Designing a Website as a Framework

A well-designed website is a function of understanding your business well. Said differently, if you do not understand your business well, you cannot design a good website [1].

A website at its core, is copy, and copy is just a version of writing, and great writing comes from clear thinking [2].

This makes designing a website a great exercise for thinking about a business and its products. It’s especially useful when you’re building something that doesn’t yet “exist”, e.g. for new markets, new technologies, etc.

It’s a way to think backwards.

“Invert, always invert.” - Jacobi Carson

“[Jacobi] knew that it is in the nature of things that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward” - Charlie Munger

The exercise

Instead of designing a website for what you have today, imagine a world where your product was already successful. You may believe that the product still needs X feature, or has to have Y appearance or UI, etc., before it can succeed, and that’s fine, assume that you have the perfect version of said product.

With that in mind, design a website (whether in low or high fidelity). If you already have one, forget that it exists. If your company has many products, just isolate for now.

As you start to work, questions will emerge, like: who am I designing for? Is it clear who the intended audience is? If not, why is that? Which part of the site do they love the most?

Who doesn’t love the site? Am I okay with that? If I have to appeal to them, what am I giving up?

To invert even further, what would the site have to look and sound like to completely miss the mark?

One of the most important questions you’re trying to answer is: does the perfect version of the product win the market? Can you even imagine a world where it wins? What would that look like?

This exercise forces these kinds of difficult questions to naturally surface [3]. They may not come to you in a sequentially logical order, but when dealing with complex problems, you can’t use straightforward methods. You’ll think, design, take a step back, think, design, take a step back, ad infinitum.

[1] Good as in, does it maximize your odds of winning the market?

[2] If you get the writing part correct, it’s hard to end up with a bad website.

[3] A blank webpage / piece of paper also invokes kizen and that naturally makes room for more creativity.