The Art of Web Design | Off Book | PBS

Uploaded by PBSoffbook on 20.09.2012

It's important to remember when designing a website what
purpose it's going to serve in people's lives. Creating a very simple easy to use,
easy to understand experience,
that's the challenge of designers.
It really comes down to
understanding that someone is a person on the other end of the thing that you make.
They're not a number.
When Tim Berners-Lee created HTML, he was writing something that would allow scientists
to share physics papers over the internet.
HTML is so simple; it's just take your content and structure it and make it accessible
to any device. It used to be that you used html to do your lay out.
That's how most designers in the nineties did their stuff. They used html table cells,
sliced and diced images and that's how they worked. But the content was all mixed up with the layout
so CSS allowed designers to separate structure of their content from the
presentation of their content.
That was a big advance
and behavior, that's controlled by javascript, that's separate again. The
next big thing that happens is the dominance of flash for several years,
because that's where they had
real control over
typography and they could do all kinds of dynamic stuff that were much harder to pull off in html.
But, flash was really good if you thought of the web as something that a
small corps of artists used
to entertain the masses.
But it turns out, they don't really want to go to the web for that.
What they want to go to the web to do is share.
Now designers realize people come here for the content.
So lets put the content first and make it accessible to any device. And
HTML five becomes stable enough that developers start paying
attention to it.
All of a sudden it's about apps, it's about applications being built with
HTML. So HTML is the cockroach that will survive a nuclear winter.
People judge web design through the
lens of print design but
the two are not that analogous. The screen is a very different medium than a page.
There are myriads of different decisions that
you can make and that's the interesting process as a designer.
I usually start with content but, beyond that, start thinking about how
someone's going to navigate and traverse all of the information that you're putting
on to these pages. So the grid is a system for layout. It's the structure
that you can apply to a canvas to help
you organize content in a systematic way.
But also the grid will allow you to structure
things in a hierarchical way so that,
through contrast, you can create importance and meaning. There are also
very important aesthetic considerations and color
is a very big one of those.
Being onscreen, we're talking about color being made with light, that being additive color.
So something that you might
like in print design, you know, a very
vibrant yellow or a very strong
black might not look that good
on screen because it could be too contrasted
or it might not be contrasted enough.
And choosing the right typeface becomes another asset on a page just like an image or video or
anything like that. When I'm considering arranging type, I have to think of
someone actually needs to read this. If something is a headline or if I want
someone to read something first, I'm going to make that stand out.
I'm going to make sure that it's either the biggest, it's the first on the page,
it's the most eye catching and that will once again then reinforce the structure
of all the other content on the page.
On the web you can always change something, you can always evolve it, you can always
try to make that experience better. Does it resonate with people and do they get
something out of it? Do they learn something? Are they moved to action?
I think all of those are goals of the art of web design.
User research is all about understanding peoples behaviors.
When you're using a website that is impossible to get through, that
is a failure of user experience because the person who created it never
took the time to understand what their target audience actually need.
An example of a company that's really getting this right is Etsy. They were
really thoughtful about the unique ways in which their target audience would want to
search for items, like being able to look for something by color or by
texture or by the age of an item. When you have a site like Facebook that has
features all over it, that's the result of having to meet so many different
segments needs. And so, don't put roadblocks up for people to overcome because the
truth is if you have a great user experience, user interface fades into the
background. For example, Craigslist. That website isn't much to look at but the
user experience that they create is so helpful to people that it doesn't really
matter what that user interface looks like. Design isn't really about the bells
and whistles. It's about serving people's needs and if the bells and whistles serve
people's needs, then great, and if they don't, they don't belong there.
The most fundamentally important thing in web design is not how the site looks, it's is the
content accessible to everyone? And it's really that thinking that allowed us to
move into mobile the way we have now
and is allowing mobile to become the new mass media. Now we don't even know the
physical context in which users are accessing our websites. They may be at home,
they may be at work, they may be sitting on the toilet,
and we have to take into account where are they are and what information they
may need at that point. In recent years, with the rise of something called
responsive web design,
people are designing one website and allowing that content to reflow and
adapt to
different screen sizes and different resolutions and that experience is more tailored to
the device that you are on.
The rise of apps has changed things considerably, too, but I feel as though
that's even more young, obviously, than web design
and it still remains to be seen what the real impact of that is.
But I feel as though the average web user has matured a lot.
Once people have that language, once they understand it, you can keep building
upon it and make
new things out of that.
Now, truly, anyone with a phone, from a protest in Egypt or anywhere, can say
something to the whole world. So that's pretty magical
and i think that's the most important change that has happened.
Involving your users
in the process of designing your website at every stage is so crucial. Now
anyone on facebook can be a mommy blogger,
so all the things that we use to need background skills to accomplish are now
accessible to everyone and I think this is great.
The bar is so low that I feel like everybody can very easily make a website and that's very empowering.