Isn’t it fun to realize how good ideas fail? Helps inform us for the future.
Over the last couple of days, Twitter has been on a low-level buzz about Yahoo.com’s redesign. (Below) This redesign wasn’t really a huge redesign, moreorless some updated graphics and updated placements for ad’s. Unlike Google, Yahoo (like many, I refuse to add the exclamation point at the end) has chosen to focus more on images and graphics than illustrations. Neither are poor moves, but both bring strengths and weaknesses and both work for different reasons. One could argue that it’s really a preference decision and a branding choice.
Shortly after the redesign was launched, a number of posts started appearing discussing it. Like any redesign, it was picked apart and gone through by both knowledgable designers and journalists. The general consistence is that it wasn’t very good, but everyone was happy that Yahoo was at least trying. Shortly after this, one individual submitted a article to Medium.com about his thoughts on what Yahoo should have done.
I wouldn’t call it bad. It looks brilliant. It’s sleek and preaches the Yahoo brand a lot better. It gives a little more life to Yahoo’s site, and brings them out of a layout that Yahoo has used since the Alta Vista of days past. It lacks the amount of advertising that Yahoo currently has, which most designers tend to miss, and it takes on a Bing like feeling with the large photography. Like Bing and Google, it’s responsive site is slimed down and it focuses on search first, articles second. At the end of his Medium.com post, he quotes someone who says that the design is “fresh and dynamic and add an element of surprise and serendipity.” I agree. But…
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more designers with beautiful re-interpretations of sites that are typically looked at as “hum-drum.” AA.com, Microsoft.com, various Google services (like Google+) and now Yahoo.com. A few minutes of browsing a search and you’ll find several. Some brought on good response from the community, others brought on attack from the original designers. Some designers even have the gaul to end their critique with “hey, if you’d like to give me a job, I could give you the best site ever.” This strikes me as a strange way to ask for a job. Moreorless what you are saying is, “you suck. I’m amazing. Hire me to make my awesomeness, your awesomeness.” A pretty bold statement to say the least. Nevermind that these critiques they aren’t really warranted (except for another Yahoo.com design I found on Behance that was actually used in a interview) and they are typically just a exercise, but I see two problems here.
First, someone else designed what we currently have. Especially for a large company like Yahoo or AA, it wasn’t just one person. It was a team of people, with Assistant Directors, Lead Directors, and even a Board of Directors, who got their say in how the design was done. These designs aren’t done lightly and the higher up you go the food-chain, the less they care about look until it effects their bottom-line. After all, is that not why they are in business to begin with? But this doesn’t mean the designer(s) don’t have a say and can’t create a fantastic product that gets the approval of the upstairs floor.
Second, for the most part it makes you look like arrogant. Creative people are arrogant sometimes, mainly when they are extremely confident in their abilities, but also when they want something. (Remember, I’m writing this as a design.) I can’t be a designer and not eat! So, in this case you must put aside your strong feelings and humble yourself. Designers love to quote Steve Jobs when he said, “Stay hungry, stay humble.” Steve is encouraging us to keep striving, keep doing, and keep learning. But he says stay humble as well. That’s harder. So much so, that we often forget the second part and stick with the stay hungry part. Steve Jobs was known for being a ass to his employees and generally most people, but he was also known for being able to ship a product that made you forget that fact. Critiques like these are lacking a crucial element, a shipped product.
Now, I understand that some designers just want to show their design opinion on something. And some of these critiques are just that. The commentary changes from a design opinion to a design critique when you add dialogue to it. That dialogue goes both ways across a table, or white board, or large company structure.
I’d like to change my opinion; the person who says in an interview “I can change this, hire me,” isn’t arrogant.
They are down right brave.