Good design does two things at once: it both looks great and functions in the intended way. On the web, the function tends to be either a web based application or disseminating information. I think a lot of non-designers believe that more explanation is better. The more copy on a page, the more explanation of what this does or what the intention of that is, the better an idea can be presented to others. But I think this is wrong. People are drawn to simplicity and bite-sized content way more than they are to lengthy exposition. Simple design, short pieces of information, and well thought out placement of content is more engaging than hitting a user with a mass of text.
On the last Design Highlight we talked about Poolsuite and how sometimes complex design, non-intuitive design can be interesting and effective. This week we’re going in the opposite direction to talk about how simple design can be very effective. Our example is Colorables, a site for downloading and printing coloring book pages.
Why Colorables for Simple Design?
There are innumerable examples of excellent, simplistic design, but I chose Colorables for two reasons.
First, it’s a nice concept that is very relevant today. Kids have always loved coloring but now there’s less stigma for adults to relax and fill in the lines. Search Amazon for adult coloring books and you’ll get examples like “F*ck Off! This is MY Coloring Book” and “Creepy Kawaii”. Stressed out adults are now free to connect with their inner child and color between the lines.
What Colorables Gets Right
We absolutely should think about scalability when considering a project for the web. It’s an important factor to consider. But what I like about Colorables is that it doesn’t seem to intend to scale to a massive coloring book page collection. There are three designs on the home page and one more when you click “View em’ All.” I could see the site growing to have maybe 20 designs. It might start to get unwieldy to navigate beyond that though.
And I think that’s totally great. Why should every website attempt to build huge collections of products and services? Colorables delivers exactly what you’d expect: a highly curated collection of fun illustrations to color.
The site itself looks great too. The rainbow of colors in the header and footer hints at what you’re supposed to do with the pages. The use of emojis is friendly and can appeal to both kids and adults. Clicking on an image will bring you to a page where you can download a .pdf in a few different printable sizes. Or you can share them with your friends. The big, bold headings and copy text fits the theme. And everything is highly navigable and easy to understand.
There’s no web app to color on-screen. No extraneous information. Just exactly what you need to print and go.
Simple Design ≠ Boring Design
Colorables is friendly, inviting, and clean. But it is also bold and colorful. Simple doesn’t have to mean boring. There’s a trend toward minimalism and simplicity on the web but too often designers take that to mean that a website has to look like every other one in its category. How many grayscale with one color corporate illustrations can users take before they yawn and hit the back button?
Let’s take a note from Colorables and build simple websites with novelty and very clear intentions. Illustrations can be a little weird, colors can be brighter, and everything can have a unique flavor.