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Author: Monika Buchelt
You’re trying to create a website and all you do is watch other websites. At some point, everything starts to look the same and your frustration grows.
As a web designer, don’t be afraid to look for ideas in other artistic fields. Go to the museum (you can do this also virtually!) and soak up some beauty. Maybe this installation art that you don’t really understand is the missing piece in your creative process.
Try to find art in nature and go for a long walk. Look at the trees - they can be lush and green, or kinda scary and gray. You probably realize that many great artists and creators have been inspired by nature. No matter the industry - automotive, aviation, clothing - mother nature will be one of the influences. Web design is no different.
Don’t forget that breathing some fresh air is good for your brain. Exposing yourself to different type of visual stimuli is also beneficial.
If you don’t have a photo archive yet, you should consider creating one right now. It’s a great strategy in a long run.
So how it works is that you have a Google Drive or a Pinterest account, and you save there every image you like. Make it private, so you don’t feel the pressure to gain an audience or be afraid to save something that to others might seem embarrassing or too vague.
Take screenshots of everything that you find interesting. You like the shade of the blouse in this random company’s ad – save it. You think that the composition on the album cover of this band that you’ve never heard of is dope – you guessed it – save it.
The purpose of the photo archive is that you can come back to it whenever you feel like you need some inspiration. Those pictures have made you feel something already – why not give them a chance once again?
Photo archive is an organic vault of inspiration. It costs nothing and is worth having.
Take a break from looking at a screen of your computer and go analog for a minute. Try to conceptualize your work on a piece of paper.
As a recent study shows (van der Velden, 2020), pen and paper give the feeling of “freedom and creativity”. It helps to generate ideas and concepts that would not occur while using a more restrictive device like a computer.
Sketch a website on a piece of paper. Decide on the layout and then come back to the website builder. Taking those steps back is a great way to get out of a creative block.
I know, I know. You’ve probably heard this one a million times, but it works. Don’t overlook a good solution only because it seems too basic but great for overcoming a creative block.
Taking a break really helps when you’re dealing with a creative block. Allow yourself to focus on something else than your work. Give your brain some rest.
Sometimes it’s all you really need!
Amabile, T. M., Hadley, C. N., & Kramer, S. J. (2002). Creativity under the gun. Harvard business review, 80, 52-63.
Amabile, T. M., Barsade, S. G., Mueller, J. S., & Staw, B. M. (2005). Affect and creativity at work. Administrative science quarterly, 50(3), 367-403.
Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The standard definition of creativity. Creativity research journal, 24(1), 92-96.
Sylvester, E. Z. (2021). Overcoming Creative Block and Generating Innovative Ideas for Development: Heuristics for Art/Design. New Horizons in Education and Social Studies Vol. 8, 28-57.
Wallschlaeger, C., Busic-Snyder, C., & Morgan, M. (1992). Basic visual concepts and principles for artists, architects, and designers. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
van der Velden, M. (2020). ‘I felt a new connection between my fingers and brain’: a thematic analysis of student reflections on the use of pen and paper during lectures. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-18.
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Since you’re here, it’s very possible that you’re dealing with some kind of creative block. You’ve been staring at a blank page of your website building software on your screen for hours or maybe days and still no idea comes to your mind.
Your frustration grows as you’re trying to meet a deadline and not disappoint your client and / or yourself. Been there, done that.
Before I give you some tips on how to overcome a creative block, let’s take a few steps back. Shall we?
In order to cope with any sort of problem, you have to understand it first. What is a creative block? What is a creativity itself? How does it transfer to the reality of a web designer? Reading a definition can help with understanding what you’re missing.
Every classical definition of creativity contains of two crucial elements - originality and effectiveness. What it basically means is that for something to be named creative, it not only has to be novel, but also needs the usefulness or as some may say the value factor. Typing some random letters and calling it a new word doesn’t meet the restrictions to be labeled as creative. Original at best.
The time aspect can also serve as the part of the definition. Being creative can be interpreted as the ability to come up with as many original ideas in the shortest time as possible. Those who can think quicker can be viewed as more creative.
It can be a tricky assumption.
If being creative is a fundamental quality at your profession, then you are probably very much aware of deadlines and creating under time pressure. Sometimes it can be frustrating and limiting, but sometimes quite the opposite. A deadline can help you to make a decision faster or take a risk.
A creative block happens when you can’t reach your creative potential. You seem unable to make a use out of the skills that you undoubtedly have. You can’t generate new ideas and think divergently. Or think outside the box, as a motivational speaker would say.
It happens to everyone in a creative field. No matter if you’re a writer, a painter, a digital artist or a web designer. If you have to create something from scratch, your creativity will be blocked from time to time.
It can cause annoyance and sense of defeat. It can also result in stress since you’re working on a project for someone and have a deadline.
That’s why, even though I encourage you to be patient with yourself, I absolutely understand that you want to overcome this block. And now you’re looking for quick and effective solutions.
The list is coming to you!
Creating a website is similar to solving a problem. So it’s worth following some well established steps.
The Problem-Solving model created by Wallschlaeger and Busic-Snyder (1992) guides accordingly:
Right now, you’re probably at the third step and struggle. Maybe the reason why you’re facing a creative block is because your problem is not defined properly.
Did you collect every necessary information from your client? Do you truly understand, what are their expectations? Perhaps the directions they gave you are not enough and don’t serve as any form of guidance?
Don't be afraid to talk to your client once again and ask them even the most obvious questions. Communication is key, so don’t stop asking until you get the precise answer.
The second step - analyze, means nothing else than research. You can’t be creative if you don't know what’s already been done.
Researching previous work can not only come as a source of inspiration, but also contribute to better understanding the problem.
Checking if you didn’t overlook the first two steps of the process is crucial for getting out of a creative block. Every tip will be useless if you’re lacking in research.
Now you’re ready for the promised list.
As it was established by Harvard researchers (Amabile et al., 2005), how you feel influences your creative capabilities. As they pointed out themselves, the results of their study align with the words of Mozart. He claimed to be the most creative when happy and relaxed.
How it works is very simple. When you’re sad, worried or generally speaking in a bad mood, your brain is busy dealing with these emotions. Negative emotions are taking over areas of your brain that otherwise could be involved in creative thinking. Distress causes shortage in your cognitive potential.
So give yourself some space to go deeper into your own mind. Study your emotions. Who knows, maybe you’ve been dealing with low concentration and fatigue from quite some time now? It can be a symptom of some health issues. It’s always worth checking.
Or maybe you’re going through some troubling times in your personal life? Try to solve those problems first. Talk to somebody or give meditation a try.
Be more understanding of yourself. I know it’s easier to say than do. And sometimes all you actually need is a rest. But you also face a deadline and need money to pay the bills, so a break is probably not an option.
Don’t forget that taking a break can actually speed up your work. Instead of pointlessly looking at your screen, waiting for inspiration to come, you can go to sleep. Then wake up ready to take on a new perspective. You become less frustrated and more open-minded.
Knowing the reasons why you are not as creative as usual can be freeing. You get to know that it’s not you who suddenly lost all your capabilities, but the circumstances that you’re in.
You might not like what you create at first, but just try to fill the blank page. Once you give yourself something to work with, it will be easier.
You can change everything in the process. Even to the point where this first draft won’t be noticeable in the final version of your project. And it’s ok. You do this to just get you going.
Don’t delete your progress and go back to nothing over and over again. It’s not going to help you with your creative block. Building a website is a process. Even the wrong ways that you might take up at the beginning will eventually lead you somewhere.
Remember how I told you that time plays a big role in creative process? Take it to the extreme and play with it a little.
Go to your website builder and set a timer to let’s say 5 minutes. Then try to create a website. You can also recreate one that was made by a fellow web designer. It doesn’t have to be connected with your project. Just any website will do.
Or try to create as many original buttons as you can in said time. Of course, instead of buttons, you can make headers as well. In WebWave website builder, you have many options and can place elements wherever you want and customize them as you please.
Limited time pressures you to just generate ideas without the need of judgement. You can just let your creativity flow. And it’s also fun, especially when you keep shortening the time and compete with yourself.
Every web designer has their own unique style. The longer you work, the more used to some solutions you become. There’s nothing wrong with it. Yet sometimes it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
How often do you use animations? Or interactions? WebWave has a long list of features. Get to know them. Let them inspire you.
Trying something new is the best way to overcome a creative block. You might be a pro at creating websites, but there’s always room for improvement. Watch some YouTube videos or talk with the community of web designers.
Share your experience and struggles with those who can understand you like nobody else.
You can develop this challenge and add another tiers. Pick an element of a website, for example a photo gallery, and then choose a random number. Let’s say it’s 14 - now you have to include on your website 14 photo galleries, all in the color scheme of the rotten pear.
Create a website that is useless, not very pretty, but fun. Follow a different type of rules this time and surprise yourself. Unlatch the creative capacities that have been locked for a long time.
Updated: 16th September 2022
Reading time: 7 min