It’s 2010, so why are we designing sites like it’s 1999

Having a process is a nice thing. It helps you to understand what you typically need to do and when it needs done. Someone once explained to me that a process is like a woman’s dress. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting. I agree, not too much and not to little. What I find all too often is that interactive, when ran by outsiders (you know who you are), always looks to sell a design first while ignoring the majority of the work they should have done to get to that design. I guess who needs a process when you just can just wing it. As long as no one looks at the reporting, we can all do whatever we want, right?

I say it’s designing like it’s 1999, but now that I think about it, we had a process at StudioPointe.com in 1999 thanks to Patrick Garrett. Maybe, it’s just the path of intellectually lazy people who don’t care if their work actually solves a business problem. They complain that the clients want to see pictures, but then that’s what they give them whether or not they asked for it. It’s like complaining your kids are fat as you pack chocolate milk and candy bars in their lunch.

I’ve read it a million times, start with a problem you want to solve. Then define strategies that solve the problem. Next, tactics that support the strategy. Simple. Online we deal with site, content, and technology strategies. These are expressed through information architecture, interaction design, usability design, information design, navigation design, and brand standards. Once you understand all that, THEN you design an interface. And yes, I understand that in the case of a competitive RFP response, you need to show creative, but you should develop the thinking behind it too. I promise if you can justify every pixel of your design and someone else can’t, you will have something that will be more successful as both a pitch for new business and as a Web site.

If you were designing a print piece, you wouldn’t begin to think it was okay to show creative before developing the concept. Interactive content is like the concept in the advertising industry. A site’s content and features are “the big idea.” No concept, no creative. Assuming you can have an interface without the content or idea is seriously narrow minded and insulting to anyone who has ever produced a good Web site that people have adopted. If you somehow got a job at Yahoo! or Google and said hey, we’re gonna design this site but we don’t know what the content is or the scope or who the audience is, you’d be fired, on the spot, that day.

The shame of it is we just did this for AB it got us nowhere. The entire conversation focused on information architecture and content strategy. Then we got grilled over having no user center design research. At least we had our pretty pictures to take home and hang up on the fridge.

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