Web Designers and Typography

This is a rant.

Design is a mis-used word today, and leads to much confusion in the Web industry today. I consider myself a “Web Developer”, because I’m a developer. But people categorise me as a Web Designer. Yes, I design things, but I don’t do asthetics as well as I do functionality.

According to Web Design From Scratch, Design is a spectrum. Something that is well designed will be an appropriate balance between Asthetic design and Functional design. Designing the Asthetics is the art of creating something visually conveys an emotion or brand. Designing the Function is the art of making something useful.

Even though I’m a programmer and focus on the functional end of the spectrum of design, I rely on the so-called “Web Designer” (who is in charge of asthetics) to make the application look good, and every time in my life I have been sorely disappointed.

Why is this? Web Asthetic Designers too often focus on the “wrapping of the content”; That is to say all they do is the graphics that surround a body of text. They might stipulate a font, colour and point size for the text, but that’ll be it.

What about Bullet points? Blockquotes? Sub-headings? The asthetic design of web forms? Text-boxes? Buttons? Photo positioning and balance? Captions? Source Attribution? Even simple things like link colours are sometimes forgotten.

Too many times I have recieved a “letterhead” — a webpage design that is essentially a blank piece of paper save for an asthetically pleasing header and navigation. Don’t get me wrong, I need someone to do that part, but I also need someone to tell me how to fill that blank space in a manner that doesn’t clash with the template.

As a programmer who appreciates asthetically-pleasing, yet gloriously-functional-design, but as someone who is less capable to create the asthetics (but doing his best), I would appreciate a web designer who can provide a great site presentation and provide a style guideline for laying out content within the template they provide. Is that too much to ask?

People say you can tell when a programmer has designed a webpage because it doesn’t look pretty. One web agency I worked for it would call it “Programmer Art”. But I can tell when a designer has half-designed a webpage, because the programmer’s user interface is clashing with the design of the site.

Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten that Programmers also have a responsibility to make their applications user friendly. But that’s a whole different rant.

7 thoughts on “Web Designers and Typography

  1. I think it’s changing a lot as more as the whole ‘web design’ thing matures as a craft. And it is a craft, as much as art or science. Coming to the web from a technical background does leave a lot of developers short on the design side, like me. But I think that if you have a good visual designer to work with it can be a lot better. You do have to work with them though: it can’t just be designers cutting a template and throwing it over the fence to the web team. The web developers need to be involved from the start.

  2. Kodiak

    Yes its all about communication (for once). And its imperative that the dev and designer work closely over the whole width of the design of the main functions and parts of the site.

  3. the functionality and presentation depend on the topic of one website and those are included in web developing. a web developer knows and develops what the importance of one website is, whilst a web designer only creates the design, which has to be important and specific according to the web developer’s view.

  4. rumpel

    I just wanted to tell you that web designers are not programmers.
    Although I think you do know that, I coudn’t resist posting this comment.

    While a designer uses script languages, a programmer does it by using programming languages like C and so on.

    But I’m pretty sure there is a compiler for PHP out there… but people who designs web pages by using HTML, XML, Java script or even PHP are definitively no programmers.

  5. Yes, Web Designers aren’t Programmers. That’s why we have Web Developers.

    This is what the problem is:

    Because most people who call themselves “Web Designers” don’t have the skills to collaborate well with Web Developers on the total design (the scale of Asthetics vs Function), they create crappy designs that are missing half of what should be there, leaving the “Programmers” to do their “Programmer Art”, creating a half-asthetically designed, non-user-friendly application.

    Most of the Web Designers in our industry should be called “Web Asthetics Designers”.

    . . .

    I recently discovered a webcomic called OK/Cancel, which portrays the life of a Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) worker and the problems he faces day to day. I tell you, this is what we needed — an HCI Dilbert.

  6. thats interesting Brett.

  7. Jacqui Robinson

    Hi Brett,
    This is probably out of your area, but need help to find someone who can do me a mindblowing site on my space. I want it to be out of this world & really classy, can you help advise who I can use

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