The Value of Graphic Design
Gerry McGovern writes of how graphic design plays a minor role on the web. Whether we choose to believe it or not, design is extremely important when it comes to web design. It communicates and it facilitates.
“Nobody would ever be allowed design road sign navigation that moved. However, when you design moving web navigation you win design awards. Why are so many graphic design experts still clueless about the Web after all these years?”
Moving navigation can be quite effective in making the site easier to use. For example, having the navigation grow in size as you get closer makes it easier to hit. Fitts’ Law comes in to play here as larger items shorten the time required for a user to acquire the target.
And comparing web navigation to road sign navigation isn’t really fair. They serve two different purposes. Road signs, for example, aren’t interactive. You don’t click on a road sign to determine where you want to go. Now, a door is interactive. You push it to say that you want to go inside. Imagine if the door moved for you as you got close to it.
A site can be overly graphic and still be unusable just as a site can be plain and unusable. That is why it is important to understand the objective of the site. What is the content? What is the audience? What is the message?
The Purpose of Design
Design is meant to be used as a facilitator. You use design to assist the user in the task they are attempting to accomplish. If they need to find information, you’ll likely utilize tools such as navigation or search functionality to accomplish this. Things like layout and typography allow you to highlight information that is more important or to minimize things that may be less important.
Often times, “designers” forget that they are supposed to be making things easier. A common example of this is removing underlines on hyperlinks. They’ll argue that it doesn’t look as nice but they don’t replace one visual cue with another, leaving links next to impossible to find on a page.
It may not seem obvious but design adds credibility. Some people sometimes don’t get as it is so subliminal. As a result, they underestimate the value of design. Think of the products you buy or the stores that you shop at. Have you ever hesitated on a purchase because of the way it looked?
It’s not just the technical skills required to build a web page but the knowledge of what works and doesn’t work for users. Admittedly, this was likely the true point of McGovern’s article but it’s important to highlight that what works for one situation (E.g.: content-driven sites) doesn’t always apply to other situations (E.g.: brand campaign).
The best design exists when you don’t even realize it’s there. That might explain why Google or Skype are rarely cited as examples of exemplary design.