The Good The Bad and the Ugly of Web Design


the good the bad and the ugly of webdesign
Ok this may be a little cheesy but understanding the three approaches to designing a website or any other functional screen based product is essential. I often meet people from many different areas of the design and web industry who are fantastic in one area but respect little about another area. It occurred to me that these areas can be split into three. Branding, Interface and Coding. This triangle of areas all come under that general term of design. I rarely meet people who can do all three of these convincingly, what you normally get is somebody who is very good at one area who maybe gives the odd nod to the other two. It is my view that even if you do not actually perform the other two tasks it is at least important to understand them and value them because these three things all work together to create a successful site.

This article has been written from my own perspective and from my personal experience within the industry - it is a little bit of fun but I do feel that baring personal bias it is always important to remember these three areas in whatever context a website is being developed in whether it is a flash site, an e-commerce site or a corporate site.

So let me explain these 3:

The good - branding

The Good - Branding

As a graphic designer with a background in print and branding I do of course have a bias towards the branding area. Branding is the hero. He is blond, tanned, and handsome. As he walks through the taverns swinging doors one can almost hear the sound of a man whistling a famous tune. His voice is soft but firm and he embodies all that feels good and secure - he is Clint Eastwood himself.

By branding we of course mean the look and feel, the atmosphere that the site gives off. Branding is not simply a logo but the persona of a site. The branding takes into consideration messages, tone of voice, consistency and ergonomics.

This is where I would place myself. I am not experienced in coding, in css or divs. What I personally normally do is direct the look and feel of the site, how it impacts visually. Typography, images, colours etc all fall into the branding category. What of course this area does not consider is the theory behind the layout. This brings me on to our next character.

The Bad - Interface design

The Bad - interface design

The bad or "Angle eyes" is dark and dangerous. He dabbles where he is not wanted and makes very controversial decisions. He knows his opponent inside out and is a careful calculator of priorities and probability. He represents the dark art of interface design.

Ok, interface designers are rarely seen outside of software development. However more and more their influence is rising because the web is moving closer and closer to software. Interface designers focus on things like navigation and hot spots. They ask the questions like what do we want this site to achieve. Why does the search bar go there? What order should the navigation go in?

With the development of the eye track software on hot spots on home pages, interface designers seem to be steadily making their mark and influence on the web design world. They play an important role in making things easy to use and getting the job done in the most effective way possible. They are a bane on creative people’s lives as we have to work closely with them or at least attempt to get into their mindset.

For example as a creative I always think branding and imagery is important. If, however, the main purpose of a website is to sell things pretty imagery may be discarded as its priority is less important than say the product catalogue or this months best sellers. Therefore that area may have to be changed. Usually I have found that the best way to work with these guys is to get them to draw up a wire frame before I style it up and make it look "nice". They label each area with what they want to go where and make decisions on how much branding is required, where the shopping cart should be displayed, what nav there is etc. This way I keep the bad guys from defeating the branding and if they change their mind later there might be the possibility of a showdown outside the town tavern... Tumbleweed moment...

The Ugly - Coding

The Ugly - Coding

The Ugly is, well ugly. He is complicated, a mess to those who do not understand him. He smells of late nights and geeky amounts of black coffee. He is very clever but is not really on the same wave length as the rest of mankind.

Named as such because I personally find coding ugly and also every programmer I have ever met is ugly! (Just kidding sorry programmers someone had to be ugly - no offense intended...). On a serious note for a creative the thought of coding is quite daunting. It is different the other way around because most people have a limited knowledge of at least what they find attractive and anybody with computer skills could figure out how to use Photoshop. This does not make them designers but it means that in terms of look and feel they can do it even if they do it badly. Creatives looking at code however is very different. Most print designers do not have an inclination as to how the web works. What is a CMS system, what is a DIV or what is CSS. This is the ugly. How the design is implemented.

I put html coders and hardcore server side programmers in this category. These guys know how to make the thing work. However saying this graphic designers also need a knowledge of how they get it to work. Over the last few years accessibility has raised is head and has started to make a huge impact. Designers need to know how to design in DIVS, they need to know how content management works, what style sheets are. Yes they are ugly but they are necessary.

Conclusion

So which are you? Good Bad or Ugly? Do you know enough about the other two to give you a rounded approach to creating the ultimate website which is successful in every area. Comments most welcome...

Comments

I'm definitely ugly. Ouch!

I seem to dabble in the other two ares though so hopefully that makes me fairly strong. And I always make sure that branding and interface affect my work - in a good way of course.

I would suggest that currently in the environment the roles can' t be segmented so simply. If for instance you are freelance you end up doing all 3 generally. I also think that the old cry of "i can't do code i am a designer" is outdated in a lot of senses. Yes, you may not be able to code a complete CMS from ground up - but you have to know beyond basic XHTML and CSS to suceed in that role.

The roles are certainly not as segmented as you are stating. For instance, in my case I am all 3 and I am not uncommon in freelance jobss. I think dividing up is not applicable anymore with the advent of terms such as "web professional".

yes, you are entirely right, there are definitely three different areas involved in designing a successful web site. But my argument is that sometimes people tend to put too much emphasis on making the web site beatiful and neglect the most important bit such as the content.
Let's be honest, from my own experience and most other people's point of view people go to a site to read about what they were looking for in the first place not too look at how pretty the web site is. lately I have seen lots of web sites that have nice colours and graphics but lacking any quality content. just remember that if people cant find what they were looking for on your site then they will quickly move on to the next site.

I personally believe that having a nice looking logo for the site is probably enough branding.
that's my thought on it anyway.

good article. personally i am the 2nd and 3rd and a little bit of the first one.

That was a great read! Very clever...
And I'd say I'm probably a little bit of both at the moment...