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Hit a Wall During a Web Design Project?5 Tactics to Get Back on Track

At some point in the web design and development process, you are going to find yourself at a creative impasse, whether you are contributing ideas and feedback to your new website, or are actually developing it.

Fatigue is one culprit behind mental unraveling. When fatigued, it’s common to generate different flavors of the same ideas, develop less divergent concepts, and go blank at times. However, even when full of energy you could hit a cerebral tailspin caused by cognitive fixedness. Cognitive fixedness is defined as “a state of mind when an object or situation is perceived in one specific way, to the exclusion of any alternative.”  In other words, you are stuck in a vicious loop, locked into repetitive forms of the same thinking.

If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, consider these suggestions to get back on track.

1. Restructure What You Have


Look at what you have accomplished thus far with fresh eyes.  Literally tell yourself to act as you were a stranger to the project, viewing it objectively as though it was done by another party.  Then play around freely with what you’ve got with another person who has never seen this work before.  Systematically alter individual elements to spark new points of view, and ask a fresh round of questions for another perspective.  Here are a few ways to restructure what you have.

  • Mix – Could you keep what you have, but reconnect, recombine, or change a pattern?
  • Increase – Could you add to it, make it larger, duplicate some elements?
  • Decrease – Could you remove from, reduce it some way, or divide what’s in question?
  • Eliminate – Could you remove a major component to turn it into something else?

2. Challenge Assumptions

Good ideas may get shot down based on assumptions that are false, incomplete, or outdated.  Many breakthroughs are transparently masked behind “sacred” assumptions, beliefs, and opinions that were never questioned or looked into.   Although assumptions are intangible, they constrain our thinking as though they held back our imaginations from exploring certain paths.

When we confuse facts with assumptions and unconfirmed beliefs we have a tendency to misclassify what is real.  Challenging assumptions helps us separate reality from fallacy and leads to the removal of self-imposed constraints.  Simply asking “Why, Why Not, and What If” type questions could dispel legacy myths in search of verifiable truths that open the flood gates of possibility.

3. Play Mind Games

Most people relate improvisation with acting or music.  In creative settings, improvisation could be used to connect and combine the seemingly unrelated to come up with breakthrough concepts.  This method usually loosens people up with laughter that morphs into epiphanies by seeing things from new angles and reaching beyond the obvious. When things get a little stiff, and creativity or breakthrough thinking is stifled, have your team play a round or two of “mad libs” or “the minister’s cat” to reset their mindset and clear their brain’s “cache.”

4. Think Metaphorically

New is different, which is hard for those who feel uncomfortable outside the norm. When people think metaphorically, they relate what is known with the unknown.  A metaphorical stretch of the mind seems safe because it relates what is familiar within the framework of what is new so the unknown could be thought of in terms of what is in existence and relatable.  For example, when Steve Job’s thought of personal computers metaphorically in terms of an appliance, the idea of having an Apple in every home was easier to embrace (even though most people, at the time, associated computers within an office setting). Metaphoric thinking could be the springboard needed to vault a person’s thought process into another realm of inspiration.

5. Redefine The Original Problem Statement

It is not uncommon to burn time, energy, and resources against the wrong problem.  How a problem is defined and understood contributes to the questions asked about it and influences how it is solved.  So revisit, refine and redefine the original problem statement when you sense the ideas generated by it would not help you achieve your true objectives.

For example, if your website conversions are an issue you want to correct with your new web design, then you need to understand the factors between your message, site design, and the mindset of your target market in the buying process before you can redevelop your website to convert more prospective customers. Low conversion may be the symptom-  not the root cause.  The real problem could be a misalignment between your website goals and your target market’s needs.

When you redefine a problem, you reframe your point of view, focus and expand the universe of options you would never have considered before.

Breakthroughs frequently occur as a result of “failure” or after getting stuck in a rut.  Many discoveries may never have happened if it wasn’t for a roadblock that forced a creative realignment.