When creating a website it is important to thoroughly research EVERY other site in that industry, it’s not good enough to let your client do all of that, a certain responsibility must fall on the designer, to see what’s out there observing with designer’s eyes.
There are several reasons to do this, and while I was at university I never fully appreciated the importance of it, I dismissed it as “I want to create something original, I don’t need to see what is out there” This was a very ignorant attitude which I soon realised. Since being in the real world and doing this for 9 years professionally, I really know the importance of it, here are the main reasons.
You must understand the visual LANGUAGE of the industry you will design your new work into.
It’s important to see the main competitors, their styles and make sure you don’t accidentally create something very similar, or use the same stock photography. This can lead to claims of plagiarism.
You must design something that will be BETTER than them, and to do this you must first need to know the standard you are up against.
Your client can help you as well, identifying the main industry leaders out there and sending you links to artefacts they aspire their own business to compete with.
Breaking the Rules?
To Break the rules first you have to UNDERSTAND the rules, you have to identify which conventions you must keep in place, and which can be bent or borrowed from other sources of inspiration.
It’s great to think outside the box, but first you must know where that box is, how big it is, what might it look like, and why is it even there in the first place… THEN you can start to think outside it and push the boundaries of it to achieve something unique and inspiring.