Bringing the Pain – and Making Them Smile.
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

Some assignments that hit my desk just make me cringe. Websites that call for tons of text or messy, busy schematics come to mind.

But designing a site to appeal to viewers who are in pain? That takes the cake.

Still, I like challenges, and designing the Integrative Pain Center of Arizona website proved to be just that. Unexpectedly, however, it turned into a pretty rewarding experience.

And it all started with a smile.

I kinda get psyched up when I start a design project. No, it’s not quite De Niro from Taxi Driver, and no, I’m not doing yoga poses before picking up my pencil. But I do separate a little from the assignment before diving in, envisioning not just how the site will look, but also how viewers will react to it.

For the Integrative Pain Center of Arizona, we have two main viewerships — people who are looking to end their physical pain, and those physicians referring clients who are looking to end their physical pain. Right from the start, my design was at a disadvantage. No matter what, viewers were already in pain, frustrated, and frustrated with their pain.

But like my mom always told me, the best way to break up a foul mood is with a smile. And that’s just what I did.

I scoured the Internet and found a picture of two smiling physician-types and fixed the image to the website so that their faces would dominate the design. In fact, the background of the picture seemed a little incomplete. In the background, there was a perspective shot of half of a hallway, essentially keeping the side border open. I took a mirror image of this hallway, inverted it, and attached it to the side of the image, thus closing the border and providing a complete perspective of the hallway.

After that, those two medical workers in the image weren’t the only ones smiling.

Taking tones from the image, I developed a color strategy that I would elicit a sense of calm. No, the aquamarine, baby blue, and beige color pallet won’t solve anybody’s pain, but at least it won’t cause any more. I did, however, use the color most representative of pain – red – for the word “illness” in the title text, a juxtaposition of the accompanying “wellness.”

Since all of our websites are responsive, I had to design the navigation bar, footer, and calls-to-action to move freely without blocking our dominant art — those smiling medical professionals.

Although the site is live, I plan on making some more design changes. The image is pretty clear and fits properly with the overall site theme, but the placement of the title text and the color conflicts with a small black area in the background. This only is an issue when viewed on laptops at full size. After scrolling down the site, or reducing the size, this issue disappears.

It’s not that big of deal, but it’s making me frown. I’ll just photoshop that puppy out.

I also want to reorganize the navigation bar a little. Nothing major, but I think I’ll reposition some of the tabs, and condense others into drop down bars. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with my work.

So there you go. Designing a site with tough subject matter and for potentially tougher viewers can be rewarding with a little forethought and introspection.

And remember, keep smiling.

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