I recently traveled to Israel for a vacation and to visit my family. Israel as you know (or don’t) is a world leader in hi-tech innovations, research, development and start-up companies. You should read “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” to understand the significant influence Israel has on this industry.
One day during my visit I had the pleasure to take part as a guest at a college of graphic design final projects exhibition. One of the projects (the only one actually) was a web site design. I was a bit surprised to see only one project that included web design, I thought that by now web and UI/UX graphic designs will be part of any traditional graphic design school/ college departments.
The web design project was good. The overall skin design, user-interface, flow etc where pleasing and well organized. My biggest problem with this project was not the project itself but the teachers and critiques that could not but praise the website idea, technical skills and various UX effects (popups, sliders etc’). I did not hear comments about the design, typography, layouts and specifically multi-device design strategies.
This is the final exhibition at a college of visual communications and instead of focusing on the visual and the “How” (how the student got to do what he did) the focus was on the “what” he achieved or if you want the “wow”.
Must of the arguments where about what can be done with a site like this and who will use it and “I wish I had something like this years ago“… I on the other-hand would have loved to see sketches on paper, wire-frames, flow-charts, skin designs, alternative design concepts and PDA and Tablet designs. Then maybe as a bonus a working HTML mock-up.
My User-Interface Dilemma
Despite the fact that we have so many ways to show content (popups, modals, light-boxes, AJAX, XML, Flash, Java…) a few basic things must be considered before development:
- Amount of development time for UI elements
- Fall-back alternatives
- Life cycle
- Cross platform compatibility
Keeping it manageable
In order to keep a web project in budget, time-frame, life-cycle and overall “happiness” I try to keep the amount of design elements into manageable groups otherwise it’s very easy to work five times longer on something that is only a fraction of the site while having no time left to work on something that is way more important such as a photo gallery for an artist or an online gallery shop.
So, what am I trying to say?
We all like effects and cleaver user-experience but at what price? User-interface, skins, themes, layouts and all other elements that make a visual communication design work are important each one in it’s own right but we must leverage and balance between all elements to gain a successful project, one that can be managed throughout it’s life-cycle.
Keep your project simple and consistent. Use clean and standard code for both your style sheets and HTML. If you must have user-experience elements, don’t waste your time developing them from scratch (only if it’s really necessary), use jQuery or many other reliable libraries such as Code Canyon.
Another great way to develop a consistent and well manageable website is to use a well established CMS or framework such as wordpress, jumla, Drupal or services such as www.squarespace.com and www.magentocommerce.com for online commerce sites.