Questions to Ask Yourself When a Design is Coming Up Short of Your Expectations

All designers struggle at times to get a design to achieve a look that they are thoroughly happy with. Many times we’ll have an idea that really seems like it will work, but when it’s executed in code or in PSD format it just doesn’t look complete. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific reason that the design isn’t quite right.

In this post we’ll take a look at some questions to ask yourself when a design is not living up to your expectations. These should put you on the right path to identifying and improving the trouble areas. These questions focus primarily on the design, not necessarily the effectiveness of the site overall, the usability, or the content.


1. Is the color scheme effective?

2. Are there enough different colors used?

3. Are too many different colors used?

4. Is there effective color contrast?

5. Do the colors allow for maximum readability?

6. Do the colors work well with images and photos used throughout the design?

7. Do the colors accurately create the mood and present the message that you are after?


8. Are the fonts effective?

9. Are too many different fonts used?

10. Are not enough fonts used?

11. Would additional experimentation with different fonts be helpful?

12. Are the key words, phrases, and headers effectively emphasized and standing out?

13. Is there proper spacing between letters, words and lines?

14. Are the colors and typography used well together?


15. Is the layout wide enough? Too wide?

16. Would a fluid width or fixed with work better?

17. Does the layout emphasize the right content?

18. How does the layout affect readability and usability?

19. Does it overcomplicate things?

20. Is the layout boring?

21. Is the layout a distraction to visitors?


22. Would rounded corners or boxed corners be more effective?

23. Are gradients used? If so, are they effective?

24. Are icons attractive and intuitive?

25. Could the addition of icons improve the look and functionality of the site?

26. Is there effective balance and spacing?


27. Are the photos and graphics on par with the quality of the rest of the design?

28. Are they crisp and clear?

29. Would they be more effective with the background removed and bleeding onto the page background?

30. Are they too big or too small?

31. Do they effectively communicate the message of the site?

32. Are there too many? Too few?

33. Are they in the best locations?

34. Would they look better with different styles of borders or drop shadows?


35. Is the primary navigation easily found and intuitive?

36. Does the navigation add any visual impact on the design?

37. Could the navigation be improved with different colors of background images?

38. Would it look better in a different location?

39. Do links within the content of the page look attractive?


40. Does the style of the design fit with the message of the site?

41. Does the style of the site fit with the industry?

42. Does the site fit into a particular style?

43. What makes the design unique?


44. When you first look at the page, what stands out the most?

45. Is this what you want to stand out?

46. What impact does the design have on users/visitors?

47. Does the first impression communicate a message that accurately fits with the site?

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13 Responses

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  • Evan Meagher, March 2, 2008

    Great tips regardless of whether your design is meeting your expectations. These tips should go through every designers head as they near completion of any project. Good post!

  • Vandelay Design, March 2, 2008

    Thanks Evan. I’m glad you found it to be helpful.

  • BlogEntrepreneur, March 2, 2008

    I am not a designer but I often find it helpful to step away for a short period when things just won’t come together the way I want them too. It is amazing how much clarity a short break can provide.

  • Vandelay Design, March 2, 2008

    That’s good advice too. Thanks.

  • Noura Yehia, March 2, 2008

    Hey Steven, always a pleasure reading your articles!
    I must say we should learn something today from this, thanks.

  • edwinsdesignlab, March 2, 2008

    This is most certainly a very usefull checklist, I make frequently changes to a design, but never with a checklist as a guideline, I should remember this.

  • Ricardo, March 3, 2008

    I will use this checklist next time.
    Nice article.

  • Greg Frey Web Designer, March 3, 2008

    Very useful, thank you.

  • Vandelay Design, March 3, 2008

    Noura, Edwin, Ricardo, and Greg,
    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad this will be helpful.

  • Novice SEO, March 3, 2008

    Ad another element to the mix…. you website client wants a look that you do not like. I recently had that experience. I offered what I thought was a good look but they wanted an entirely different look that frankly is not that good….. looks like an old MS Front Page site now………. oh well….. as they say……. customer is always right.

    BTW – I did not add the site to my portfolio……….

  • Thank you for an awesome check list …

  • Buy instant degree, March 7, 2008

    It is an interesting list , but I think that everybody know that if you like your web page design,next moment you will find a mistake.
    It is a good guide for all of us,because I think that there are a few webmasterswhich can make a design and after that they will try to find the bad points.