Good Web design, as subjective as it might be, is still just that, good. For this post, let’s forgo the intricate discussion about how Flash changed the world of web sites, or how Dreamweaver and GoLive made everyone with a pulse and a Mac an over-night web designer. Yeah, I said it, you know who you are. What does need to be addressed is what makes a web site not so much stand out from other sites, but what makes it stand out to you, the user.
Over the past 14 years as a designer I’ve joined (and survived) three start-ups, moved five times, and, hold on to your mouse, held over 35 different jobs. Most of those were in fact freelance or contract jobs. I spent the first six years of my career as a print designer, then in early 2000, I moved blissfully — spelunking’ly’ — into the world of web design. I can safely say that that seemingly eon ago metamorphosis changed my idea and opinion of what design was and can be.
Don’t worry my dear readers, this is not meant to be an online therapy session, far from it. I am not here to discuss what I ate for breakfast this morning, but more importantly, what font I used as a header this afternoon, or maybe what color I chose for a rollover at 2 AM.
Dive, but ask questions
Arguably, one of the most disruptive aspects of bad site design is clutter. This pertains to the not only the navigation, but also the body copy, header and any graphical elements on the page. First and foremost, the designer needs to firmly grasp the idea of hierarchy, then and only then will their site become whole, and with any luck, persuade Google to shine their heavenly beacon in your direction. Of course, most of us are bound to the real “end-user”, the client. The one who signs the checks, pays for rent, and allows us to purchase that shiny new 3G iPhone next week. If he or she wants blinking pink ants dancing around each of their navigation buttons, and wants to see every imaginable area of white space plastered with a Yahoo or Google ad, well sir, thy wish shall be done.
However, designers, don’t be fooled by your vast talents and knowledge of all things design. Never dismiss what should be your most loyal friend, the User Interface developer. The UI design for your site can make or break every aspect of your intensely toiled over design. You may have created the single most beautiful combination of color and font choice, but without a proper UI, you risk the user, with her credit card in hand, to dismiss your site, flicking her proverbial cyber-middle finger at you — closing your window.
To that end, those designers who think they can move the world without the most rudimentary knowledge of code and how it works — not to mention how it will impact your design — pack your up your laptops. Being a well-rounded designer does not consist solely of you mastering photo selection and grids, being able to discuss your design with a coder and how they both interact is paramount. Whether you are working with HTML, PHP, XML or a MySQL database, being able to talk intelligently with a front or back end developer about limitations and potential roadblocks, will not only save you time in the long run, but help you produce that much more robust and error free site. OK, no site is completely error free, but am man can dream.
The best sites, I humbly contest, are those that indeed, keep it simple. That idea was true in design school back in the early 90′s, and it still rings true today. From minimalistic sites like [ Craiglist ] and [ Apple ] to the robust [ CNN ] and [ Adobe ], they all have one thing in common: clean, simple, and best of all, legible content and a user-friendly layout. From soccer moms and CEO to teens and ex white house press secretaries, beyond all other needs and wants a site has to offer, they want to be able to find what they are looking for and get on with their double-clicking afternoons.
As reference, please visit: [ webdesignfromscratch ] It offers a wealth of knowledge about, albeit, mostly Web 2.0 remarks, it gives an informed direction of site design, both what can go right, and what can go very wrong.