Understanding Web Design

by Jeffrey Zeldman

123 Reader Comments

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  1. Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

    Thanks jeffrey, I’m going to be quoting you on this.

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  2. >Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.<

    This is probably the most clear and accurate definition I’ve come across. Superb article.

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  3. Remember those websites where you started off with an image map of an office… and clicking on the telephone took you to the contacts page, the drawers of the file cabinets led to various topical sections, the photo sitting on the desk brought you to the photo gallery? And there was a “what’s new” page… you got to that with a click on the newspaper. Oh…

    I used to have a couple of those. I hope someday we grow into this medium. I’m still working on it.

    But let’s not break our hearts expecting the world at large to recognize the invisible foundations of good design. Because when it works, it fades into the background. And all those eyes will be pinned on that website with the long legs and spike heels.

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  4. I liked this thought provoker.

    Those trying to satisfy needs know that sites evolve over time and for many reasons.
    It need not however be graceful, although I suppose this depends on the quality and forethought of the initial work. It also relies on a perception of quality being shared amoungst all those that have a say.

    One thing we do know though is that web design enables us to communicate to all and that we should abide.

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  5. Stewart Brand’s “How Buildings Learn”:http://www.amazon.com/How-Buildings-Learn-Happens-Theyre/dp/0140139966/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196274918&sr=8-1 also got me thinking of how web design relates to architecture. One parallelism mentioned by “others”:http://www.amazon.com/Information-Architecture-World-Wide-Web/dp/0596527349/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196276302&sr=1-1 was the concept of fast and slow layers. In architecture, the layers go from the more permanent foundation and structure up to the almost fluid furniture in the room. In web design, it goes from IA up to the copy.

    I think Brand’s ideas around High Road and Low Road buildings can also be applied to web design. But I haven’t seen them talked about yet in this context.

    On the Low Road side: Just like function-focused, utilitarian buildings, quick-and-dirty websites can be made with little investment and more easily changed to suit the evolving situations. This ease of change along with limitations of a Low Road building or website promotes innovation on a small scale to meet the needs of its users. If And even if it’s easier to change, it’s more critical that those who follow the Low Road must meet the user’s immediate needs. Yet if something does go wrong, duct tape can be used to patch things up.

    On the High Road side: Grandiose buildings require care and attention of dutiful owners over successive generations, or they will begin to crumble. Major changes are often hard and expensive to make, and are often heavily constrained by what already exists. But each building has its own unique character and has features that just aren’t available with a Low Road building. They stand the test of time. The same goes for High Road websites. If things go wrong with a High Road building or website, problems must be attended to properly. If not, degradation quickly brings you to the point of no return.

    One size does not fit all. If we identify which roads our websites follow, it could help define the best approach to take when we find problems or need to make changes. Maybe there’s another “pattern”:http://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Language-Buildings-Construction-Environmental/dp/0195019199/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196278512&sr=1-1 book in there somewhere :)

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  6. I agree with the notion of high-end and low-end websites, that’s pretty straight forward; there will always be large and small projects. But I don’t agree that the low-end quick and dirty website should be a patch work system of metaphorical duct tape.

    I’m talking more about front end CSS/XHTML development rather than back end php/mysql. In my experience when a site is built on a solid framework using semantic/clean markup it’s very easy to maintain and saves a load of time with debugging.

    When developing sites in high volume you notice a pattern of files you need to use, and over the years those files get more and more refined and stable. Creating a starter site, for me, has been extremely helpful in streamlining the development process and the time you save not having to debug can be used for enhancements.

    So, I wouldn’t immediately default to the mentality of the “quick and dirty” website. Take some time, create a set of starter files and a clean structure with a file naming convention that makes sense to you (and to others) and your next “quick and dirty” project can turn out to be pretty fast and clean.

    -Tim

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  7. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used “quick-and-dirty”. I was trying to describe something that can go up without much investment and be easily changed without many side effects to the system. “Quick and flexible” may have been better.

    I should have pointed out that Low Road doesn’t neccessarily mean small or low quality. A Low Road building could be a warehouse converted to a office building converted to luxury studio apartments.

    And I totally agree that clean, semantic markup as well as insight through experience can help create a more flexible framework from the get-go. This may be more of a Low Road approach.

    For Low Road website, the “duct tape” isn’t a temporary, slip-shod, must-fix-it-for-real-later solution. It is the proper solution: easy, fast, and cheap, and things work as desired. Need to patch a wire through the wall? Grab a hole saw. Need to change the header style on all those pages? Change the CSS style.

    For a High Road website the duct tape approach could be used, but it won’t work well. Patching the wire in the High Road building requires you use a jackhammer or route it up and down and around passageways. Changing the header style for the High Road website means updating the CSS style, but also the archived pages with font tags the style was based on, the code generating dynamic content using a related an inline style that had to be used for some reason, and getting the five levels of approvals to do all of it.

    Perhaps all websites should aim for the Low Road approach? I’m not sure if that can always be done— some things are just High Road and always will be. But recognizing where you are will help put together a more realistic estimate of effort required and in deciding if you actually need to move to an entirely new site.

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  8. Low Road architecture: building types like industrial lofts, prefabricated warehouses, barns, frame houses, tents. These are expedient structures, easily modified to suit new uses, and easily disposed of. Today, many of them, like the Quonset hut, the corrugated-sheet warehouse, and the mobile/modular home are built of pre-assembled components.

    High Road architecture: building types like courthouses, churches, and museums. The building’s symbolic value matters as much or more than its functional performance. They set the tone for a community. Their facades implicitly convey the values of the organizations that commissioned them.

    So yes, low road does suggest adherence to Web Standards, and separation of form and content, and modular design at all levels. Also the use of highly-structured typographic grids in the best traditions of print publication design.

    But high road? Maybe a Flash-heavy movie site. Maybe the artist’s experimental website that consists mainly of text floating about, something driven by Processing perhaps. But those lack dignitas and permanence.

    Then again, the whole Web lacks permanence. The investment in a website is many orders of magnitude lower than that in the most basic of buildings. So why look toward architecture at all?

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  9. This was a great article, Jeff. You put some things into words I’ve been thinking all week but couldn’t get out.

    High/Low Road debate: I don’t think I’d invest in any form of architecture that was unstable, at least not sober. Like Murray pointed out, Low Road/High Road doesn’t mean dirty or unstable. I deal with a number of clients who want ‘quick-and-dirty,’ — scratch that: ‘cheap-and-dirty’ websites as fast as possible.

    Oddly enough, if Low Road lends to being more flexible and faster to modify, then Low Road might mean the more expensive in terms of time and money, it might not.  I believe a lot of it depends on the client and the firm/designer.

    I am not a design student and have no formal design training but I do design for the web and I tire of hearing print and ‘web’ designers alike complain about issues like Jeff described.

    I believe that design is problem solving, which may or may not lend to non-linear aesthetics. If my client’s goal is to increase the generation of sales leads from their website, I’m much less worried about having an animated Flash-based logo that materializes from a rotating fluid mass of monotone, half-transparent, organic shapes—and a bit more worried about IA, accessibility, usability, and even more so: motivating my client’s target audience to take action.

    There seems to be a ton of ‘designers’ in all industries that want to break the mold by ignoring the need for their designs (good examples of this are some of the challenges on the show Project Runway). The passion for aesthetics and scalable fame is there, but not for solving a problem (even if that problem is to communicate or create some sort of functionality).

    I’m sure I could make some cool looking comps for apartment building structures, but I wouldn’t recommend you sleep on the top floor.

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  10. Great article and great timing. I was having a discussion with a colleague about this very subject when I stumbled on this article the next day.

    As far as working within constraints, we do that all the time with every type of design. We can’t usually change the size of a print piece, or the limitations of the press. We have to work within those confines. It’s the same on the Web, but when we try to map those confines directly over, it doesn’t work. For example, adding one page to a 12 page, saddle-stitched brochure isn’t physically possible. But adding one page to a 12 page Web site is easy. As designers, we have to exploit the advantages of every medium rather than focusing on its limitations.

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  11. We all know Zeldman synopsis of what web Design is “an environment for someone else’s expression” is true, but this is also the goal of book design (there are numerous other similarities but thats another topic). Zeldman thinks of Design (meaning anything other than web Design) as merely an aesthetic practice. This thinking creates the worst superficial print, environmental and web Design. But I would also argue, the thinking of web Design as a purely functional practice also creates bad interactive design.

    “Web Design is different” is the rallying cry for people all over the world who are either incapable or too lazy to create experiences that are both functional and beautiful. What is the use of creating a functional user experience that no one what’s to use? Even more alarming is this thinking leads to ignoring hundred of years of Design theory because “web Design is different.”?

    Design no matter what medium you are talking about is the pure practice of problem solving and communication.

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  12. Jeffrey,
    I read this article very much as a response to a recent article I found via DesignObserver titled – I seem to remember – “Oh, milestone web designs where are you?”. I can’t find the link to that article right now.
    The author of the article was lamenting the lack of major website designs, the equivalent to Paula Sher’s posters for the NY Public Theatre, or – as you mention – Glaser’s Dylan poster.

    Perhaps someone reading this comment could kindly pass your article – or the t-shirt! – to the author of the above mentioned article.

    best,
    Fredrik

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  13. Zeldman thinks of Design (meaning anything other than web Design) as merely an aesthetic practice.

    No I have the highest respect for design, I know what it is, and I know it is not the same as decoration. If you want to attribute naive or nonsensical points of view to imaginary straw-men, have at it. But don’t make me your straw-man.

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  14. I enjoyed this article a great deal, though I have a couple points of confusion and disagreement. The biggest one, I think, relates to Mr. Zeldman’s definition of web design:

    Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

    This is an excellent definition, I think, for GUI design, not just web design. And actually, I think there’s a pretty easy case to be made that there HAS been a “landmark” GUI design in the Mac OS, both in terms of functionality AND aesthetics. Even many of the snobbiest of the “artsy” designers can get on board with that, I think.

    Under Mr. Zeldman’s broad definition, then, I think there is indeed the capacity for the kind of design that will please the artsy designers.  I don’t think we get that as much in web design as opposed to analogous digital environments, however, because the “artsy” designers are working elsewhere or making Flash monstrosities, and the web designers frequenting ALA are apparently convinced that web design simply can’t be as pretty as a subway map.

    Don’t get me wrong—I love websites that put functionality first, and I generally don’t mind sparse site designs—but there could be aesthetically innovative websites and there aren’t. That’s just not really a priority for this community, which is a pain for those of us who like fonts, but not such a big deal insofar as the problems of the world are concerned. I mean to suggest, though, that this has nothing to do with the inherent and universal qualities of web design as a practice or a medium. Mr. Zeldman’s article does an excellent job of explaining how web design is, but unfortunately dismisses what it could be.

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  15. Always such a pleasure to read. I was only half way through and already marking in Ma.gnolia. The last two paragraphs read like pure poetry. Thanks.

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  16. I couldn’t agree more with the nutshell analysis already quoted many times:

    Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

    But as I was thinking how much I agreed with this I kept thinking, yes but this has little relation to the world I work in, as a programmer not a designer I should add. I finally realized that Jeffrey’s article emphasizes exactly what he says: facilitating and encouraging human activity. But it’s not concerned with selling ads to make the web site profitable.

    I don’t say this as a criticism. Happily I personally don’t have to worry about selling ads so I’m far more interested in creating a good user experience, or having one since I really don’t design sites other than my own. And in that since I think the article is about as on the mark as you can get. It primarily values the user experience and is also wise enough to know that often the base of that experience is simple usability, sometimes happily improved upon by special touches. As an example I’d say the graphics that accompany these articles.

    Unfortunately I can see the people whose clients just want them to sell more ads saying: great, but how does this apply to me? How can I use this? Is there a way to incorporate good design and pages whose raison d’etre is ads? I don’t have the answers. Maybe no one does. But I think it is an important question.

    I’d be interested in hearing what Jeffrey and the readers of this forum have to say about applying good design principles to sites whose main goal is to sell advertising…………Perhaps another article on that?

     

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  17. I was merely trying to counter the assertions you made in your article, it was an attack on you article not your person.

    I believe Jason T said it more eloquently “Mr. Zeldman’s article does an excellent job of explaining how web design is, but unfortunately dismisses what it could be.”

    I meant only to hopefully inspire some healthy badly needed dialog on this subject. Hopefully to counter the numerous people who seem to agree without questioning. (Unfortunately I don’t think I need to look for “straw men”)

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  18. If one looks further than what is hyped in our sphere of web and internet related media or design, there are the same mechanisms in any kind of design. Be it product design, web design or graphic design.

    In each branch you have different markets. You got Ikea which is affordable however medium quality, but mostly quite usable, you got the high end design: very individual and high quality and you got the trash, cheap and low quality. It is pretty clear which of those three is on the covers of magazines and talked about. The high end design stuff.

    So it is the same with web design. Solid solutions are never the ones talked about. What works you don’t see.

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  19. I completely agree with ensuring good usable web design is the way to go. And, comparing it with architecture is also a good assimilation. I still challenge this media on daily basis to actually produce esthetically pleasing web sites with a solid architectural structure. Even solid buildings contain beautiful artwork and clever design patterns to differentiate it from others. Same should be for web site design. When all web sites start to look alike because a bunch of architects get their hands on taking over design we are living in a boring world.

    In due time we will all be sick of seeing the same “stuff” on the web, be it informational or advertising. Everyone seems to have an opinion of “how it should be”. It is about time we let the web shift gears organically and have some character within the medium. If other media such as television or print never tried something new we’d be watching the same boring programs and looking at brochures and magazines in a portrait layout.

    Let designers, those who have been through the crazy print design days, help move web design into a new light. We’ve been challenged with it before. Users will expect more esthetically pleasing site design as well as being able to find what they need.

    It’s about time we have something fun and different to look at!

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  20. It would seem that a word conspicuous in its absence is mediocrity. Unsaid but lurking near the core of the argument.

    Of course we could argue about what that means or what it is in web design, but if all else fails and we can’t articulate it we can certainly pick it out in a lineup.

    …and it’s the natural and inevitable result of just “following the money”.

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  21. To me, this article illustrates what the consenus would agree to be ‘what web design is’, not what it should be. It ticks the right boxes, it validates the job descriptions of hundreds of thousands of professionals who are (my words) ‘doing the right thing’. But what a seriously demoralising thought that is. Is this it?

    There seems to be a big backlash against a moniker of ‘New Media’. It IS new. What… 30 or 40 years old? Against the printed word which is many thousands of years old? TV is still new media (even if it is stale) – the possibilities it affords haven’t yet been fully realised.

    And to draw a big line in the sand between ‘Professional Associations’ and the ‘Web Community’ only condemns the wider audience to a flatter, more constrictive view of what web design can be. We can learn from both, can’t we? I do agree that many sites are (pardon the pun) paper-thin and have no underlying substance. All style and no… you get the picture. But there’s no difference from existing print media or traditional broadcoast media in that comparison. Does the pursuit of a consistent-with-print visual expression condemn a website to ‘bad web design’?

    The whole notion of ‘web design’ in this article is reduced to nothing more than how a designer completes his or her project within a specific set of artificial web-related constraints (i.e. what constitutes ‘good’ web design in 2006-07). If I follow the line of thought here, I can put together a social networking site that ‘encourages human activity’ and ‘changes gracefully over time’ – it fits in a 1024 × 768 layout, can be viewed over a mobile phone or a TV and also feeds me with information to my feed-savvy browser every 10 minutes. Oh, and it retains its identity. Really? That’s it? That alone is good web design?

    Rubbish. ‘Web’ design really is no different than poster design or book design or any other media because that’s all it is – media. And designers should be challenging those who create the media to make it evolve and refine it and grow it to allow them to deliver better messages. You get better design if you understand your medium, but that alone doesn’t equate to ‘good’ design.

    I believe what’s being argued for in the article is better ‘interactive’ design – irrespective of the media. But I still think the ‘old school’ print designer has a huge well from which to draw when it comes to solving design issues relating to the messages as well as the medium.

    There’s too many examples of ‘fixed’ website constraints (‘boxy’ layouts, typeface choices, etc) in this article that bely a design aesthetic that’s too tied to the technology. For all its warts and ungodly efforts that Flash has given us it has also given us the freedom to explore outside the grid and there are many examples of wonderful designs that DO work at an aesthetic and functional level. I’m not necessarily endorsing Flash as an end-product in itself but it does demonstrate that the web doesn’t need to be JUST HTML

    Shouldn’t the web change to suit our message rather than vice versa? Shouldn’t ‘web design’ be less self-conscious about technology and more on the content itself?

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  22. Web arcitchture is not just about the design of your site, but also how it relates to the other sites in your community. It’s actually very similar to how cities have banking districts and garment districts as well as various ethnic communities.
    Google has had to become aware that your relevance on a subject comes from people who link you as well as the people who you link to as sites build a community based on mutual interest.
    Being a designer, a design blogger, and information architect, I have to balance, design, content, and usability to give people an experience that will make them want to revisit my site over and over. I may never win a design award for my site, but the trade off is blog is probably much more widely read than almost any design award.

    Kellis Landrum
    Editor-In-Chief
    www.neublack.com

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  23. Thanks for that article… This and “A Dao of Web Design” are great references to send to print designers who think that their background automatically qualifies them to do web.

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  24. Dear #83, not sure if you are a designer. Speculating you are not? Just to give you a nudge. Design isn’t something new and web design surely isn’t. I’m not sure if you are the judge at what makes a “good” web designer.

    I come from the days of print and I think it has made me a better designer than those that have only ever designed for the web. There is something to be said about people with experience. I am sick of young people that think web 2.0 was discovered yesterday. Anyone can be a designer, an architect, a programmer. All you need to do these days is google what you want to learn and do it. In the old days it was all about figuring things out the hard way!

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  25. In regard to the article its important that more business people understand that their websites should be designed properly. Its easy for some designers to pull the old wool over the eyes on some issies but now business owners can just ask some simple questions to know if their sites are being designed right.

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  26. Far too many sites have style and no substance, a pretty path to walk but nothing there when you arrive. I would include the definition of a web designer as someone who concentrates harder on the end material as they do on the visuals and navigation. In that sense a lot of rubbish online can be attributed to designers and suits who think web design is little content and a lot of glitter, that you have to lure surfers, getting them excited about branding and all that marketing crap.

    I think good design is the other way around, especially as “bad” design can be forgiven if I can find the stuff and see it quickly with the necessary details. Good design has good content at the end, something unique to read or look at. The content itself must be part of the design and be a major part of that process. I think the architecture analogy can apply here but I would twist to say that having great engineering means nothing if you have trashy tenants living in your so-called grand palace.

    My experience from building sites is that it the html code comes last and one of the very first questions I ask myself/clients is: what content have you got for your site?

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  27. The most important part of a design is for me the usuability. It is not enough when a website just looks great. If the user cannot find the important content at first glance or if it takes just too long to load the whole site because of big files, the designer did something wrong. A webdesigner should never forget that he normally doesn`t design a site for himself but for the users.

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  28. “Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.”

    I like the idea that the web is its own medium.  The opportunity, is that it has less constraints than “traditional” media.  A newspaper is going to be a newspaper.  A book, a book.  A magazine…well, you get it.  A web site can be on a computer monitor. Your 50” plasma.  Your blackberry.  A web site can be static.  It can be rich with typography.  It can be purely video.  Or dynamic flash. Or it could include all of the above.

    I think we struggle with what web design should be—because it doesn’t sit still long enough to be defined.  Once we define it, it ups and changes. Web design in general is beautiful.  It’s a great medium. 

    I like the definition because it allows the web to live, to be flexible.  Web design today isn’t what it’s going to be tomorrow.  It’s the medium that will push design.  Nicely done.

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  29. I very much enjoyed this article. I like the comparison to Architecture and often compare it to Industrial Design myself.

    Recently I met with a Graphic Design firm that wanted to hire me to code designs they furnished. I tried in vain to explain that interface and web design requires a different approach.

    There is a quote by Buckminster Fuller that I love to use:
    “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”?

    This works for me on so many levels. Design is about solving problems not about pretty. Good Design solves a problem and makes a thing of beauty at the same time.

    Scientists call it “The Elegant Solution”

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  30. really they this article some great points , this is a must read

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  31. I have tried to explain this idea a hundred times. Now, I’ll just send people the link. Thanks for a great article.

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  32. “Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.”

    So THAT’s why I do what I do ? Huzzah… enlightenment is on its way! :)

    Brilliant article.

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  33. I work with page layout full time for a local newspaper and am just getting into web page design (two years into it).
    Boxes and grids are a part of day to day life for me.

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  34. Jeffrey,

    DWWS opened my eyes. I was an ill-equipped print designer merely treading water in the world of web design until I found your book. Thank you.

    However, because I am so passionate about this topic, and plead with my print colleagues and professors the very same spirit your article presents, I was very disappointed that the only examples of good web design you offered were those blog templates. Though you and I can appreciate them, they fail to communicate your point, rather, they discredit you to the audience you are writing to, the one’s who already “don’t get it.”

    It would be fabulous if you could update the article to include examples that might resonate better with that community.

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  35. Great article!

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  36. Dang. Appreciated.

    Particularly the challenges when talking to print designers; I’m quite sure the ones I’ve spoken to think we aren’t really designers … and don’t often get the differences between the two media. It takes quite a bit to begin to get through to them, and that’s only after they’ve created websites that don’t really work out well.

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  37. Good article. I am a Graphic Designer turned web designer and it was and still is a transition I am getting used to.  One has to understand the way most of our audience thinks. Many people who see the popular sites are not necessarily thinking on the same field as web designer and architects. Many don’t understand the techniques, the time, the agony, and the strife we use to design and build websites. Many do not care. Just as long as they work is all they want.  One can try to design and no column, no boxy layout and fail miserably mainly because they are too hard to navigate and too hard to find the information being seeked. Many people enjoy the “eye candy” of the site. Many could careless. If you are designing for the general public boxy and columns are going to be the norm because they organize everything.  If you are designing for designers or artists they may enjoy the challenge of a non-boxy site.  Until then the only way to make your site “unique” is to design it unique.  Graphics help in that sense but architecture, usability and programming and whether it actually works will ultimately be the deciding factors of good web design.

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  38. In my oppinion Last.FM represents the holy grail of good web design. The interface is beautiful without detracting from content, the functions are slickly usable and intelligent, the advertising is useful and non-invasive, the text content is easy to read and split into optional depths, the user focussed content generation is the most amazing I have ever seen. Bring it on!

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  39. I know I will be using this a lot

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  40. Useful insight, thanks for sharing.

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  41. What is the point of this article, the bottom line? All you said is that you have nothing to say.

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  42. Truly. Huh? Is this nothing more than a rant? Let me summarize your article…

    These other guys (who are not really qualified to have an opinion) will try to tell you ‘Web Design’ is about ‘A’. Well I’m here to tell you its really about ‘B’.

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  43. I think you could have covered a lot more.

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  44. Hi Friends!
    Web Design is a place where you explore your self a lot in the way of your creativity.I think in a website a logo is very important as it is a identity of your website so it should be created with lot of creativity.What you think guys? Please give your suggestion on this…

    Regards
    Smita

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  45. Thanks for the suggestions, you went into detail on this one and did a thorough job

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  46. I appreciate this article because I feel it covers a growing issue that has not been addressed. However, because it is such an abrasive attack on those who often make design decisions, it will be difficult for me (as a junior member of a small agency) to support the argument and pass along to those who need it the most.

    How can I communicate this idea to senior members without coming across too arrogant?  The problem is not with your idea but the communication of this idea.

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  47. Thanks so much for the insightful article.  This explanation is like something out of Mad Men.  Well written and dead-on.

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  48. Let us as web designers make this point in 20 words or less. Then, maybe the guilty will read it. That would be effective design.

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  49. Hey Thanks for the read on Web Design! The part where it mentions about the people who know the least about Web Design make the most noise…SO TRUE! I find myself in the same boat. I am a beginner in the web design area, and I have found myself to living up to making some noise because I am so inexperienced and so very new.

    Also, thanks for the great Web Design definition!

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  50. Every time I’m asked what I do you and I say “I design websites”, I’m sometimes frustrated with the response I get, because, people outside the circle just don’t get it. Cheers to your article.

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  51. 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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  52. 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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  53. 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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  54. 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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  55. 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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  56. 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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  57. 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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  58. great deal of information… thanks of sharing

    Steve

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  59. 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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  60. 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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  61. 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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  62. 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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  63. 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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