There’s No Accounting for Taste

Yesterday, a client of mine asked me what I thought of his website. I hadn’t quite expected the question, and therefore hadn’t formulated a real opinion of it, so I had to come up with a critique of it on the fly. This was a challenge for me because I had to quickly evaluate the website’s strengths and weaknesses.

Together, we navigated through the website, and I explained elements I liked and elements I disliked. For some of these opinions, I was able to back them up with good reasons: the fonts need to be consistent throughout the site, the color scheme should match, gratuitous Flash should be avoided, and so on. However, with other features, I was only able to say that I liked or disliked them, but couldn’t articulate why.

The client, in good humor, said I was using the “Boyd K. Packer” approach. Years ago, when he had been working for the Ensign magazine, Boyd K. Packer would point out elements in the magazine’s design which he liked or disliked, but wouldn’t offer a reason. This drove the designers crazy. Apparently, I was using the same approach in reviewing the website.

After the meeting, I kept thinking about it. Why do some things look visually appealing and others not? How do you explain why a sunset is beautiful, or why a garbage heap is ugly? How do you explain why a bad design is bad? It feels to me like trying to explain to someone how to swallow or how to breathe. Then again, maybe it’s just a matter of personal style. After all, there’s no accounting for taste.