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Designing for Web: Making the Internet Pretty and Functional
When you're in design school, they teach you how to solve problems. Your main goal is not to make something pretty (although I do like it when things look pretty), it's about making your design work for the product. Now, we could go down a rabbit hole and talk about all the different ways this idea applies to every aspect of graphic design. Instead, we're going to talk specifically about web design, and how it's unique in the design world because of two things:
1: Web design requires the mixing of both a math brain and a creative brain to be successful.
2: Web design is interactive and constantly changing.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with one of our talented engineers at Red Nova Labs, Eric. We were creating a fairly simple interface within a website, but it took quite a bit of communication between the two of us to get it completed. Eric built the interface first, and then I styled it. In the short amount of time we worked together I learned that engineers and designers process much differently. For example, Eric is very straightforward in his thinking, whereas I tend to be a little outside of the box in my processing. We always arrived at a good solution, but it took plenty of communication to get us there.
Designing for web is a little more complicated than print because you're constantly changing out content, designing for multiple types of browsers and platforms, and people interact with your design in a much different way than they would with print. Those first two are pretty easy to work around, but the interaction is always shifting. For example, smart phones and tablets have really affected how we design websites. Have you noticed less Flash in your websites recently? It's almost prehistoric these days. You can thank the iPhone for that.
As a designer, I have to imagine how someone would interact with a web site, instead of just designing something that's visually appealing. Have you ever been frustrated with an update on Facebook? Let's be honest, some updates are better than others. Facebook is a great example of why choosing aesthetic and creativity over functionality is a big mistake. In fairness to Facebook, they've noticed this mistake in the past, and made some improvements on their design. Another popular social media website, Pinterest, also recently had an update. In my opinion, it's a great update. It didn't completely change how I interact with the site, and it made some small improvements to the overall look that are very clean.
These are a few simple ideals that I apply to my design. Not only should my design be engaging through visual appeal, it should make sense. Otherwise, it might be flashy and pretty, but it fails because the user couldn't engage with it successfully.