The purpose of design…

...is to facilitate communication between user and content

Designing for the web means designing sympathetically with the way people actually use the web, not how we think they should. This section looks at the discipline of web design, how to approach design as a job, and introduces some mental techniques for increasing enjoyment and success.

People approach web sites in very different ways to how we design them

  • They skim pages for clues, instead of reading
  • They make snap decisions, instead of evaluating and judging carefully
  • They might not even be looking at the complete picture
  • They are driven by their goals, not ours

Designers need special skills to succeed in this environment

  • We must gain the best possible insight into our users' goals, so that we can help achieve them.
  • We must get clear on our design's purpose, and have the mental discipline to stick to it
  • We must pursue simplicity ruthlessly - if an element adds complexity but not value, it must be changed
To start learning ways of designing for real users, we can gain insights into what the brain is good at. This provides a useful foundation for developing and evaluating design techniques. Fortunately, the mass experience of digital design is at our disposal, and provides us with patterns and conventions that are proven to work.

Contents

Web Design Process Overview
Read this first - my complete no-nonsense step-by-step guide to designing web sites
Attention Map
Pencil & paper tool for planning page layout
Design like no-one's watching
Designers need to learn to look at their work through fresh eyes
The Design Spectrum
A visual tool for picturing the relative aesthetic and functional elements of a design solution
Don't Decorate, Communicate!
Concentrate on the content of the message you're communicating, which is far more important than how it looks
Golden Rule of web design
My golden rule - a simple touchstone to help all design decisions
Pursuit of the Original
The value of laziness in design, and why the pursuit of the original can be detrimental to design success
Simplicity in web design
Explains why the principle of Simplicity is so helpful in web design
Think Then Do
A discipline for visual designers that minimises fiddling
Work smart, not clever
Why designers should practice working smart instead of being clever.
10 Productivity tips
My top 10 tips for working more productively