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Just Like Detroit: Web Design Could Use More Creative Depth

Detroit’s finances are in a shambles. They want to declare bankruptcy, but there are legal complications that may prevent them from doing so. They’re already in the first stages of the process, which means that even if they don’t get to finish, they’re already under the purview of a bankruptcy judge who has to approve everything they do.

So what did the city attempt to do? They got creative — rather than struggle to make payments to dozens of different entities, many of whom carry exorbitant interest rates, they decided to try to get a loan. On it’s face, taking out a loan to pay off debts sounds like a bad idea, but they’re doing it intelligently: the proposed new loan carries a much lower interest rate than the debts they’ll be paying off, and they have a grace period wherein they don’t have to make payments on the new loan.

Essentially, they would be buying themselves an extra 6-12 months and reducing the long-term amount of their debt in one smooth move. Only having to negotiate with one entity over the loan is no small reduction in administrative costs, either. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s better than bankruptcy and it’s better than the current situation — it’s a full-on improvement, brought about by creatively looking at the less-obvious options for a municipality in their situation. That’s called ‘creative depth’ — the ability to go beyond the most obvious elements of a situation to come up with a ‘deeper’ but more effective result.

Like Detroit, Web Design Needs Creative Depth, Too.
Creative depth, to a web designer, means producing a unique and visually appealing design that offers your users ‘more than meets the eye’ (without actually being anything like a Transformer, that is.) It has nothing to do with the third dimension — it’s perfectly possible to have a flat design that has creative depth.

That said, creative depth is a metaphor. Imagine a camera focused on a tulip with a bee on it. With a shift of the focus, that same shot could be of a row of tulips behind the one with the bee on it — or of a windmill towering over the tulip field — or of the moon’s argent sliver hovering over the field. With each change of focus, you lose the focus on the other layers, but you have a powerful experience at each stage.

A website with creative depth should strive to have that same kind of experience: to allow the end user to get a feel for the client as an entity, but shift easily to a separate, deeper experience of the client’s product or service. Then shift from the broad look at the product to an even deeper experience of what the product might look like in their life, finally transitioning into a transaction.

But doesn’t every website do that? Well, yes: every website has all of those parts (“About Us”, “Services”, “Specific Product”, “Shopping Cart”) — the thing that separates creative depth from just another commercial site is how the elements are linked, and how each stage of the process reflects the other stages. The goal of a web designer pursuing creative depth is to produce a website that gives the users a feeling of visual coherence and of ‘traveling a path’ as they move further and further into the sales funnel. Unfortunately, like many things in web design, there’s no single way to achieve that goal — every client deserves their own unique effort. But hey: if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

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