shall we start this again?

Wandering the web I came accross an old essay, Web Woes “My erstwhile students found themselves doing more […]

Wandering the web I came accross an old essay, Web Woes

“My erstwhile students found themselves doing more and more static, formulaic stuff and being less and less happy. If Jacob Nielsen had his way they’d be doing nothing that resembled design and a lot of clients are listening to what Nielsen has to say. Is mundane and pedestrian work under the flag of “usability” the future of the web?”

I thought this essay was going be another “bash-Jakob Nieson” “flash-intros allow us to express ourselves as artists” piece. But no. It starts out bemoaning the conformity of websites, and points out designers have found themselves marginalized. “Graphic designers often find themselves in the role of visual dishwashers for the Information Architect chefs” He goes on to challenge designers to rediscover and reinvent the medium.

And in the end, Gunnar asks some great questions about the future of design online. I highly recommend people read this article, and see if they can come up with answers to some of his questions:

“If one can’t fall back on the joy of the object because the point is another’s experience, what does that do to our joy in the process? Does all of this require a new kind of designer? How do we make sure that doesn’t mean a designer in name only? Does doing meta design–designing what will happen when a database meets a unique request generating a different (and unpredictable) “object” 250,000 times a day–require a different mind than that of a graphic designer?”

If you’re not a designer, it doesn’t hurt to put yourself in their shoes. In these changing market conditions and with technological change never slowing those shoes may soon be yours.


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  1. 1

    This is somewhat grim and a great reminder, for those of us who are not great designers, of how to treat keep mindful of those that bring beautiful life to the usable tools. This essay had me re-reading/re-experiencing Nathan’s Experience Design book last night. As it is with everything, there needs to be a balance.

  2. 2

    Isn’t graphic design’s chief purpose to help convey meaning? Graphic designers in print follow rules governing the placement of titles for maximum understanding…good designs conform to statistics about how people read (when was the last time you saw an effective ad you were supposed to read from the bottom up?)…etc. How is designing for the Web different, except that alternative, and perhaps unfamiliar, rules apply? Why are the rules of print seen as unconstricting, while the rules of Web usability are seen as suffocation and death?

  3. 3

    Yes, balance is everything. As an IA, I constantly encourage the graphic designers I work with to push the envelope, to not follow my wireframes literally, yet most often they do anyway. I don’t get it. Here I am, stepping out of character and saying “inspire me,if it’s unusable, we’ll fix it together,” and I get back colored in wireframes. All I can say is that it is just as incumbant upon IAs as on designers to push design to be as creative and fresh and intriguing as it can be. If it’s boring to look at, chances are, users won’t perceive it as useful no matter how frigging usable it is in the Jakob sense of the term. Once again, it’s not about either/or, it’s about collaboration–putting the creativity of different minds and different ways of thinking together to come up with something beautiful on many levels.

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