Home  › Marketing › Strategies

What Is Design?

  |  March 29, 2001   |  Comments

Has design gone wrong on the Web? Young designers believe the hype that style is all that matters. Gerry believes Web design should be centered around content. Some call it information architecture.

If you designed a door with a doorknob two inches off the floor, you would soon find out your design would not work. If you designed a car with a steering wheel in the back seat, you would soon find out your design would not work. If you designed a chair with a seat made of brittle glass, you would soon find out your design would not work.

This is a critical problem with design on the Internet. We don't get that overwhelming feedback that we get from watching someone trying to use an item we have designed. This results in a situation where flaws that would become immediately obvious in a physical design often go unnoticed in an online design. (Of course, the person who's trying to use that Web site notices them!)

But what is design? Design is about creating something with a purpose. A door is first and foremost something that allows you in and out of something. A car is something you drive that helps you get from one place to another. A chair is something made for you to sit on.

Has Design Gone Wrong on the Web?

The problem with Web design is well articulated by Jeffrey Zeldman in an article for Adobe. He warns about how style is becoming a fetish on the Web. "Many young Web designers -- and let's face it, most Web designers are under 30 -- view their craft the way I used to view pop culture," he writes. "It's cool, or it's crap."

Design has gone wrong on the Web, where young designers believe the hype -- that style is all that matters in design. But that's not the way design works.

Nike may now stress marketing and stylish design. However, Nike has been in the business of designing running shoes since 1964. Long before Nike embraced style, it embraced solid, functional design.

Benetton is a style champion, sure. However, Benetton has been knitting jumpers since the early sixties. Long before Benetton advertised, it made clothes that didn't fall apart the third time you wore them.

Web Design and Information Architecture

A product can function without a distinctive style. It cannot function without a good design. On the Web, the obsession with visual style is actually damaging design. Young, inexperienced designers are missing the point of Web design. They need to learn the true craft of Web design, not some surface sheen.

Nike and Benetton had initial success because they were masters of their craft. The craft of Web design is not visual, graphic-oriented design. Rather, it is design that is centered around content. Some are calling it information architecture.

Information architecture is about helping your readers quickly find the content they want. To achieve this, Web designers need to:

  • Create simple paths through large quantities of content.

  • Create Web pages that are fast to download.

  • Translate business strategy into classifications/links that customers understand and can intuitively navigate through.

  • Understand how people read on the Web and how they like to navigate.

  • Create search processes that deliver accurate, descriptive results.

  • Relentlessly focus on the function of the Web site.

  • Actively seek feedback from the people who read the Web site with the objective of constant improvement.

  • Recognize that in a text-based content environment, the style resides in the content itself, not the graphics that surround the content.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!*
*Early Bird Rates expire April 17.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerry McGovern Gerry McGovern is a Web consultant and author. His most recent books are Content Critical and The Web Content Style Guide, published by Financial Times Prentice Hall.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...