I grew up playing chess with my dad. Anyone that has played the game of chess beyond just a hobby knows that strategy is involved. A similar strategy is used in web design which in the end can only result in a win, a stalemate, or a checkmate assuming, of course, no one knocked over the board during the game.
You might be thinking how in the world am I correlating web design with the game of chess?
Let me explain.
In chess, you open the box and pull out a checkered board. Similarly no matter the design there is a framework or wireframe involved. One thing that is constant between the two is change is expected, the strategy is required, and adapting to both many times is through A/B testing also known as trial and error.
Always play with a plan. Playing with a bad plan is a LOT better than playing with no plan whatsoever.
While the most plentiful of pieces they are also the least useful beyond interference. Pawns provide a level of protection similar to that of the infantrymen in a battle. If nothing else they play a critical role in protecting from attack and used for a strategic advantage during the game chess.
Pawns, just like in business can only move in one direction, forward. There is no option of retreat or even redirection. In web design the same approach is used, a designer is always having to stay ahead of the trends. Constantly push for inspiration and not letting moss grow under your feet.
Some tips to be able to maintain this kind of mindset:
- Always keep up on trends, not because they are cool but because they help your clients remain relevant.
- Stay abreast of your clients and their needs and be proactive in offering services that can benefit their strategy.
- Only overhaul your clients’ website if they will have a better user experience, else there is no room for retreat.
Sacrifice is Your Responsibility
One duty of both a pawn and a web designer (or at least a good one) is the willingness to have a servant’s heart. Being the servant means letting go of your pride and giving for the greater good. Many times this comes in the shape of being willing to let go. Letting go of the work you put into a project knowing that the design no longer benefits the client as it once did. This can be hours of time, blood, sweat, and tears washed away with the press of a button when a redesign is in order.
Some tips on how to be sacrificial:
- Take into consideration the client’s wants over their needs. Many times they are experiencing shining object syndrome versus the actual need for the site.
- Think simpler, less is more. Provide your clients with more real estate on their website with fewer distractions and more value.
- Design the website the right way the first time, this means implementing SEO, making it responsive, adding analytics the first time around.
Knights are used as one of the more strategic pieces with the ability to move forward a couple of spaces and over one as well as being able to jump over chess pieces. Many times knights are used in creative, sometimes elusive attacks that have benefits of its own.
Knights of the Round Table
The Knights of the Round Table were legendary characters from the stories of King Arthur. They were not just any knight, they were the best of King Arthurs Court. They were called the Knights of the Round Table because the table they met at was round rather than your normal rectangle table. Their level of uniqueness and creativity is something we as web designers share.
Web designers are creatives, we are unique in nature in our ability to solve problems is something we take for granted as do many of our clients. We take our creativity as an innate ability to navigate through complex problems and side-step problems that would be complex for someone else.
Some ways to be legendary like a knight:
- Remember why you started, stick to the morals and values that you have built your agency on.
- It is okay to borrow but never steal, web designers especially those that work in opensource environments give credit where it is due.
- Figure out what you stand for, offer what you are comfortable offering. You are the right designer for some people, not all people.
Bands of Bravery
Knights are known for their bravery and honor, characteristics one can hope their web designers possess. Web design agency owners must be not only brave but also compassionate. Possessing the ability to face difficulties with not only determining the best processes to implement but also how to face difficult times without compromising their standards.
Some tips on being nimble like a knight:
- Knights rarely fight alone, be willing to share the load, and find resources to shore up in areas that you may not necessarily be an expert.
- Competition builds character and collaboration builds a team, both of which make a web designer better at their trade and how they serve their clients.
- Criticism happens, many times from a client. Don’t take it personally, instead use it as a tool for growth and improvement.
Bishops is a sneaky piece on the board always looking for a straight path to the opponent’s next move. Unlike other chess pieces, the bishop moves either direction diagonally across the board as long as it has no other pieces in its way. Also the bishop cannot cross colors assigned, similarly as agency owners pick vendors and stick with them until proven otherwise.
Resiliency is Vital
Web designers are subject to disagreements of opinions both with their clients, vendors, and even staff. One thing we must learn early on is not only how much we can handle but also how to bounce back when others won’t. Sometimes design projects get scope creep that will defeat a person or a client that can never
Some tips on how to comeback:
- Seek advice from others when you are in a bind. Collaborators can be a great sounding board as they likely have experienced similar hurdles.
- If something does not go as planned, look for options that would fulfill the same desired result.
- When you get feedback from a client, take it with a grain of salt as a lesson rather than an insult.
Faith Crosses Barriers
As you knwo the bishop generally relates to one of faith. While faith may not be required for some web designers, we at HeartWired feel differently. Faith is what we believe helps us make decisions every single day as well as give us the reason to serve the way that we do at our agency. If you lack faith in the why as well as the how, you are destined to have lesser an outcome in our opinion.
How to build and share your faith in your work:
- Make every single project one that you would be proud of and amplifies not only your gifts and talents but those of your clients.
- Be transparent and compassionate to all that you serve. Speaking of serving, that is why you should be in business in the first place.
- While mistakes happen to all of us, one thing as a business owner is learning how to own your mistakes and move on.
Rooks are pieces of strength and can move across the board both vertically and horizontally. They are only impeded when another chess piece blocks its way as it generally can not jump over other pieces. One thing that the rook always has over all the other pieces is stability and endurance. Web designers also require the same similar traits.
Helping Others is Strength
One thing the rook does exceptionally well is it assists other pieces on the board both on offense and defense. Creatives also have to learn to work well with others as well as help those in need. Building a website is only one small piece of the overall strategy behind building one. The website is never for the person building or even the person buying it, but it is for those who use it. Finding ways to help others matters most when it comes to designing a website correctly for the user.
Here are some tips on how to help others:
- Check your work, again check your work. Nothing is worse than a buggy or unattractive, nonfunctional website.
- Make the website accessible to everyone. While many business owners may find this to be unnecessary, a good web designer should make it a priority.
- Keep it simple. By keeping the site simple, you will improve the user experience as well as things like load time, usability, and ease of navigation.
Design with the User in Mind
A rook is also known as a castle or fortress, a building or structure of strength and stability. Your web design should have a similar structure and resistance to penetration or vulnerability. Making sure the site is secure, built with clean code, and if using WordPress making sure the core, as well as the plugins, stay up to date. Every day websites are attacked as castles once were built as a defense mechanism so should your site be built.
Ways to secure your site to protect the users:
- Update plugins, code, and anything applicable to code vulnerabilities or security risks.
- Create a website that is both user friendly and easily maintained by the owner, unless you provide maintenance for them (recommended practice).
- Build the site on a reputable code base that provides the capability to adjust as needed to ensure the user and their data is secure.
The queen, she can move in mysterious ways, in all directions for any distance. She spans the board with her power and grace, her sole job is to protect the king. Power can come with a price, losing her during a chess game can be a fatal blow. Misusing your power as a web designer can cause a similar fate. Our profession is full of power-hungry designers that manipulate their vendors and clients any way they can, don’t be one of them.
Amateur or Pro at Chess or Design
One of the quickest ways to decide between an amateur and a professional whether in chess or web design is the way they handle things in the heat of battle. Sure technically speaking as a designer you hold most of the power when it comes to a client’s website. Not only are you creating many times proprietary code that would be difficult for the average user to understand. You also use web calls, integrations, APIs, and other tricks of the trade that combined create an arsenal of tools. With all this ‘power’ comes great responsibility.
Ways to be a professional at all cost:
- Educate yourself on the latest trends, be transparent on your abilities. Your client will figure out quickly if you were blowing smoke to get the job.
- Do your homework before the first line of code. Knowing your client and their audience will allow you to provide a website that matters.
- Know your potential as well as your limits. Be willing to outsource what you do not know and admit when something just won’t work as planned.
Power Comes with a Price
Just because someone possesses the power to hold over someone else that does not mean they should use it. If a client gives you carte blanche to create their site as well as host and maintain it, that does not give you the leverage you might think. Unlike the queen who can run the chessboard as she wills, a designer does not have the same liberties, or at least should not act as if they do. So many designers use hosting or even development as leverage that they end up holding their clients hostage rather than helping.
Ways to ensure power is equally distributed:
- Give your client access to their website to the level they are comfortable when the design is complete and paid in full.
- Offer to educate your clients to use their website. This can come in the form of 1 on 1 tutorial, YouTube videos, blog posts, and much more.
- Be honest with your client, if things are not going as planned don’t walk away without at least trying to find common ground.
We all bow to the king, okay not all and only in some countries. On the chessboard, the king is the most important piece on the board, yet is relatively weak. Avoiding capture in the game of chess is ultimately the strategy that keeps him alive at the end. Prevention goes a long way to avoid disaster, the same can be said for web professionals.
Building the Vault of Trust
Web designers have a large amount of responsibility that many never think of when it comes to creating a website. Our job, while in part is to create beautiful designs involves much more. We are expected to protect credit card information, passwords, access to databases, and other personal information. Failure to protect the items we are entrusted with can cause a loss in reputation or worse. Creating that trust can take time, but can be lost in a moment just like your king.
Some tips on how to gain and keep trust:
- Limit the number of interactions on the website that require sensitive data to either be submitted or exposed.
- Price yourself competitively and fairly, do not retain credit card information on your own server or PC. We recommend using a third party.
- Secure all sites you create with appropriate spam and malware protection and require all sites that you host to also utilized encryption and an SSL.
One responsibility of a king is to know when it is time to surrender. In chess this comes in the form of a checkmate when the king has no options that won’t result in a loss. Web designers occasionally run into similar circumstances with either projects or even clients. One thing to always keep in mind when working with people in any capacity, there can be impasses that arise, it is how you handle them that matters.
Ways to know when it is time to resign:
- You can resign your project at any time, just make sure that if you do that you have an ironclad contract and a darn good reason.
- Some projects are just not worth the battle and whether it be scope creep, unreasonable expectations sometimes enough is just enough.
- Clients from hell do exist, it is okay to fire them or yourself if you get one.
Game Set Match
While web design is a game of strategy similar to chess, it has its differences. There is good and bad or light versus dark in design as in chess. This battle can be strategically managed with proper planning and keeping your eye on all the moving pieces. Personally I am thankful for the hours and sometimes days of playing chess with my dad as a kid. That experience prepared me to have the patience, endurance, and thoughtfulness that is required to be a web design professional.
Anyone that has played chess knows that you are constantly having to strategize for what could happen. This is true in website development as well. Having a plan for what could happen along with the agility to react helps you provide next-level service. A well thought out web strategy can separate you from the pack when a client is shopping around for solutions.
As in chess being able to visualize your web project early on allows for lining up the next few moves. Usually, this starts with a discovery session where you get the background of not only the project but the why behind it. Then if applicable mock-ups and wireframes are created to determine the best plan of action. Piece by piece you knock a step off the board until your project is completed. Once your client declares checkmate, the site goes live and with any luck declares you the “grandmaster of web design”.