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How to use solid web principles to justify what you were going to do anyway

In this era of the web, there are generations of designers and programmers who have gone before us. Web design is being taught formally in schools and universities, and we draw knowledge from centuries of art, industrial design, and typography. Like never before, there is a wealth of great web principles that we can use to justify doing whatever it is we already wanted to do.

You may stumble onto an article that will convince your coworkers that the left side of the screen is the best place for navigation, and it has nothing to do with the fact that top header bars are so 2010. You may even find a bunch of tweets that show how “there is no fold” and that, yeah, you designed the page to encourage scrolling and exploration. It’s definitely not just because making one of those long, scroll-y pages with all the cartoony graphics that animate as you scroll is so freaking cool. But outside of what you coincidently discovered in your Twitter feed when you were “brainstorming,” here are some good tips for rationalizing your work ex post facto.

Make something pretty

A principle that doesn’t result in something totally sweet must not be a very good principle. If you have something that looks very good, people will really want to believe that it’s actually made with good design integrity. So go ahead and design whatever you want in a PhotoShop mockup without concern for practical implementation … there will be plenty of principles to vindicate your design later. It is recommended to find as many other supporting principles as possible, however, because that may be the only way to convince other people to use the design you like instead of that weird design idea your teammate proposed.

Helpful principles to leverage:

Play the “Accessibility” card

This is great for when you have a really complex problem that you don’t want to solve. An example might be that the client wants a complex and dynamic SVG rendering of an org chart. Play the accessibility card, and boom: unordered list. Also, readability and contrast are great buzz words for justifying that hipster black and white theme you’ve really been itching to design.

It may be helpful to establish yourself as an accessibility authority by providing unsolicited accessibility critiques of other designers’ work based on the one accessibility rule you just googled.

Helpful principles to leverage:


This is your ultimate tool. You can use simplicity to justify why you have only written one paragraph of copy for your entire site. Use it to explain why your home page starts with a full-page panel containing only a single button in the center (but it’s not a splash screen … definitely not). And oh man, think of all the flat designs you can justify.

What I love most about simplicity is that you can even use it to rationalize complexity by saying that “someone has to do the hard, complex work to make it simple” for someone else.

Helpful principles to leverage:

Convince yourself first

The most important thing to remember with these principles is that, you know, you probably at least heard of them before, though it may have been a long time ago. It won’t take long before you are able to sit back and enjoy the cleverness of your site’s “Principle of least surprise” instead of just noting that it looks like literally every other website you’ve seen in the past six months.

Here’s a helpful list of principles you can use to ensure your clients and coworkers think you aren’t just making this up as you go along.