The ingredients of web design


Contemporary influences on design made in 2003….

Relationships between key elements

Design Process is the term used to encompass the critically important areas of Information and Interaction design that occurs in designing websites and other digital media. Our customer, the user, interacts with the page and should be informed in the most logical and accessible way. Information design is about how the information we present is ordered and how we structure that online. Interaction design deals with how users engage with what they see and how they work with a site to fulfil a specific task.

Attached to this major influence are the two disciplines of website Usability and Accessibility. These two factors shape much of what we produce as web designers. If a site cannot be used easily it instantly fails; users will be lost and profitability is affected. Therefore, the elements related to usability are Search Engine Optimisation to enable users to find the site easily, browser usage so we can design to popular types of browser and usability testing with user groups to ensure that the site is usable in a real world context. Site traffic statistics enable us to see what works with our users – what is a success and what can generate profit. The W3C gives us an idea of best practice so we can follow guidelines that are accepted globally as good web design practice. These thoughts are also backed up by the writings of experts such as Jakob Nielsen.

Semantics, the study of linguistic meaning, is an important element for the user to be able to identify areas of personal importance. Personalisation is a term used for websites specifically built for each individual user by utilising specific technology such as RSS. This allows users to tailor the content of a site to their specification. A Wiki is a site that is constantly evolving due to user’s inputs.

Accessibility is not only about users being able to access the page through their browser but also enabling those with visual impairments to see the site through screen readers or large font faces on the page. This is a now a part of Government Legislation as sites offering a public service must not exclude users with disabilities. Users with colour blindness must also be catered for in terms of high contrast page or logo designs.

Design delivery is the method in which we deliver content to our end user. Faster connections and improved hardware performance has enabled us to deliver broadcast quality content, through Web TV and Podcasting. We are able to offer a richer array of media for our user base. This is coupled with more traditional e marketing such as banners and emails. Email has also allowed the spread of the viral campaign. This enables us to give marketing and sales new ways of capturing leads.

This improved state of technology, typified by Wireless Connectivity, provides improved conditions for Profitability. This is the final core influence on the design practice. All our design has to be executed in the most cost-effective way possible. The company is publicly owned, and we operate in an atmosphere of profit and loss; therefore all designs must have a genuine ROI. Experimental work cannot be done unless profit is guaranteed. With the strong link to design delivery, cost invariably has the biggest influence on the type of design we offer our client. Aside from the five core influences there are also four other important areas on the sociological/cultural part of the map. The first is Market Research, which is the use of demographics and proprietary documents to formulate an exact plan for executing a campaign or designing a particular type of site. Without research we would not be sure of what we produced would even be needed by a user group. The connection to Usability is obvious but there is also a connection to Brand Identity. Through research the user’s opinion of the brand is brought to light and this is taken through to experience design, the art of lending a tone to the interaction users experience online.

Design Trends are extremely important in online design especially games design because of the GUI (graphical user interfaces) seen in this area. Film, art, movies and most contemporary visual stimuli feature as an influence but from my personal perspective their influence is transient, forever shifting and never permanent in terms of longevity. However, animation does have a greater influence on the web, its use in advertising is seen daily with more users having faster connections. Technology itself is an influence and the hardware stated above does have an impact on our lives.

Market forces and Established Online Companies have a tremendous influence over our websites due to successful business models and applied learning that major companies have demonstrated. Google’s user interface is held up as an example of how a good search model should work. Whilst Amazon is known as the best online buying model, knowing its customers down to their taste in music and film. The cost–shift to users is also an important notion, reducing companies operating costs by centralising logistics operations and having virtual stores. By enabling users to order online, stores such as Waitrose have helped reduce pollution by saving customer’s car journeys. The increase in those working from home also has had the same results. The thought that the internet is eco-friendly has to be balanced with the fact that it does use electricity.

Corporate Responsibility influences design. By having a strong ethical stance concerning Accessibility, for example, the company will enforce a proactive measure to enforce this within our designs. In turn the shareholders feel drawn to companies that care about the environment, who operate in a sustainable way and are aware of social issues. They are more likely to invest in a company with a CSR program. (Alistair Darling London Radio 27/11/05) This is linked to profitability, which links to the five core areas within my design practice.

Bibliography

Pod castingApple Digital Exchange, URL:http://edmarketing.apple.com/adcinstitute/wp-content/Missouri_Podcasting_White_Paper.pdf [14th November]
Web TVICIS Chemical News, URL:http://www.icis.com/tv/tv.aspx [30th September]
Interaction DesignThe Design Council, URL:http://www.designcouncil.info/webdav/harmonise?Page/@id=6043&Session/@id=D_ny3Ag7Lm5V68IIcchL39&Section/@id=1305 [21st November]
Interaction DesignThe Design Council, URL:http://www.designcouncil.info/webdav/harmonise?Page/@id=6043&Session/@id=D_ny3Ag7Lm5V68IIcchL39&Section/@id=1345%5B21st November]
Useit.comJakob Nielsen Usability expert, URL:http://www.useit.com/ [30th November]
World Wide Web ConsortiumW3C website – international web standards, URL:http://www.w3.org/ [10th September]
Web Semantics JournalWhite paper discussion forum, URL:http://www.websemanticsjournal.org/ps/pub/showDoc.Fulltext/document.pdf?lang=en&doc=2004-5&format=pdf&compression=%5B16th November]
Web Design Blog/Forum A List Apart, URL:http://www.alistapart.com/ [18th September]
Experience DesignThe Design Council, URL:http://www.designcouncil.info/webdav/harmonise?Page/@id=6043&Session/@id=D_ny3Ag7Lm5V68IIcchL39&Section/@id=1551%5B24th September]
Proprietary Research DocumentsZDNet, URL: whitepapers.zdnet.com/ [11th November]
Apple G5Article on the dawn of a new age for computer users, URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3613790.stm [24th November]
iPodArticle on the explosion of the iPod phenomenon, URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4332680.stm [10th October]
Mobile PhonesArticle about the increased sales worldwide of mobile phones, URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4459278.stm [24th November]
BlackberryArticle on the Blackberry mobile email device and its rise in popularity, URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4529153.stm [10th October]
PersonalisationWhite paper about the possible information structure for a personalised site, URL:http://argus-acia.com/white_papers/personalization.pdf [29th November]
RSSReally Simple Syndication explained, URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/help/rss/ [30th November]
WikiExplanation of the meaning from Wikipedia.com, URL:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki [30th November]
Colour BlindnessTool for designers to check for colour deficiency in their users, URL:http://colorlab.wickline.org/colorblind/colorlab/ [25th November]
Inclusive DesignThe Design Council white paper, URL:http://www.designcouncil.info/webdav/harmonise?Page/@id=6043&Session/@id=D_ny3Ag7Lm5V68IIcchL39&Section/@id=1286 [25th November]
Browser UsageStatistics showing latest figures of usage online, URL:http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp [19th September]
Search Engine OptimisationWhite paper on marketing of website through search engines, URL:http://www.weboptimiser.com/resources/Searchisbrand280605.pdf [28th October]
Design for Disability Act Government legislation covering the acthttp://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/20050013.htm [16th November]
Corporate Responsibility Business ethics from Reed Elsevierhttp://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/20050013.htm [28th November]
SustainabilityDTI’s website outlines this part of CSR, URL: www.dti.gov.uk/sustainability/[28th November]
Corporate ResponsibilityReed Elsevier outlines it Green promise, URL:http://www.reedelsevier.com/media/word/a/j/Environmental%20Management%20System%20online%20version.pdf [ 28th November]
Corporate ResponsibilityReed Elsevier shows the effects of CSR on its market place, URL: www.reed-elsevier.com/media/pdf/m/q/MarketPlace.pdf [28th November]
Also a radio programme on CSR with Alistair Darling, London FM, [21st November]

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