Understanding Web Design

by Jeffrey Zeldman

123 Reader Comments

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  1. Why is the architecture for a good web design ignored and mis-understood, I will never understand. Good point brought up in this. Still, a large majority of clients do not understand or do not want to understand the fact that we design is
    a creation of digital environments that facilitates human activity. Very true and excellent words : “Great web designs are like great buildings”.

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  2. What a great article. I’ve been a fan of ALA for quite a while but only now, and due to this fine post, have I felt the need to sign up and post an highly deservered appreciative comment.

    Part of the ongoing challenge of any web designer is precisely this daily role of educating others (clients) on the ins and outs of web design and hopefully making them understand it better and realise it’s more than just logos and colours.

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  3. For years the major misconception is that Flash-based applications are SEO-unfriendly and can’t be indexed by search engines. And that’s the myth Flash expert Todd Perkins dispels in this highly anticipated new Adobe Developer Library book.
    Deborah Sidrs
    Kitchenware Reviews

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  4. Graphic designers generally seem to think they can design for web a well as they can for print but it really isn’t the case. The two are very different. … top article!

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  5. I get it, this article is dated, but on my quest to understand better our designer’s p.o.v. of content vs. design and design vs. content from a designer to a copywriter to the client and back again, this article is helpful. Especially when making the architecture comparison. Building from scratch or even a superstruct…either way, the final structure must be built, maintained and join together form and function.

    But I do want to address how the designer, Kevin, here at Overit Media (overit.com) describes how his job relies on mine (when I write copy) and mine on his in order to deliver to both the client and content consumer:

    “Designers shouldn’t be held fully responsible though. Finding good typographic solutions should be a collaboration between the designer and the copywriter. The quality of the content will certainly be a factor in how effective the end product is. Content and typography must play hand in hand. One without the other will surely fail.

    Good content accompanied by bad typography is rendered completely ineffective simply because no one will be attracted to read the content. Similarly, bad content accompanied by good typography will also prove to be useless; although people may become engaged, they aren’t learning or getting anything from it. These two elements must work cohesively in order to be successful.”

    Agree? Disagree? Indifferent?

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  6. A really interesting article – I think it gets every designers goat when poor practices are implemented (although I do think designers rarely explain why it’s important). One thing that REALLY gets my goat is when designers who swear by vertical grids complete disregard horizontal grids. You get lovely sites aligned to grids but the downward flow is often far too over-spaced and it nauseates me to see people throw away great designs like that. HELLO!!! LINE-HEIGHT???! :p

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  7. This article gave me just what I wanted and it also had some of the vocabulary to my thoughts.

    I think its perfect for people going to build a their own site and also for clients.

    I would surely share it with my peers and @ school bulletin board.

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  8. great deal of information… thanks of sharing


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  9. First, thanks for a truly great piece of writing.

    Second, why is it that our job as web designers is so difficult to quantify? Moving pixels around to create information which, in reality, does not even exist in the real world – and is lost temporarily with the press of a ‘shut down’ button…

    It is, in fact, a reflection of our Brave New World – a virtual world where things that do not really exist can be moneterised more and more. Hence our working environment is virtual, and our Job Description is as fleeting and insubstantial as the work we produce.

    So what is the saving grace of this New World? I think it is that the representation of an idea – creative or intellectual – becomes the focus. The value of our work is not the end result (that is virtually undefinable!), but it is the idea it conveys. The creative or intellectual ideas and thoughts are our product. The virtual tools of the trade (Photoshop et al) are the means to convey our experience and ideas. So we are moving from being designers to being conveyors of these ideas – in their new virtual medium.

    Designer is too small a word for it. The Brave New World needs a Brave New Word.

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  10. I have always been fascinated by this two words.“Web” which involves alot of coding and to some people alot of gibberish.then o the other hand “design” which is all about creativity.Most people calling themselves web designers are usually gifted in one or the other.Its quite hard to find someone well gifted in the two fields

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  11. This was such a good article back in the day, it would be great to see this author release an updated version which takes into account conversion rate design and true usability.

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  12. It used to be enough to consider web design just as architecture. I think now with all the social media and search engine marketing, it’s like advertising, PR and networking for your real estate property :P

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  13. I am new to designing and glad to read such a great article. Optimized and creative designers are been clicked by the users, if we want the maximum return on investment, so we must have powerful design.

    Some of the tips shared by you are excellent. I will follow these lines in my next project.

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