Friday, November 23, 2007

Understanding Web Design

Getting a handle on Web Design ...

"We get better design when we understand our medium. Yet even at this late cultural hour, many people don’t understand web design. Among them can be found some of our most distinguished business and cultural leaders, including a few who possess a profound grasp of design—except as it relates to the web.

Some who don’t understand web design nevertheless have the job of creating websites or supervising web designers and developers. Others who don’t understand web design are nevertheless professionally charged with evaluating it on behalf of the rest of us. Those who understand the least make the most noise. They are the ones leading charges, slamming doors, and throwing money—at all the wrong people and things.

If we want better sites, better work, and better-informed clients, the need to educate begins with us.
Preferring real estate to architecture

It’s hard to understand web design when you don’t understand the web. And it’s hard to understand the web when those who are paid to explain it either don’t get it themselves, or are obliged for commercial reasons to suppress some of what they know, emphasizing the Barnumesque over the brilliant.

The news media too often gets it wrong. Too much internet journalism follows the money; too little covers art and ideas. Driven by editors pressured by publishers worried about vanishing advertisers, even journalists who understand the web spend most of their time writing about deals and quoting dealmakers. Many do this even when the statement they’re quoting is patently self-serving and ludicrous—like Zuckerberg’s Law.

It’s not that Zuckerberg’s not news; and it’s not that business isn’t some journalists’ beat. But focusing on business to the exclusion of all else is like reporting on real estate deals while ignoring architecture.

And one tires of the news narrative’s one-dimensionalism. In 1994, the web was weird and wild, they told us. In ‘99 it was a kingmaker; in ‘01, a bust. In ‘02, news folk discovered blogs; in ‘04, perspiring guest bloggers on CNN explained how citizen journalists were reinventing news and democracy and would determine who won that year’s presidential election. I forget how that one turned out.

When absurd predictions die ridiculous deaths, nobody resigns from the newsroom, they just throw a new line into the water—like marketers replacing a slogan that tanked. After decades of news commoditization, what’s amazing is how many good reporters there still are, and how hard many try to lay accurate information before the public. Sometimes you can almost hear it beneath the roar of the grotesque and the exceptional."    (Continued via A List Apart, Jeffrey Zeldman)    [Usability Resources]

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