Five simple and verified ways to make eye-poking, face-melting designs, explained.
Believing that you should like the design
Designing stuff is a quite technical process, that requires little creativity and enormous attention. Appealing to your personal likes / dislikes, or even to third persons like colleagues, relatives and co-workers can easily disrupt streamlined process and fall into bottomless hole of comparing numerosu opinions.
How to avoid that? Prefer value (the ways the end user actually can use an element) over personal preferences.
Assuming a design can be finished
A good design emerges from user feedback. Assuming that you can spend month over your UI, presentation, or application will most probably lead to bad navigation and over-engineered features.
How to avoid that? Release early, collect early feedback, test, and give the users what they need, and not what you think they might use.
Allowing elements to scream
It is very easy to fall into temptation of BIGGER TEXT, “CLICK HERE TO JOIN” buttons, bolder letters and other elements that should attract attention. In reality, they don’t, and attraction becomes a distraction, and distraction leads to unsatisfied customers.
How to avoid that? Emphasise value and content, and no calls to action. This will build trust and will reduce visual stress.
Allowing non-functional design
Putting elements on the grid just because they “fit” or bloating it with “temporary” elements will do nothing but split the focus and steal attention from what’s important.
How to avoid that? Resist the temptation of adding banners, spacers and other elements just because the design in overall seems “empty”. Sometimes, an empty room with a jewel in a middle is all what you need.
Believing that copying others will just make it better
Picking random elements from competitors is very common practice that allows you to build true Frankenstein monsters. Believing that that particular random element will fit without all context is the most common example of xenotransplantation in design.
How to avoid that? Pick an foreign element that you like, understand why it is made like so and what does it do, keep the purpose but adapt the appearance. Context is important.
Also, don’t forget the excellent piece from Oatmeal about designer vs customer communication: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell