Shaun Inman, Don Norman, & Daniel Burka share their Web Design Insights

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The best web designers know that there’s much more to creating great designs than merely pushing pixels. They’ve learnt that the success of a design project, begins with asking the right questions (both of themselves and their clients), and then getting all the steps right before even opening Photoshop!

As a web designer navigating this design process can be pretty challenging. There are just so many things to consider. Yes … it’s super easy to jump in and start designing what you think is right, but this approach is fraught with frustration in the long term (as you’ll probably already know).

To help steer you in the right direction, enjoy the design insights from  these experts, as interviewed for The Web Designer’s Roadmap.

  • Shaun Inman
  • Donald Norman
  • Daniel Burka 
  • Meagan Fischer
  • Dave Rupert


When I start a new project and I’m first exploring an idea, I’ll try to limit the scope of what I’m setting out to do …
—Shaun Inman
“I have several philosophies I follow. The first is: ‘Never solve the problem you are asked to solve.’ It’s almost always the wrong problem. What people think is the problem is the symptom. You have to get at what the real root cause is. The Japanese have a philosophy they call: ‘The Five Whys.’ When I’m called in to solve a problem, I ask, ‘Why is that a problem?’ Somebody will tell me and I’ll again ask, ‘Why is that a problem?’ They’ll tell me and I’ll ask, ‘Why is that a problem?’ Eventually, we reach the real fundamental issue and quite often, if you solve the fundamental issue, the original problem they were having just disappears. It’s no longer relevant.”
—Donald Norman
“I think that there are people who are primarily visual designers and their major role is style and polish. You can hand something to them that is mostly [complete], and say, ‘We need good iconography. Tie our brand to this page.’ I think there is a role for people like that, but I’m much more interested in broader product design, where the designer helps establish the most fundamental product directions. Is this actually the right product for our business? Is our business doing the right thing? Are we selling the right widgets? Asking these questions is part of a designer’s role.”
Daniel Burka
“I usually sketch wireframes out with pen and paper first, and from there I’ll go into markup. I like making wireframes in markup. It forces me to focus on the content because [I’m] building out semantic, standards-based HTML first, and I think that’s where every project should start.”
—Meagan Fisher
“Usually we’ll start … with a planning stage, where we’ll sit down and start sketching, because we’ve found that paper is probably the easiest way to get your ideas out … [Ideas] can also be trash, so you can literally crumple up an idea and get rid of it.”
—Dave Rupert
“I am a great believer in thumbnail sketches … lots of rapid iteration in a short amount of time … Anything that is very efficient at the ‘brain dump,’ I love. So … quick sketches, tiny little one-inch sketches, I love, because you can bash out twenty or thirty of them in a five-minute span. It’s visual brainstorming.”
—Dan Rubin
“We underestimate the power of emotions. Even executives, who like to see numbers, really make their decisions on emotions.”
—Donald Norman
“Usually, when I get the project request, I will send out a questionnaire to get a feel for what the project is about … Once we go through that initial process of getting the client’s input on what they think they want…I will set up a kick-off call where I ask a lot of questions. When I first started out, it was mainly focused on [topics] like, ‘what colors should the site be and what kind of imagery do you want?’ because, as a designer, that’s all I really cared about. But now, I try to get a sense of who the user is and what their motivation is for coming to the site or using the product. [I want] a feel for the personality of the brand more than just what colors to use.”
—Meagan Fisher
“If anything, experience [working on design projects] has taught me more about the way that works well for me, and I change it up depending on who I’m working with. When I’m working with … a team, I tend to have more of a process because [it] combines various creative approaches. So, everyone has their own way of doing things, but you can unify everyone with common milestones … to guide people through that winding path [of design].”
—Dan Rubin


  • Keen to hear more from Don, Shaun, Daniel, Meagan and others?
    Order The Web Designer’s Roadmapand get access to 5 video interviews … plus your design process guide
  • Got insights and thoughts of your own on “what it takes to make a great design”?
    We’d love to hear them (below)
Mick GibsonMick Gibson
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Mick is a digital sales architect with over 13 years experience on the web. He helps businesses, clients and start-ups - plan, action and measure their digital sales success. Including getting hands-on with Google AdWords, conversion rate optimization, retargeting and email marketing.

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