Tuesday, November 20, 2007

There's design and then there's web design

There's an undeniable tension between web design and graphic design. Newsrooms that necessarily turn to traditional designers to help fashion websites are naturally feeling some of the pinch.

We've all encountered sites that look great and do amazing tricks, but don't really work all that well. On the other end of the spectrum there is – well, Google, for one. Somewhere in-between is the right solution for us.

A web designed named Joshua Porter examine all this in an interesting post entitled Do Canonical Web Designs Exist? Here's a taste:

The first answer would indeed be Google. Google has, for nearly ten years, provided the best search engine on the Web. It is the standard by which all other search engines are compared. In the exact same way that Massimo Vignelli’s New York subway map has affected the design of subway maps since, Google has affected the design of search engines. I know design teams that have copied the search results pages of Google almost exactly simply because it was the design that Google used.

I also know a tremendous number of web designers who look to the spartan Google homepage as inspiration that great tools don’t need complex interfaces.


  1. I'm sorry if I miss interpreted your comment, but Google as an example of function with no form? I don't think I agree. It may be a simple form, but that does not mean bad. Pleasing and to the point is often the best way for a web design.

  2. I wasn't cleare, I guess: I think Google's an almost Zen-like perfection when it comes to design, form and function.

    Obviously, an identical approach won't work for us as we attempt to display wide variety and constant updating, but I think it represents an ideal worth reach for.

  3. I continue to be a somewhat uncomfortable with "traditional" (legacy?) designers redesigning newspaper web sites.

    It's not that these folks aren't talented, oh no, and it's not that they automatically can't to web design because they came from a career in print.

    It's that they're the "second string" and we need (and I think deserve) better. Howard, you said it yourself, we "necessarily" turn to traditional designers. We don't turn to them because we want to, we do it because we have to.

    I can't help to think that this is not the time to be settling for second best.

  4. Anonymous8:54 AM

    I'll take the bait.

    Is there somewhere that "legacy" designers are getting to redesign newspaper websites? Where?

    My experience points to no designers participating in newspaper websites. The walls are up, and the results are obvious.

    Too many pages are being "designed" by marketers or by word editors given new tools to post content without regard to design or usability. Design is unnecessary, I'm hearing, unless one works at NYT. And again, the results are obvious.

    I'd say second string is better than no string. And I dare -30- to repost his comment at Visual Editors dot com, in the forums or on Facebook, where print designers are working hard to learn about the web.

    I'd love to hear more about what the following sentence means as well, although it might take a walled garden to hear the specifics:
    "Newsrooms that necessarily turn to traditional designers to help fashion websites are naturally feeling some of the pinch."

    What does that mean? Specifics? Is someone blaming print designers for newspaper websites that stink when print designers have had no hand in how those sites have been designed?

  5. I've been a victim of web-design vs. offline-design. I have many friends who are real 'artists' when we talk about CGI, canvas, and other types of graphics. But when I test them and ask them to make a simple design for a landing page, they gave me nothing to work from.
    I then had to suggest them some sites (like http://www.ecommercepartners.net) so they could know what website design means.

  6. Anonymous,

    Well of course second string is better than no string. But what string is Google? What string is Craig's List? What string are all these competitors where there once were none?

    My concern is not that the "second string" isn't good (or capable of good). My concern is whether this "second string" will be good enough.

  7. Anonymous11:43 AM

    I can think of one way to find out.

    And meanwhile, hedge your bets with some good outside hires. Interactive seems to be doing that in some places.

    You cannot win if you do not play.

  8. Anonymous12:50 PM

    You cannot win if you meander onto the field with a team that doesn't know how to play.

  9. Anonymous5:06 PM

    Creative Circle Media Consulting, which has redesigned a half dozen of our newspapers, is doing some very cutting edge web design. So I don't think it's your background that matters, just the quality of your thinking. I wish we could use them for web design (or their software) on our site. But everything comes from corporate. Our sites are dull and lack features that lots of other papers are working on. We need more freedom to try things and try other vendors or concepts or we're not going to get anywhere!