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Why design matters

February 14, 2008 Leave a comment

This morning I was reading Jeffrey Zeldman’s article on A List Apart.  The article has a number of quotable lines, but in addition to being quotable, this is one to be remembered:

Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.

The point of the article is that web design is a different thing than other mediums, like posters or other print, or like TV, film, or games.  Web design is more analogous to a building architect, or a typeface.  It is about making an environment that lets other people’s content get communicated effectively without getting in the way.

The things I build are slightly different from the design that gets discussed much on A List Apart.  My work is mostly in applications and conveying business information.  But the basic thrust of this article still applies.  The interfaces I build need to be easy to navigate, make it very easy to find what you’re looking for, make the process of entering information as straight forward and painless as possible, and generally keep out of the way of whatever the user is really trying to accomplish.  The goal of the design isn’t the design itself, or the tool, but to effectively convey information that I don’t have any real control over, or to facilitate a business process.  The goal is the business goal, and the web is the tool rather than being the goal itself.

Then there’s this:

Madame Butterfly is not less beautiful for having no car chase sequence, peanut butter no less tasty because it cannot dance.

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Categories: design