Design Is Definitely Not More Important Than Function

I’ve been in the publishing business for years. And during this time I’ve developed many opinions about the often-uneasy balance between quality content and design. Mainly, though, I have decided that the information needs to be presented in an attractive package. That’s where things can get problematic. For, you see, beauty is often in the hands of the designer. And that means that behind many a pretty scene, there may just be some tension in actually creating it.

Many a time I’ve witnessed an impetuous and imperious editor pushing some great new idea as deadline nears. While the merit of the brainchild might be subject to debate, actually carrying it out can be even more difficult. And often that’s due to the design. Sometimes things look great, but there’s a lot of time invested in creating that appearance. So, unfortunately, re-doing it in an efficient manner can be elusive.

Essentially, problems are more likely to occur when there’s more focus on the design than the actual usability and production. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a printer complain about how designers give little consideration to the plight of the pressmen. This is clearly a conundrum, because the ultimate desires of the designer are more difficult to be achieved in large part because of what is required to meet lofty objectives. Make it easier on the printer, and there’s much better chance that it will turn out nicely.

And yes, we see this regularly online, too. There are plenty of sites which become poor portfolio pieces for overindulgent designers. With so many bells and whistles, it’s only natural we see too much flash and background color and whatever else. It may be cool and look okay, but it doesn’t necessarily make the user experience better, and may well distract from the actual consumption of the site content.

That said, there is an obvious benefit of the web in comparison to a printed piece… it isn’t permanent. Online we can continually adjust as necessary. Each day we can fix not only typos and links, but also the look of the site. Even further, there are tools to help establish what is and isn’t working, including tracking hits and interactivity. And WordPress (and quite possibly others) is amazing in that it allows you to fine-tune the design to meet our objectives.

So yes, there will be myriad publications and websites subject to the varying opinions of those who read and frequent them. We still need to harness our penchant for clever design and give full consideration to the user experience.


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