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Be wary of absolutes when working within digital design

There seems to be a trend in the web industry over the last few years, dealing in absolutes, and it isn't to be applauded.

Kris Jeary

Published: 11th November 2014

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We've had flat vs skeumorphic, responsive design vs native apps, value based pricing vs time based rates, and many more.

It may well be the Twitter conundrum. It is pretty damn hard to present a balanced view with 140 characters. Or is it SEO or link baiting? Be strong, get more clicks? Questions I have no answer to, I'm yet to see the data.

The recent manifestation of this problem has been the data vs creativity debate.

I am a self-confessed data geek, as a designer I bloody love the stuff, it helps me make informed decisions in a strategic manner. The problem is this has been taken to extremes and some of the data and research advocates started to devalue creativity in our field, guess what this leads to? A predictable, oft-repeated solution to all manner of problems.

I have written on the subject before, but I will clarify my position here; I don't believe digital designers are "creatives" (noun), but we should be creative (adjective). In my mind to be creative (adjective) in our field encourages innovation and discovering novel, memorable solutions to the problems we encounter.

There is no data for innovation but the data will narrow the parameters. Unless you have the best client in the world who wants to risk their business on your gut, you need to make responsible choices, choices that will meet the project's goals.

I have read a few great posts recently on relying on your gut and making decisions outside of what the data suggests, outside of where A/B testing will get you. Of course there are many situations where an user testing would be more difficult, a particular problem with new products or services, but this is not to say there is no value to finding a way to research.

Irrespective of the amount of research you manage to undertake, it will only get you so far. There will be times when you need to trust your instincts, and here's a little light on the subject; these aren't really instincts, they are considered solutions that present themselves based on your years of experience.

So no, I don't believe a Wordpress theme or a Bootstraped site will be as effective as a considered solution no matter what the research suggests. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, creativity exists because of constraints, data will apply the relevant constraints and your ability, knowledge and experience will paint on the canvas that remains - you're that wonderful.

And let us not get confused, data and creativity are two sides of the same coin, if you don't believe that then may I encourage you to look at the work of the quite wonderful Brendan Dawes.

It is time to get away from dealing in absolutes, binaries, black and whites - we don't always have to pick a side, embrace the best from all opinions and positions.

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