Thursday, May 2, 2013

Using style tiles to streamline the web design process

Narrowing down a website design can be a tricky process. Sometimes it's perfect on the first try, sometimes it takes multiple versions of design mock-ups before settling on a final look. This is commonly just an accepted part of the design process, but wouldn't it be great if there was a better approach? Wouldn't it be nice to save some time for both the client and the designer? Well, that's where style tiles come in!

Style tiles are a design tool that can help designers and their clients streamline the website design process. Style tiles can be used when a wireframe might not be detailed enough, but a full design mock-up would be too much. The purpose of style tiles is not to represent the final version of a website, but to set its overall look and feel.

What does a style tile look like?

While style tiles will differ from project to project based on the needs of the website, some of the most common elements they will represent are:
  • colors
  • typography
  • buttons
  • image treatments
  • icons
  • user interface elements
Here is an example of style tile created for The Washington Examiner 2012 Campaign and the final site design.
The Washington Examiner 2012 Campaign Site: Style tiles created by Phase2 Technology

As you can see, each style tile represents a slightly different design, with each invoking different feelings in the viewer. The full version of the site shows how the design elements are carried over from the style tile to give the website the same overall look and feel.

Below is another example of a style tile created for the new TBH Creative website design:
Style tile for the new TBH Creative website, coming soon!

This style tile represents the overall design of the new TBH Creative website and provides details about the various design elements. When the new site is launched, come back and see how the design elements are carried over from the style tile!

Why use style tiles?

Now you know what a style tile is, but why are they so beneficial?

It's important to determine how a company will be represented through the design of its website early on in the creation process. Style tiles help to narrow this down without the distraction of details such as layout or content. This can provoke better feedback during the early stages of the design process, and can save a lot of time and effort for everyone involved. Also, changes can be made more easily to style tiles than to full site mock-ups. Therefore, you can get to the development phase more quickly.

Also, with design elements decided, the focus can shift to more important aspects when determining the layout of a site. Since elements like typography and colors are already set, you can focus on the message you are trying to communicate and how you are going to best present content to your users. By making this separation, a website will be better tailored the goals of the company, and more effective overall.

If you want to find out more about styles tiles and how they can be used in the design process, check out the article Style Tiles and How They Work.

Overall, style tiles are a great way to open communication between the designer and the client early on in the design process, and to help a project progress more efficiently.

Kayleigh

About the author | Kayleigh Circle

Kayleigh is a web developer at TBH Creative, specializing in front-end development and responsive design. She likes to blog about a variety of web design topics, including design tips, the latest trends in the industry, and how to make your website more successful.

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