Highlights from the rambling Understanding Web Design, the latest promulgation from Sir Zeldman:
…focusing on business to the exclusion of all else is like reporting on real estate deals while ignoring architecture.
Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.
Although a great site design is completely individual, it is also a great deal like other site designs that perform similar functions. The same is true of great magazine and newspaper layouts, which differ from banal magazine and newspaper layouts in a hundred subtle details. Few celebrate great magazine layouts, yet millions consciously or unconsciously appreciate them, and nobody laments that they are not posters.
The inexperienced or insufficiently thoughtful designer complains that too many websites use grids, too many sites use columns, too many sites are “boxy.” Efforts to avoid boxiness have been around since 1995; while occasionally successful, they have most often produced aesthetically wretched and needlessly unusable designs.
The experienced web designer, like the talented newspaper art director, accepts that many projects she works on will have headers and columns and footers. Her job is not to whine about emerging commonalities but to use them to create pages that are distinctive, natural, brand-appropriate, subtly memorable, and quietly but unmistakably engaging.
If she achieves all that and sweats the details, her work will be beautiful. If not everyone appreciates this beauty–if not everyone understands web design–then let us not cry for web design, but for those who cannot see.