On Purpose and Functionality

Recently I finished a redesign of my good friend Chase Bethea’s website.

For the past 10 years I have been updating this site, and I was it’s original creator back in the day, originally as a young designer taking on a free project to hone my skills, and today as a seasoned designer with a wealth of experience under his belt.

What I assumed was going to be a quick/easy/bad-ass update turned into an existential crisis.

Chase began his career producing hip hop and electronic music for program intros at a now defunct company that we both worked at. As time went on he decided that he wanted to further his education and pursue a career producing music solely for video games. Over the past 5 or 6 years we’ve updated his site twice to reflect his career path. The last website update in 2015 was more cosmetic than anything, but whenever he needed slight updates I would see the design and grow to dislike it more and more with each passing glance.

I noticed errors in judgement, organization, and even slight css tweaks that drove me insane. While Chase and I are both busy people, we recently decided that it was high time for a complete website makeover.

In my mind (without much forethought) I could picture a shiny, flashy eye-candy website that would make even disinterested people drool, but as I sat down to create a graphic mockup of the site my mind went completely blank. I did what I would usually do in this situation: look for other similar websites, browse OnePageLove, and finally try to step away from the project altogether, but I wasn’t able to find a viable starting point for the project.

What ensued was the normal anger  and self-doubt that most creatives feel, but whilst angrily washing dishes (what I do when I’m angry and not creative) I finally came to the conclusion that I needed.

What is the point?

I’ve been a designer professionally for over 10 years, and most times I have an odd sense of overconfidence that makes me feel that not only am I going to destroy a project with my talent and creative prowess, but it will be easy because I’ve been a designer for so long. While for most projects this is fine and I am able to deliver, some projects like this one had me lost from the start.

I strayed away from the project for well over a month, stewing and pondering over how I could create my magnum opus website for a friend. Completely lost searching for ideas, I realized my fundamental problem.

Every time we go back and decide to revise Chase’s website I do the same thing. My overconfidence forces me to want to create a website on par with a AAA video game music producer. My overconfidence made me believe that I can make Chase’s website look even more glorious than the games that he is designing sounds for, but realistically this simply isn’t possible, nor is it a path that I should have embarked on in the first place.

Since Chase is exclusively working for indie developers, they rarely have skills beyond designing their games, meaning there’s little or no thought put into marketing or promotion aside from the occasional Facebook or Twitter post.

The point wasn’t for me to make Chase look like a million dollar, AAA music producer, The point was to create a professional looking website with his portfolio easily accessible to potential clients.

Chase has been busy paying his dues working on indie titles, and his work needs to be sufficiently showcased. There’s no need for sugar coating or bells and whistles Chase needs to be able to pass his link along to potential clients and showcase his work, and nothing else.

Approaching the project in this way (understanding its purpose) enabled me to create a more functional website in a much shorter time frame. It also allowed us to make finishing changes much more quickly, and it is now much simpler for him to update his website without needing my help.

In the future I hope to have an easier time approaching projects with a level head rather than trying to needlessly push boundaries, but this was a great reality check for me and I am extremely happy with the finished product (’cause I can customize WordPress like a beast).

I would love to hear any insight into this topic. Happy designing folks-