The Art of Web Design

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I recently discovered the PBS web series Off Book.  It looks at the latest in arts and talks to the artists who make it.  The episode that grabbed my attention was one about the art of web design.  It’s not only a brief look at the history of where the web’s been, but also a guide to what’s happening now.  The three artists interviewed (Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria and Whitney Hess) are folks I haven’t heard of before, but they all have impressive web design pedigrees (video at the end of this post).

As I watched, nine greats points emerged that I think are useful for both web design veterans and newbies.

1) Good websites have a purpose.

“It’s important to remember when designing a website what purpose it’s going to serve in people’s lives.”  -- Whitney Hess

2) A simple website is the goal, but it is not easy to create.

“Creating a very simple, easy to use, easy to understand experience – that’s the challenge of designers.” -- Jeffrey Zeldman

3) We build websites to serve people and fill a need in their lives.

“It really comes down to understanding that someone is a person at the other end of what you make.  They are not a number.” -- Jason Santa Maria

4) An artsy website without content to share is a failure.

“Flash was really good if you thought of the web as something that a small core of artists used to entertain the masses.  But it turns out they don’t want to go to the web for that. What they want to go to the web to do is share.  Now designers realize people come here for the content so let’s put the content first and make it accessible to any devise.” -- Jeffrey Zeldman

5) Study your website to see if it’s working and don’t be afraid to make tweaks.

“On the web, you can always change something.  You can always evolve it. You can always try to make that experience better.  Does it resonate with people and do they get something out of it?  Do they learn something? Are they moved to action?  I think all of those are goals of the art of web design.” -- Jason Santa Maria

6) You are designing for an end user and not yourself.

“When you’re using a website that is impossible to get through, that’s a failure of user experience because the person who created it never took the time to understand what their target audience actually needs.” -- Whitney Hess  

7) Good websites are not the ones with the most fancy features.

"Design isn’t really about the bells and whistles.  It’s about serving people’s needs. If the bells and whistles serve the people’s needs then great and if they don’t, they don’t belong there.” -- Whitney Hess

8) We can’t ignore how our sites look on mobile devices.

“The most fundamentally important thing in web design is not how the site looks, it’s is the content accessible to everyone.  It’s allowing mobile to become the new mass media.” -- Jeffrey Zeldman

9) People are less tolerant of bad sites because they’re more web savvy.

“I feel as though the average web user has matured a lot.”  -- Jason Santa Maria

What do you think?  Did anything from this video stand out to you?

The Art of Web Design | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

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