See the project on GitHub
Timeframe: 5 days
Another of my UI Design projects at The Iron Yard was to redesign a local restaurant's current website. I was allowed to pick any restaurant I wanted to work on, and given the task of redesigning two pages. I chose Easy Tiger, a popular bake shop and beer garden located on 6th street in Austin. This was a really fun project to work on, because it not only gave me a chance to exercise some of the research methods I had just learned in class, but also an excuse to spend more time at a local eatery I love.
The problem I see with Easy Tiger's current website is mainly that there's not much there. The site is very dark - small white text on a black background - and doesn't really relay a sense of what the place is like. The homepage is a giant image map with no selectable text, except for the address and phone number at the very bottom of the page, in tiny text that almost blends into the background. And the menu is a PDF.
None of this is really that bad. It's minimal, which is fine, and was probably made to be easy to update. If there are changes to the menu, all they have to do is upload a new PDF, not mess around with editing files in a content management system. Additionally, it could be that the site was made to look homemade. It kind of gives you the sense that this is a small place whose focus is their craft, not their marketing. Still, I thought the site could benefit from a redesign, to make it easier to find and use, and more representative of the atmosphere of the location, which I think is one of its best attributes.
One of the first things I did was go to the restaurant. I had been there before as a customer, but had never really stopped to take in the atmosphere of the place. I observed and had some brief conversations with customers and employees, and tried to get a sense of their clientele as well as the restaurant's values.
Then, using some of the methods I learned in class, I continued my research by conducting competitive and SWOT analysis. I also made a word list in an attempt to push past some of the more obvious lines of thought.
The goal of my redesign was to make something light and friendly to reflect the relaxed atmosphere of the place. For the homepage I focused on presenting the information people want most when they visit any restaurant's website: hours, location, and access to the menu. The header of each page features a different photo of the space to convey a sense of what the place is like.
For typography on the site I used a sans-serif typeface with a friendly, pub type feel, while also being clean and readable. I chose an earthy color palette using colors from around the location: brown and tan to represent baked goods, accented with green for the ivy that covers the outside walls. All of these elements, combined, create an experience that is more representative of the friendly, local shop that Easy Tiger is.
The biggest challenge I faced with this project was one of ethics. I'm generally not a fan of unsolicited redesigns of other people's work. It's easy to say you could design something better than someone else when you're not working with a client or having to sell your design or defend your decisions. Additionally, unsolicited redesigns feel like a sort of one-upmanship and reflect poorly on the design community as a whole.
I was able to overcome this thinking by reminding myself of a few things:
- This was a project for school, so in a way it wasn't completely unsolicited.
- I was working under the supervision of an instructor, who for the purposes of the assignment, was the client.
- I was only going to be posting this on GitHub and my portfolio, and expressly stating that it was schoolwork.
Similar to copying other people's work, I think redesigns are acceptable in the context of learning. It's when you start posting them on the web, announcing you've done a better job than the original creator, that you get yourself into trouble.