courtesy of webfx.com
Good web design is far more than a beautiful site, it’s where art meets an interactive user interface and where, in my opinion, superfluous aesthetics takes a backseat to usability and the user experience.
Ensuring that user interactions are as smooth as possible is good design — don’t ever be satisfied with art alone.
These new capabilities, however revolutionary they may seem, have changed nothing about how we should approach web design in general.
Where Design and Art Clash
Art is a problematically inclusive term; anything in the world can be called “art.” The main difference between art and design, then, is that design is simply more restrained.
Any artist can look at their work and see it as an extension of themselves, but designers don’t have that liberty.
As designers, our work has to be interactive, accessible and consistent. In this way, art goes beyond design because no one would expect someone to say that all art has to be consistent and follow a pattern. That would be absurd! What if cubists set the rules? Our art museums would be terribly dull and without variation.
This is what design is: It’s art with expectations, patterns and consistency. It’s art meeting science.
Yes, it’s limiting, and yes, UI designers have to be trained to think inside the box a little. But get over it. You are a designer, not an artist. If you want complete freedom and no friction between your creativity and your work, you are working in the wrong field.
Artists can work to their whim, eschewing standards and refuting expectations, whereas designers gobble them up and abide by their every word.
Market forces and trends influence designers far more than artists (with some notable exceptions like pop singers and freelance illustrators).
With web design, there are so many more things to take account of: your site goals, your brand, your users. These expectations shape every bit of web design, while art remains untouched.
Design and Aesthetics
Another important distinction to make is the difference between design and pure aesthetics. While all design incorporates aesthetic — and truly, everything in the world has some form of aesthetic — some designs do it better than others.
Take a look at Google’s home page:
Google has looked like this (with the exception of few small changes throughout the years) since we can all remember. And it’s designed perfectly because it fulfills the expectations of the site’s users. It looks nice without being obtrusive and obnoxious towards the user experience. Google, throughout all their websites, has mastered the difference between design and aesthetics.
Although the term “aesthetics” has broad and varying definitions, I’m using it here to refer to “eye-candy.” Superficial designs that exist for the sake of beauty. If we were to put it on a scale, I would say most art is near 100% aesthetics (which is not a bad thing, eye-candy can be meaningful too) and Google is somewhere around 5%. Your browser’s default style sheet is 0%.
So this is something designers need to keep in mind: balancing form with function. Function is at the heart of the Web. Almost everything we do online has a purpose and a meaning. We engage with web designs every day, and the good ones are usually more functional than they are beautiful.
Expectations of a Design
The most important user expectation is that design should look like design. Website design should be immediately recognizable as at least one thing: not art.
The expectations on web design layout, define user interactions on every site. We put site navigation and logos near the top of the design. We provide common site components like search features, social media integration and web forms in a predictable way.
Why? Not because this is an innate human expectation, but because design has evolved in such a way to foster and reinforce these standards.
Art and design aren’t mutually exclusive, even if there’s a clear line between the two. Beautiful sites can still be usable, and they can still surprise us without being disorienting.
But there will always be noticeable constraints in web design that are bound by things such as technology limitations, accessibility, usability, site speed, and so on. when you give us a chance to develop your website, we ensure we get over this technology limitations to ensure we offer you website that fits your need, attract visitors, user retention and conversions.
Evolving from Art to Design
The face of the Web would be interesting if the unrestrained creativity allowed in the art world was also permitted in web design. But this isn’t the case, and as designers, we’re responsible for creating great design that meet user expectations and site objectives.
Forget your newfangled CSS3, forget your jQuery for a while and get back to zero.
Here are some tips to separate your design from art:
- Balance usability and content. Although content precedes design, inaccessible content is useless.
- Always write code to a standard and follow best practices. The Web can only advance if we stick together and move forward as a whole.
- Even though the Web is full of limiting technology considerations, we can’t stop being creative. In fact, to push pass these barriers and expectations, we have to be even more imaginative than before.
- Start from scratch and keep it simple. Keep reductionism and minimalism in mind for clutter-free designs.
- And once you’ve mastered good design, keep pushing through and make it great.