*ideas that stick
The Fog of the Internet
Media is ubiquitous. We are bombarded with visual clutter all the time. There is a race to the bottom in design, development and deployment in all media. This phenomena is reflected on the web in the reliance on Wordpress, Weebly or other development templates developed - not designed - by coders for universal application and mass consumption - think Big Mac - and thoughtless development - cutting and pasting of plagiarized code - to present your brand. There is little connective tissue and more disjointed blather at most websites.
Good design creates a clear language that communicates.
Web development has become, like desktop publishing at the advent of QuarkExpress and Photoshop, the career for those with out a career. Or a design sensibility. Many in need of a web presence typically choose a “web developer”, a term I abhor, to generate words and images on a screen. Because coding is arcane and oblique, little more than templates and stolen code pass off for your site. All at minimum wage fees. You get what you pay for. Building a website through site builders is frustrating and counter productive. Marked by wasted time, energy, and money, striving for the ease and results that were promised. Site builders are an exercise in conforming and futility. The great tradition of graphic design has been usurped by laziness, cheapness and the ubiquity of media. Design - interactive and graphic - is an after thought, if thought of at all. There is but one criteria for choice…
Good Cheap Fast
You get two out of three. Guess which two are chosen? The answer is easy.
Cheap is always the first choice. Your web presence is your shop window to the world. Treat it like that. The web is the first place almost everyone goes to find almost everything about almost anything. Most users have itchy fingers and the attention span of a gnat. This is why a compelling, message/brand centric, intuitive User Interfacr (UI) and User Experience (UE) design is critical. And so often overlooked. Many developers share the attention span of that same gnat and possess at best, an inchoate design sensibility. And everything is designed.
You get but ONE chance to make a good FIRST impression.
Users often leave web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition hold a user's attention much longer. That is why thoughtful design is critical. Too much information creates too much stimulus leading to disjointed impressions. And one definite action. Exit. A clear value proposition is compelling, message centric pages that prompt, provoke and engage. That is why users stay on a page. Abstruse visual and interactive design stresses the user. That is why they leave. And fast! The user acts out of instinct, not cognitive process. Much like one would not walk in front of a bus or touch a downed power line, one instinctively clicks away from visual cacophony.
End users never give a site the opportunity to waste their time twice
This is the action of users. We all do it many times. Daily. It should be a mantra of front end designers. These actions do speak loud. If your site wastes the users time once, it will be forgotten and they will not be back. We make decisions on our experience. Instantly.
So much technology so much bad communication
Just like the above is not a sentence, technology is ahead of communication. The tail wags the dog. The cart before the horse...
New technology prompts a surge of new ideas, expressions, methods and in the long arc of the technology/design/communication evolution, this is good, but adhering to standards that have evolved since the Gutenberg Press is a wiser choice. Think of the explosion of fonts at the dawn of desktop publishing. Does anyone still use Remedy? Or Comic Sans? Or Tekton? A webpage is first and foremost a page, what Gutenberg and millions of others created. The page provides a context to communicate. If you want to miscommunicate, misinform or confuse, use a template permitting your brand to be defined by puzzling, muddy design and cut & paste development. Your brand will be upstaged by bells and whistles. (Think Flash 2002). All expressed by a rudderless coder whose aesthetic is informed by Facebook. It is akin to letting the ink write your story. Actually that insults the ink. If you want to make positive impressions, respect the page.
When the interactive dimension is integrated with the two native dimensions of the page - aspect ratio and content - extra care and attention is order. Interactivity introduces a new set of variables. And how is this expressed? Compelling and concise information, thoughtful graphic design and natural navigation in an ergonomic user experience. Integrated interactivity is as important to a site as margins are to a page and kerning or leading is to copy. Good design prompts users to forget the browser and experience your brand. Navigation, copy, imagery in harmony. Like turning a page. Obvious, without thought. It is said small children need constancy of shapes, colors and sounds to be able to parse and process the multitude of stimuli to their developing minds. Too much stimulus leaves a child confused and scared. They cry.
Over stimulus on a web page does not cause adults to cry, well some maybe, but simply to leave. A page informed by the calm of negative space, the visual rhythms created by the integration of the three dimensions - graphic design, content and navigation - is an oasis in the chaos of the internet. This discipline keeps attention focused on your site. Considered - intellectual and aesthetic - content piques curiosity and curiosity prompts further exploration. At your site! Why do we look at the Mona Lisa or Guernica generation after generation? Because those pieces make us think. And feel.
So how does all this apply to creating an on line presence?
If a web presence is developed by paying someone some fee to produce something to post somewhere on the web, what results is an exercise in futility, money wasted communicating nothing more than “I have a website”. Many clients come to me after that experience interested in creating a compelling shop window to the world. Then the work begins - a process of defining and understanding brand to create a user experience that communicates. And resonates. This is before a single line of code is written. This is the work, this is the struggle and it does not come cheap - not in creativity, not in design and not in fees. Once a brand is captured - a mix of intellect, psyche and emotion - then presented as an identity - the end user impression is relatively permanent. Think of the cover of “Catcher in the Rye” or the album sleeve of "Dark Side of the Moon." Thoughtful (and thoughtless) expressions make instant impressions. Which do you want?
Since the internet is the definition of narrowcasting, you have 15 seconds to engage the user. Andy Warhol said everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame. The web did not exist then. I say your site gets fifteen seconds of attention. Unless, of course, it is an idea that sticks.
And that is not plagiarized, templated or cheap.