Identifying Web Design
When we understand our medium, we can create better designs. Even at this late date in history, many people do not understand web design. Among them are some of our most distinguished business and cultural leaders, as well as a few who have a deep understanding of design—except when it comes to the web.
Some people who do not understand web design have jobs creating websites or supervising web designers and developers. Others who do not understand web design are nevertheless professionally tasked with evaluating it on our behalf. Those with the least understanding make the most noise. They are the ones who are making charges, slamming doors, and throwing money—all at the wrong people and things.
If we want better sites, better work, and better-informed clients, we must first educate ourselves.
Typography, architecture, and web design are all examples of creative expression.
The problem is that, while web design incorporates elements of graphic design and illustration, it does not map to them. When comparing the web to other media, typography is a better option. A web design, like a typeface, serves as a canvas for someone else’s expression. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you which website design is similar to Helvetica.
Architecture (the kind that uses steel, glass, and stone) is also an appropriate comparison—or, at the very least, more appropriate than poster design. The architect creates planes and grids to facilitate people’s dynamic behavior. The architect relinquishes control after designing. The people who use the building bring out and add to the meaning of the architect’s design over time.
Of course, all comparisons are wacky by definition. What is television’s “London Calling”? Who is the automotive designer, Jane Austen? Madame Butterfly isn’t any less beautiful because there isn’t a car chase scene, and peanut butter isn’t any less tasty because it can’t dance.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS WEB DESIGN?
Web design is not book design, poster design, or illustration, and the pinnacles of those disciplines are not what web design aspires to. Although websites can be used to deliver games and videos, and those delivery systems can be visually appealing, such sites are examples of game design and video storytelling rather than web design. So, what exactly is web design?
Web design is the process of creating digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity, reflect or adapt to individual voices and content, and change gracefully over time while maintaining their identity.
Let me say it again, emphatically:
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 maintaining their identity.