"Who are we? Why are we here?"
These are questions that have vexed and taxed us for countless generations. Now, at the start of the 21st century, we have a new head-scratcher to add to the list…
"What is Web Design?"
Doubtless, this question will be tackled by the keenest philosphical minds for years to come… or maybe months to come… weeks, perhaps… a couple of days, for sure… at least five minutes.
In the meantime, however you want to define it, I’ve been doing it.
I’ve been hammering away at Photoshop for the last week trying to kick start a website redesign project by coming up with a kick-ass graphic design/user interface/call it what you will.
Normally, web projects begin with requirements gathering, figuring out what the goals of the site are, who will be using the site, etc. For this project though, all I’ve got to work with is a logo and an outline of what the company does.
There’s nothing like a challenge to inspire motivation. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as I churned out some pretty awful designs.
"Jessica!" I cried, "they’re all crap! Just look at this rubbish".
Luckily, my lovely wife patiently reminded me that this happens every time. I struggle with the design, I wrestle with it, I try out countless variations and ideas, I try taking breaks from the computer, I get a distant look in my eye when I should paying attention to other things, I struggle and wrestle some more until finally, almost in one moment, everything clicks.
She’s right. After days and days of discouraging failure I had my Archimedes-in-the-bathtub moment. I wish I could bottle that feeling.
To paraphrase Thomas Edison, Web Design is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Just for once though, it would be nice to have that one percent at the start of the process.
Of course I hadn’t reached my 99 percent perspiration quota by merely spending countless hours in Photoshop. Oh no, for real perspiration I had to turn the graphic design into a working XHTML/CSS layout.
Time to fire up my text editor of choice (BBEdit, I kiss you!). As it turned out, getting the design working in standards-compliant browsers like Safari and Firefox took a matter of moments. It was when I fired up Virtual PC and started trying to get it to work in Internet Explorer 5 on Windows that I really started riding the perspiration train.
Many hours later, after uttering a multitude of curses upon the beast from Redmond, I finally had it looking and working the same across all the major browser/platform combos.
You know I’d just love to share the results with you but the usual non-disclosure agreements apply. You’ll just have to wait until the site relaunches. That is, assuming the design won’t have changed beyond all recognition by then. I may need to keep a few pints of perspiration in reserve for the task of defending the design.
So now that I’ve shared a little insight into what I’ve been up to for the past week you may think I could make a stab at answering the question that sparked all this off:
"What is Web Design?"
Is it Graphic Design? Is it Information Design? Is it Interface Design? Is it a bowl of cherries?
Web Design is all of these and more. It’s a many-splendoured thing. If you had asked me last week, I would have said that Web Design is hell. But if you were to ask me now, I would probably say:
"Um… I dunno. Look, I’m kinda busy right now. Could you ask me another time?"