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I am working for a web agency who just got a new Head of Digital. We are a team of developers and designers that have got great ambitions for making modern looking and high quality websites.

The new boss thinks that good web design is something everyone can do, so in the latest project and Art Director who used to do physical print campaigns made a web design that is to be implemented and it looks absolutely dreadful (this has happened several times now). It looks like something i made in the early 90's. It kills the motivation and ambitions in the team.

I am not a web designer (I am a frontend dev.) and I find it difficult to discuss why the design is off because as she says, it is a matter of taste. There are some UX issues in the design but overall it is just looks like something a newbie made.

I have a 1-on-1 meeting with my new boss next week where i can set the agenda as i want. How do i tell her that we think that the quality is unacceptable and that it demotivates the team?

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First rule of authors and people about to discuss something with their boss:

SHOW, DON'T TELL

Bring with you to your meeting several examples of designs that are appealing, effective and have no UX issues, then compare and contrast.

Don't tell her "This is bad" about your company's design, ask her what she likes about the designs. Then, bring out the design you are having issues with, and then use the "Yes, Yes" sales technique. You want her to get excited over the good designs, point out the strengths. Then, bring out the design you have issues with, and ask her:

Wouldn't it benefit us to apply some of these things you liked to our design?

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Specifically as a front end dev, you can focus on things that are specific to your realm of expertise. For example:

  • How does the design work with different screen sizes (like mobile)?
  • Are links, etc large enough to tap on touchscreens?
  • Is a design system defined? If not, mention the good use case for that, as development of new features is smoother and things are more consistent.

That's not an exhaustive list by any means, but I would respectfully, calmly and honestly approach the design(s) with a mentality of steering their creative thinking in a direction that's web-focused, rather than focusing on how bad the designs are. Even if they suck now, try to start a momentum where they'll suck less in the future.

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