Let your designers do their job

If you are lucky enough to have actual professional web designers on the payroll, please let them do their job.

Web design is one of those thankless professions that everyone feels innately qualified to participate in.  Most editors would never consider making a suggestion about code to their tech team.  These same editors don’t think twice about handing down detailed direction about colors, fonts and layout to a designer.

Design is something we consume and react to every day, so it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback.  I’ve been guilty of this myself, but I learned some things which (mostly) keep me from attempting to micromanage design.

First, I built some websites.  They sucked, even though I was a seasoned web marketer.  I found a great web designer and asked for help, and she showed me something about how much is involved in good design.  Knowing how to build a website and use some design tools doesn’t make me a designer any more than knowing arithmetic makes me a CPA.  Good design is not trivial, easy, or fast.

It’s painfully obvious when publishers or editors are allowed to micromanage the work of a professional designer, or when design changes are mandated over time without consulting with a designer.

Editors and publishers must be deeply involved in the site design process, but they should avoid getting granular about logos, colors, graphical elements, typography, layout, or anything else that a competent web designer spends every day thinking about.  Web designers are concerned not simply with making a site look good, they are focused on usability and user experience.  This is one area that sharply separates print designers from web designers.  Usability concepts between the two media are very different.

Editors know who their readers are and what they value.  The designers must get inside readers’ heads, and the editor has to show the way.  Publishers know their business, their competition, and what advertisers value.  A good designer can turn this intelligence into a standout design.  The deep thinking and clear writing needed to usefully convey this information to the designer is not easy.  However, it is crucial to an effective site launch/re-launch process.

Good web designers study deeply how people actually interact with websites. Show respect for a designer’s expertise, and you’ll get a lot more than a prettier site.  You’ll get a happy professional who strives to deliver an outstanding product.

This post was originally published on eMedia Vitals.


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