As a designer I am sure you come up with some really great ideas to implement on your website. However, either you or someone else will chime in on how that specific idea is not usable or does not follow standards. A lot of times you may be hesitant to go with a certain design because you fear the backlash of the community, which some people really do fear, for example if you launched a new site using tables.
Designers should design sites that they are comfortable with calling their own, yet also follow the guidelines that their clients have set for them. However, there are design issues that sometimes clash between the two parties and a lot of the time I have seen that it is the designer who has to make the sacrifices.
Designers are egotistical creatures and they should be. You put all your effort into creating something and to have someone come in and tell you that it won’t work can be traumatizing. What is worse is when the client doesn’t trust your decisions and decides to add her own little tweaks to the design. As a designer what do you do? “The customer is always right.” Well that works when you just want the money.
Everyone has bills they must pay, but they also have happy lives that they must live. Designers who are passionate about their craft care about the work they put out. If they make a design decision then they do so because they firmly believe in it. Convincing a client about your decision seems a lot easier than having to convince other designers on a team who share different beliefs.
I know there are some out there who will tell me that they just do what the client asks of them because they just need the money and have responsibilities to attend to. That’s cool, just don’t take this entry too seriously then.
Designers transform ideas into visual elements. Clients should hire you because they have an idea and you are the designer who gives that idea a visual identity. When clients begin to try to takeover the design and its visual identity then that shows a lack of trust in the designer. It’s no fun working for someone who doesn’t trust you to do a job they paid you to do.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it is okay to challenge a decision, but at the very least the client should be open to hearing why the decision was made and understand as the designer you bring in your knowledge from the field.
Battlefields and Gurus
Forgetting clients now we move onto the experts in other fields. You have the Usability experts, the IA experts, and the Design experts. When working separately and sticking to their field they are marvels and benefit everyone. Its when they attemtp to force their ideals upon other fields or make their field seem more important than the rest the trouble begins.
Jakob Nielsen (does anybody talk about him anymore…hell is he alive?) was good when he stuck with usability. Then he just got silly and started to place usability above design. I have heard usability people tell me that usability is important and not necessarily the look of a site, but I have yet to have a designer tell me that a non-working, beautiful site is acceptable. IA people draw up the wireframes and then like to get involved in the aesthetics of the site. It makes you wonder why there are separate fields when everyone seems to be interested in everyone else’s field.
For some reason it seems the designer is the one that has to make all the sacrifices and not the usability guy. I admit that a lot of the IAs I have met are good at offering an opinion on aesthetics without trying to force their opinion down your throat.
You know that a website is collection of parts. It has usability elements, IA elements, design elements, and coding elements underneath. All these elements work together so why can’t the people who build the sites learn to work together?
On personal sites you get to play the everyman role. You have to be the expert of all the elements that form to make your site. Over time you understand what sacrifices you had to make due to the way your site evolved. You listen to other’s opinions and some you keep and others you throwaway. When I critique a personal site I do so without knowing the thought process of the designer. I let them explain why they did what they did and everything makes more sense. You can see why one element had to take precedence over another.
With the rise of the CSS galleries it seems not even our own playgrounds can be used for our enjoyment without a horde of designers turning the design inside out. I wonder if some designers have a secret place that no one knows about. Hopefully you don’t have to make sacrifices that effect your satisifaction with the end design.