Makers Festival: The Design

by Mubs
June 6th, 2019

If you're a a designer than this is probably your favorite part of making an MVP for everyone else not so much.

So much emphasis is paid to how a website/application looks that it gets very stressful working to get the just the look for your project and yes it is stressful for designers too.

While I agree that the design of a project can play a big part in it's success or failure, there are other factors to consider. Just take Craiglist as an example. It's never going to win any design awards, but it has been a staple on the Internet since it launched in 1995.

As a developer I have 3 options:

Design it myself

I've picked up a lot of tips from designers I've worked with over the years and am getting more comfortable designing things. Books like Refactoring UI are great for non-designers (not just developers) to get a good handle on practical design decisions. Theory is fine, we want to focus more on the practice.

Work with/Hire a designer

Over the years I've worked with lots of designers, many like to design things on the side. I've worked with many of them on projects, sometimes just for fun other times on serious endeavors. Having a network of people that you can reach out too is very helpful for anyone building an MVP.

Even if I decide to take the design it myself route, just being able to share my designs with professionals and get feedback is very helpful.

If you haven't grown your network yet, there are many services that you can get a simple one or two page design created to kickstart your project. Yes just focus on getting a couple of pages designed, not every page of the project.

Those pages will give you the guidelines you need to build whatever pages you do need. They'll set the foundation of the design style and since you don't know every page you need to build, give you the flexibility to iterate.

Buy a pre-built theme

There are many (some might say too many) places to buy a theme for your project. There are niches that serve particular CMSes, particular market niches and general purpose websites. For projects like this I tend to look for pre-built themes that I can drop into my project.

I don't want to buy a design file that I then have to code up. The time it takes to convert those designs into something you can built with, you may as well have worked with a designer to get a custom theme designed.

I look themes that use a popular framework such as Bootstrap, Bulma, Foundation or Tailwind (not many yet, but they are coming!). Since I've worked with all of these the learning low, and I'm not digging into something propitiatory which would make updates difficult.

You can typically buy a good theme for less than $100 and with just a few tweaks you can actually appear quite unique and not like 100s of other sites using the same theme.

Since I have about 8 days left to finish this project, I'm going to pick the solution that will get me to the finish line a quickly as possible.

For me that means buying a theme. I may still need to adjust the theme to my needs but with a good theme the majority of the work is already done for me, and more importantly the majority of the design decisions have been made I just need to follow them.

I've been increasingly using the official themes from the Bootstrap site. In my experience they have been very well thought out, and well coded, and whilst being easily customizable now or later. I'm using one of those themes for the Practical MVP site.

Later today I'll review the themes and decide which one I'm going to use.

Next comes the build, which I'm not going to blog about in great deal (I just don't have the time!), I will do that for future projects, but I will be sharing relevant pieces from process that relate to the Product Hunt API, since the that is the focus of the Festival.

More about that in the coming days.

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