Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is Web Design?

Don't ask me, I'm not an expert. But I do read Jeffrey Zeldman's blog, A List Apart, and I recommend his post entitled "Understanding Web Design." Zeldman asserts that many, including those who design web sites, don't understand web design.

According to Zeldman,
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.

Zeldman's answer feels right to me. From the beginning, I've subscribed to the idea that web design is a professional activity. So, while drafting this post, I googled "how to choose a web design" and found Dave Taylor's How to Pick a Web Designer. My favorite part of what Dave wrote?

Before we go further, let's clarify some of the reasons I think you might not want to consider creating a web site yourself. The greatest reason is the same one that causes you to use a mechanic to fix the pinging in your car engine, a plumber to redo the kitchen faucet and a tailor to shorten your pants: experts do a better job than amateurs. This is a universal truth that the 'do it yourself' industry would rather we ignored, and, of course, there are some pretty darn talented amateurs, but the reality of life is that people who focus on a specific area can learn more about it, gain more experience, and produce better end-results than a weekend amateur or someone who buys the Time-Life home improvement books.

As W&M moves toward a decision about the new design ("the look and feel") for our home page, I know that there will be increased interest in the re.web project. Here are a couple of reasons why I'm confident we'll make the right decision:

  1. We'll be choosing from a set of carefully crafted concepts that are professionally designed.

  2. Our choice about which design to use will be influenced by data. We plan to ask hundreds of current high school juniors and all of our early decision admits what they think about several design options. We'll continue to confirm our design decisions with impressions from alumni, faculty, staff, and current students.

Stay tuned.

posted by Susan Evans


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Anonymous said...

I like the basic template for design 2 the best -- I really like the header and the navigation menu in tabs at the top. I like #1 for color and layout, but I hate the image of Jefferson's head -- he looks like a burn victim -- and I hate the navigation menu through the middle of the header image. Make that image shorter (about half its current size) and move the navigation menu to the top. I like the "About W&M" layout & color scheme the best for design #1, but I hate having the navigation menu cutting the image in half. I like the WM logo and Name on Design #2 the best -- I hate #3 -- I don't like the orange on 2nd page and I don't like the big blocks of images on home page. I'd vote for a composite of #1 (colors and layout) and #2 (nav menu, logos and name header).
I like the calmer background colors -- it makes the content more important. I don't like so many photos that it looks like a bunch of advertisements - putting the photos inside a border that matches the site (design #2, About WM page) makes the image feel like part of the site instead of an add-on advertisement (design #1, About WM page- Impact image; design #3, Undergrad Admin, Student blogs)
I don't like the way the Student Blogs overlaps the header image -- it should either be a full right column or in line with the main content...

Just my opinion, but I'm pretty sure I'm right about this...