Saturday, April 28, 2007

Web design and music

What do music and web design have in common? I’ve noticed that many of us in the web design and development community are talented DJ, too. So I started an annotated listing as part of a new project of linking to independent musicians to help spread the word. I’m not making any promises, but that’s exactly how got started long ago.

By the way, I welcome and invite submissions, too. The best for me is to submit them via the submission form at my music site so they’ll be email filtered properly, but I appreciate them any way I get them.

You Mean interviewed me about 2-1/2 years ago asking what web design and DJ music have in common. He asked so many great questions, making it an especially fun interview. Although Brainstorms and Raves didn’t yet exist and sites have grown immensely since then, the creative aspects of design and music, my philosophy, and how I think about them is still true.

Web design solutions

The key to any successful marriage is compromise. While things may not always go the way you want them to, in the end, coming to an agreement helps you to achieve a greater good. The same holds true for user interface (UI) design. After all, what else is the user interface if not a marriage of form and function?

To effectively evaluate the cost and benefit of each web design solutions that affects the UI, you need insight across many fields, from cognitive psychology to human factors to graphic design.
Designing the UI is fundamentally an exercise in compromise—not compromise between designers and other project stakeholders (usability should never be sacrificed as a result of office politics)—but compromise between the drawbacks and benefits of design decisions. Every UI decision, from a pixel’s precise placement to the entire site’s information architecture, should be made judiciously. Careful consideration of the benefits each design decision affords and costs its users is essential. It’s the sometimes-subtle expense that many people often overlook, and every UI decision does have expense. Educated compromise across all UI decisions is essential to creating the best interface possible, and is, ironically, required if you are to avoid designing a compromised interface.

Compromise does not end with screen-level design, either. It’s threaded throughout larger issues in UI design, including supported web demographics (which browser, platform, monitor resolution, etc. the application will operate on), thin/fat/rich client architecture, development time, and cost issues. Usability still plays a large role in evaluating such compromises, but other real-world mitigating issues start to creep in. For example, if one design solution is clearly superior to another, does that justify an additional ten thousand dollars in development expenses? Is a particular piece of functionality (the good) worth the monetary cost (the bad)? Or conversely, is the budget savings (the good) worth the decrease in application usability (the bad)? Such decisions need to be evaluated as what they truly are, compromises, and acted upon accordingly.

Simply recognizing the fact that UI design is based on a foundation of compromise can go a long way in getting the project team to understand the why behind designs. Doing so will reduce the risk of derailing an optimal UI design that is inaccurately critiqued by those who only see one side of the story. By clearly showing the costs, the benefits, and the corresponding net value of your designs, you can educate others while championing your vision. After all, if we can all just compromise, we can live with the good and the bad. Just don’t give us the ugly.

Web design and hobby

When designing a website a huge part of the design is in the layout. The way your site looks, and its overall ease of use is important, especially if your site is directed towards a customer base. For the web illiterate a web template can step in and take over the grueling part of designing a website. This can save time, money, while at the same time providing your site with a look and feel that you have selected.

A web template is like paint by numbers website. It’s the layout, and the required code, without the information pertinent to your particular site. Most are simply cut and paste, fill in the blank affairs, and are generally quick and simple. They allow you to see the website in its completed form first, and give you the ability to make sure it fits your needs. It also allows you a professional looking layout without paying top dollar for a website design firm, or freelance web design professional.

Web templates are usually designed by freelance web designers, or people who look at web design as a hobby. Some templates are free, and others cost a little money, but it is still a fraction of the cost involved in having a site designed from the bottom up. There are hundreds of template sites floating around the wide world of the internet, and it can be time consuming to find the right one. The time and effort involved in looking at template after template can be worth it though, when you find that template that is all you.

So where to begin on your hunt for the perfect hassle free layout? Checking out the sites offering free templates first is the most cost effective place to start. These sites usually exist solely on advertisement revenue and offer templates for free to bring in large amounts of traffic. The contributions are generally made by private web designers, who design as a hobby, or want to get their names out into the world by offering a few designs for free. The drawback to using a free template is that the chances of your template being used hundreds of times over, by several different sites, increases exponentially. Other sites offer high quality templates for a price. The price of these templates is much lower then one would pay to have a site designed exclusively, and the chances of it being used by several hundred people is less because these templates do cost money.

Whether you choose to go with a free template or pay the price for an almost exclusive one, the bottom line here is the price. You must decide if having a generic layout, and potentially looking the same as another site is worth not paying top dollar for a web design firm to design something uniquely yours. You must consider your individual needs, the needs of your audience, and the message you want to convey before selecting which route to take.

Way design

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