Designers block; Why do you plague me?!

Posted by under Life, on 29 April 2012 @ 8:32pm.

Those who know me will know that I run a few websites, most of which I’ve designed myself over years gone by. What most of you won’t know is that most of these sites have gone through dozens if not more designs before I finally settled on one I actually liked. This is a common problem, and not just for me but for other developers as well.

Let me give you an example. BetaArchive, my main website of focus these days, is far overdue a new template and various other updates. Over the last 2 years I have tried to design something new that will give the site a new edge in it’s little corner of the Internet. Unfortunately I have what is called “Designers Block” most of the time I make designs. This is the act of designing something from an awesome idea but it never quite lives up to that standard. And because it’s not to the standard of the original awesome idea, you scrap it before it’s finished.

To put this in perspective, in 2 years I’ve come up with 9 designs, of which all have been pretty much scrapped. I’ve kept them in my archives because some ideas I could re-use, but the designs as a whole just don’t work. I’ve had this same problem with other sites as well, even this current personal site which took 3 designs, then I stuck with the “Facebook Look” site.

What can we do about this problem? It’s simple. You get a proper website graphic designer to do it for you. The company I work for specialises in many services and one of them is Web Design. We have people in that specifically design graphics and websites, specific people to code the designs and specific people to do the back-end coding. That way, the graphic designer just creates the look of the site to the clients needs, then it gets passed to the coders to break it up and create the template. All while the back-end coders (sometimes the same person as the template coder) works on the back-end functionality.

Now trying to do all of these jobs yourself is hard. You can’t be your own client, designer and coder, it just doesn’t work well. You know what you want but you can’t express it properly, and this is the issue I have. I’m one person with one set of ideas, but using the business model above you get the ideas and expertise of several people throughout the creation of the site.

What can you do to avoid designers block when you only have yourself to do all of the jobs? Well, if I knew I wouldn’t have designers block! However a quick search on the web brings up some valid points that anyone could try.

Design it on paper or in a graphic design suite first

Going straight to the coding is never a great first step. You might have the ideas in your head but unless you have something visual to work with your ideas can go off track. Make sure your ideas solid before you begin.

Find inspiration

Nobody can think up the best ideas on their own. Sometimes you need inspiration from someone else, just like the business model. The best way to do this is go and search the web for your theme and see what those site have to offer. You could find a design with certain areas you like the look of and can utilise (with modifications) into your own design. Never copy someone else’s design though, this won’t end well!


Lets face it, if you want this design to work you won’t do it in a single day. Take your time and spread your work load over as long as it takes. Don’t rush any stage.

Take a walk

Walking is a great way to clear your mind and think about new ideas. Fresh air always does you a world of good, so give it a try.

Deal with it another time

No this doesn’t mean walk away and forget it all, just move away from that aspect of the design and onto something else. Come back to it later with a fresh set of eyes and fresh ideas.

Ask a friend

Asking friends for ideas is a great idea, but don’t overdo it. Friends are more likely to be truthful about a design, so don’t ask them what they think of the rest of the design just yet, just ask them to contribute ideas for a certain section instead.

In conclusion if you’re on your own you’re going to encounter designers block at some point. Don’t let this tempt you into giving up as this is only going to make it worse. Just find the courage to carry on and look for more ideas.