I understand what it means to design effectively on the Web. Like any medium for communication, there are often many ways to get the message across, but there is always a way that is most effective and efficient. Too often I am approached by a client asking, “how much to design a Web site?”, or “can you make me a Web site that looks like this?” In both these questions the focus is on cost or capabilities, but they don’t address the value or purpose the Web site is to have or serve.
First, the bigger question needs to be asked,
“What do I need to have designed in order to have a Web site that effectively communicates my message?”
The purpose of design is not to look pretty, it is to aid in communicating a message clearly. In many instances this has been lost due to a variety of reasons; subjective creativity, design tools, browser capabilities, pride (the desire to visually “wow” the client), missing identity, and/or loss of focus.
We have a rule at my office, get the content first… or at least understand what the content is going to be before diving into ANY type of production on a Web site. Knowing the content will give everyone an understanding of what the client is like, who they are working with, what is valuable to their business, what needs to be accomplished by the site, and practically what the site is going to contain. These things are essential to creating a spec for any Web site project, and developing a clear concept for what the design should be.
Don’t get caught in the revision-nightmare cycle, doing the process of elimination with the client, trying to figure what they subjectively don’t like. Instead, get the content and objectively develop a concept for the design that they will like.