You don’t want your site to look like a Privacy Policy.

Take time with each element and consider its purpose. Think through how you can use color, layout or animation to reinforce the purpose of the element and carry the central message.

2. Reward users for interacting

Make sure elements respond to their input; mouse moves, clicks, scrolling, device tilting, typing…

Hover states are a great way to encourage the user to interact. Typically, a text or background color change is all the effort put into a hover state, but utilize each hover state as an opportunity to engage the user.

3. Use familiar trends with unique twists

All elements should behave as expected, but you can accomplish that behavior in unexpected ways. Don’t settle for a pre-built animation or the exact same effect as another website. Use animation as an opportunity to distinguish your website and brand!

Fight against boring.

The web is an exciting place, full of potential! Every piece of a website is an opportunity to reinforce your central message and prop up your brand. Utilize them.

Don’t take the easy route. Reward your users for interacting. Use familiar trends with unique twists.

Get uncomfortable.