People tend to appreciate things by their appearance. Overcrowded flash websites or minimalistic hidden menus – it’s all about the hype of the day and the needs of the users. Or at least what we consider their needs are. Sometimes web design gets lost in the visuals and the original purpose of the web site is being pushed into the background by pretty animated pictures.
So it’s very important not to forget that in web design “web” comes first and “design” follows. Web sites are not just a couple of damn good artistic layouts, they are built for a reason, so they must be designed in a manner to serve this reason in the best possible way.
Of course I’m far from bringing in a manifesto for a web without pics, although I definitely stand for banning the flash.
The good design is crucial for drawing the users’ attention. But it should not distract them from their initial intention, or even worse – make them wander while searching throughout the site for what they needed in the first place – such a walk won’t last long.
On the other hand the extreme simplicity can give you much trouble. If you have several stylish “Kandinsky squares” on your site, while all the important features are out of reach, hidden somewhere in abundant site menus, they will be of little use for your exquisite visitors.
It’s easy to recognize when things have gone wrong in an application or a site. Unfortunately it’s not that simple to make things perfect. One could never guess what the preferences of all users will be – the rationality and emotionality are in different proportions in each person – some will like this http://www.alistapart.com/, others will go for that: http://waterlife.nfb.ca/ (it will take some time to browse all the elements). It depends on what you’re looking for. Fun, recreation, knowledge or service – not getting it on time can be frustrating even if there is a sweet melody playing and some terrific animation spinning around. Well, I’m in the park right now, using the municipal wi fi and I’m really doing my best to understand what is this orchestra and floating squares all about. Well, I gave it up. You’ve got my point.
It’s good to have smashing layouts, but it’s better to have the right design which will suit your website’s goals.
Remember when I mentioned how hard it is to blend the perfect mixture of emotional perceptions and rationality? In fact I found my own way for mixing both drinks – I always use the reason as a finger to point me what is the best solution. Every piece of the design should have a meaning and stand on the web page for a reason. Every image should have a story to tell. As long as I can explain the purpose and designation of each element on the site, I can tell for certain that the designer has done a great job.
Though designers want their full control over the creation process and the tools they use, it’s the project manager’s job to ask for reasonable and functional layouts.
Everybody should be left alone to do what they are best at, that including the manager who’s got the power to explain the concept to the designer and to bring together art and functionality in building an almost perfect, yet beautifully functioning web site.