I was a print designer before I was a web designer. Most graphic designers believe that the internet is just another medium - they look at website and can appreciate the colour, layout and graphics of a good site. Therefore when a client briefs them to design a website, they don't hesitate to take on the challenges of this new and exciting medium.
I feel strongly that web design is far trickier than print. Most creatives appreciate that radio and TV are specialist areas. Like Television, web is 3-dimensional - this third dimension is time/movement. Most artists hope that this third dimension can be added later, during development. The result is a website that behaves like a linear PowerPoint presentation and graphics with the energy of a Duracell bunny.
But the web has a 4th dimension not found in any other medium - interactivity.
The internet is the first communication medium since the telephone where the audience can influence the message being communicated.
Web designers need to take into account greater functional requirements than any other communication medium. Websites are not only multidimensional but multi-spatial. By multi-spatial, I mean a web page needs to be designed and conceptualised to present data (including text and graphic data) dynamically in a way that responds to user interaction.
Many advertising agencies dismissing web design as a version of print. CYMK issues are a mere paint splatter in comparison to the bucket loads of canvas planning needed to design dynamic web pages. At least a print designer can expect to know the size, ink and paper stock of a magazine! He can define the fonts, exact colour and dimensions of his advertisement. Web designers must learn the idiosyncrasies of a dozen operating systems, browser versions, screen resolutions.
A contemporary web page is an evolving beast that is able to feed itself with multiple forms of data. Optimising download times are part and parcel of what makes a ‘good’ web design ‘great’.
Good webdesign is not about a big budget
Having now worked on a number of corporate projects, I have come to realise why many big-clout companies have substandard websites. There are too many people consulted in the approval process. The final design has been put together by many over-enthusiastic hands.
These strange looking websites are often the result of a pressurised timing plan and a company-wide conveyor belt of feedback with contradictory requirements and suggestions. It is surprising that they finish a communications project at all, never mind create a site that is informative and elegantly intuitive.
In some cases a lack of budget leads to in-house staff taking over content creation. Wile this is very cost-effective option the result can be less than professional. A good design is spoiled with poor spelling and grammar, strange fonts, pink text and the occasional cute teddy bear.
Web design is about audience needs, not client needs
The long walk to a sign-off is hampered by the fact that a designer’s critics most often are people who have little experience analysing colour composition,effective texture andGestaltian balance. Many senior executives don't have time to explore the internet, and are unsure if the entire medium has value. Most send email from a 3 inch Blackberry screen, and use computers only for spreadsheets and presentations. None of this leads to educated, informed decisions.
Non-designers (and even designers in many cases) let their personal preferences rule supreme. It is difficult to impress a dozen individuals - who rarely fall into the target audience demographic - with one design.
As a designer, your best case scenario is to have direct contact with a small number of decision makers who have a real interest in the success of the company. No matter what their own personal area of skill, good leaders are able to describe their companies products and clients. They are usual open and will to learn what works and why, and to appreciate the logic that lies behind a good design.