I didn’t know exactly where to begin this project, but I didn’t let that stop me. Many people will avoid working on a project because they don’t know where to begin. When I’m in that situation, I just impulsively begin anywhere. I know that if I pick a bad spot to begin, I’ll figure it out quickly, and I can change course. The important thing is to get into the flow of action and stay there. Don’t avoid or delay action just because you don’t know what to do next. Quite often the correct actions only become visible when you’re in motion, even if you’re headed in the wrong direction. Overcoming inertia is critical. A project or an idea will die if you sit still and ponder it too long.
I figured that a reasonable place to start would be to look at other websites, especially popular ones in my field, to get some ideas. Maybe I’d find parts of sites that I liked that I could semi-model as I redesigned my own site.
That turned out to be mostly a waste of time, at least in terms of how I thought it would be helpful. Maybe I’m just picky, but I didn’t see much out there that appealed to me when I deliberately tried to find things I liked. What I mostly saw was lots of clutter, fluff, advertising, confusing interfaces, and unnecessary complexity. I saw a lot of modern bells and whistles that were far beyond what I had on my old website, but I felt that many of them detracted from usability. As a visitor to a new website, what does parallax scrolling do for me? It just makes the site look more complicated than it needs to be. It was cool to see the first few times when it became possible – Ooh! How do they do that? – but after that it’s mostly just annoying.
On the other hand, I could say that this turned out to be a good way to begin since I gained a lot of inspiration for what not to do. By seeing so many things I didn’t like, I could at least rule them out. This also helped me refine my design philosophy. I realized that I wanted a site that showed a high degree of respect for the readers and that was straightforward, honest, and clear.
I never found a single site that inspired me. I saw some really creative designs, but none seemed appropriate for my own site.
Oddly, it was only much later, when I stopped trying to deliberately look for inspired ideas elsewhere, that I would occasionally stumble upon a website that had some design aspect I really liked.