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November 04, 2005

Grand Designs

On a regular basis, Zipingo Team members meet virtually – via the Web and telephone conferencing – to discuss development priorities and issues. Lately, we've been reviewing tons of home page design proposals for our and review site.

In our meetings, Chris N. shows us his latest page comps. Each highlights new functionality and statistics. I admit, we can be a bit overzealous. That's because, with so many new cool features in development, we are eager to make them all visible at a glance. But we're learning how to narrow down our scope.

“Less is more,” said Chris.

As exciting as it is for me to see what Chris comes up with each time, I don't envy his job. Web design isn't as easy as it used to's come a long, long way since I first became involved in the Internet. For one, there are more browsers and versions of browsers on the market. You've got to take them all into consideration. There's a wider range of users and user proficiencies out there, too. The design bar has been raised by new technologies that make the Web seem more like a television than a desktop computing device. And then there's the Zipingo Team...and each member's unique sensibilities. Chris has to balance it all.

Like all good designers, Chris knows that the home page sets the tone for the rest of the site. Currently, the layout is “fun and illustrative, which ties into the brand,” he noted. And while he's brainstorming about new design directions, he continues to find visually-appealing ways "to encourage (user) participation and (ratings) frequency." For example, Zipingo wants to promote users who write ratings. We’re “trying to create avenues for users to become top raters," Chris says, noting the delicate balance between promoting both the businesses and the users that make up the Zipingo community.

One of the hardest parts of Chris' job is justifying his use of color. Color plays a big part in differentiating Zipingo, especially when it comes to our uniqueness and technology. Granted, Zipingo has an unusual color palette; one that probably didn't evolve easily. For example, high-tech schemes can favor cool colors. But a site that relies on user-generated content may have to embrace warmer palettes in order to convey the concepts of neighborhood and friendliness.

I'm not a professional Web designer, but I know that a certain amount of color logic goes into designing a site. Chris has found a way to blend the more relaxed colors of a community with the cooler hues that often represent functionality.

"It's hard as a designer to listen to discussions on color. You know instinctively that the palette you're using is working," Chris said. And while color choices may be the most subjective part of his work, Chris feels that the team process – complete with all its diverse opinions -- is "really fun and it's generated a more user-friendly home page."

Finally, there are the new content and feature issues that inspire, yet sometimes complicate, design matters.

“I have to make sure I set up the right hierarchy on the page so the information is displayed in the right place; so it's relevant to what the user expects,” said Chris. User feedback played a big role in how the design is evolving, and Chris is incorporating these expectations as well.

But before I start promising things before we can deliver, I'll stop right here.'s Friday and time for me to go home. Not to worry. You’ll soon see understand this post means when we unveil our new look for Zipingo in coming months.

~ ZipingoKim


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