How Do You Like My New Web Site?

I’m glad I’m a writer and not an artist.consensus

Nobody passes around a case study to ask the entire office what they think.

I’m working with a few companies on their web sites, and I feel sorry for the artists. The customers ask me what I think of the web sites, and invariably I’ll say something like “The ‘Download Now’ button is not in the most dominant place on the page.” I know that they are expecting me to comment on the beauty of the site, but design is not about beauty. It’s about effectiveness.

Besides, I’m a writer. I don’t know about beauty. If I did, I’d be an artist.

Also invariably, it turns out that the reason they’ve used a serif italic font on the home page is that they told the artist to use that font. Invariably, they’ve passed the home page around to all of the managers of the company, and each one has had something to say. They’ve got a dozen different variations, each one just a bit worse than the previous one, until you go back to the original design, where the artist did a great job.

Why does everyone with a pair of eyes think they are qualified to judge whether a design is successful? Don’t they realize it’s a matter of training? That there is such a thing as ergonomics of how people absorb visual information? That the choice of color should correspond to the message you are conveying? No. They don’t know these things. They just show a web site to their management and ask “what do you think?” They don’t even tell the observer what message they are trying to convey. Just “what do you think?”

I always tell the customer that I have no opinion and no taste, and I can only give them feedback about the professional aspects of the design. My comments usually are greeted by something between “Oh, we hadn’t looked at it that way,” to “You are right and I think so too, but it’s too late because [important person] wants it that way.

Then why are you asking me? If it’s too late, why ask anyone? I’m in almost as bad a position as when some friend in college asked me to take a look at the poem she wrote.

Well, we asked everyone in the office, so we might as well ask you too.

Good thing, because I have a pair of eyes.

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Rebecca Rachmany

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