Systematic Web Design: Start Plain!

It’s easy to fall into the notion that you should start with the pretty stuff first. After all, isn’t that what web design is all about? Front-end web developers make the Internet look pretty. Done.


Truth is, if you start with the pretty stuff, then you’re doing it backwards. (At least, if you’re doing the entire site from scratch. If you’re strictly a designer and not a developer, then of course your entire job is to make things look awesome.)

Start with the absolute basics (read: boring) parts first.

Allow me to paraphrase Aaron Gustafson and Jeffrey Zeldman’s premise from Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement: Get your content (i.e. html) flushed out. Then work on colors (css). Then work on layout (more css). Then work on the fancy (JavaScript). Then work on the super fancy (etc, etc).

The idea is that by moving gradually, you can guarantee that anyone who reaches your website will have a full experience. It may necessarily be the most beautiful experience, but it’ll be a full one. At the very least, the content will be in place and not look like a formatting nightmare. At the very most, your site will be ridiculously cool and spectacular.

Plus, wouldn’t you rather spend your time on the fancy fun stuff after the basic content is done?

Yeah, I thought so, too.