Just A Few Minor Changes

While checking out a link a friend posted on Facebook concerning the proper spelling of things, I became aware just how awesome The Oatmeal is.  Except for the fact that everything (font, spacing, images) is just so dang big… but maybe that’s what he’s going for.

Consider this gem, an artist’s rendering of the breakdown in the Web Design process. I have witnessed similar things in my experience.  No, I’m not a designer… well, not a graphic designer, not an artist who can create a visual concept from scratch.  But I am somewhat of a ‘technical designer’, someone who can work with a graphics person to incorporate visual and usability elements into the overall design — and by design I don’t mean just the look, but the sensibility also, the flow and relative physical and logical placement of elements.

I thought I knew where things went wrong at first glance… way back when the Client tells the Designer, “just a few minor changes”.  That’s the point where the Designer’s expertise gets usurped by the Client who thinks he knows better, where the expertise of the expert takes a back seat to the whims of one who’s making decisions based on feelings.  Don’t get me wrong – feelings are important. In some cases.  But here, feelings are poison if they’re not seriously diluted with reason.

Which makes me rethink where the whole process goes wrong.  It’s actually a couple steps above, when “you both laugh at how terrible” the current web site is.  I think it’s all about pride. When we get to the end of the process here and look back, the same thing is wrong with this new site that was wrong with the old site: namely, elements are implemented by people stepping outside of their area of expertise.  This could have come about in one or both of these ways:

  • Control/Pride: the Client, in this case, the CEO, or often officers or marketing people who are not design people, fancy themselves as design people and thus make a mess of it.
  • Distrust: the Client doesn’t trust the Designer to do what he hired him to do, so the Client makes a guess as to what would be better than the Designer’s recommendations.

So, more than being just so dang funny in that “it’s so funny because it’s so true” way, it made me think of how these things can go wrong.  In designing just about anything: a house, dinner party, game plan, school curriculum, or military strategy, it pays for the responsible parties (owners, managers, leaders) to restrain themselves from stepping out of their area of expertise into that of the people to whom they’ve delegated the task.  Shelve your pride, and trust the people you put in place to do what you’ve tasked them with.  Or at least trust them to do a better job than you will yourself.

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