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Jason Gross is a freelance web designer focused on creating clean and user friendly websites. Jason currently lives in Indiana and can be found on Twitter as @JasonAGross or on the web at his personal blog and portfolio.
I am sure that my day job as a designer has a lot of similarities to that of the entire Smashing community. I create wireframes, mockups and concepts. I craft HTML and CSS using methods that I hope are fluid and adaptive. At the same time, my coworkers and I serve over 100 clients and 13 million users on a single platform.
Each client has the ability to design their website as they see fit, but we have an unbalanced ratio of designers to clients. I do not have the luxury in my day-to-day work of spending months working through a design process as part of a client’s implementation. However, this scenario of limited time hardly strikes me as rare among my design peers.
Hick’s Law has always been a popular reference point for designers. You’ll find it cited in the endless lists of basic laws and principles that all designers should be familiar with. Given our assumed comfort level with this design cornerstone, I am surprised to see so many people getting it wrong.
What we think we understand about Hick’s Law as it pertains to Web design is oversimplified and incomplete. We need to more deeply investigate what Hick’s Law can do for Web design. In the end, we will see why this design principle is undervalued, and we will see how we have been designing incorrectly for the user’s decision-making process. In order to get there, we need to look at our current approach to Hick’s Law and why it’s wrong.
The creative attribute has always been a highly debated and researched component of the human psyche. The “designer” job title seems to be one that calls to the more creative minded among us and according to some, requires the highest level of creative processing. This idea does lend itself to the truth, web designers are called upon to find creative solutions every day. However, we certainly aren’t alone.
Contrary to previous belief, creativity does not limit itself to the “right-brained” artistic types. The ability to find creative and innovative solutions to problems holds value in almost all aspects of life. Even those with highly analytical jobs and hobbies benefit from the ability to approach a complex issue from different perspectives and foresee alternate outcomes. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to suggest that creativity itself is more rooted in a process than random visionary moments.
If content sits at the top of the food chain, why do we spend so much time talking about the finer points of design? Every day we debate, experiment with and discuss topics that easily fall into the category of aesthetics, enhanced functionality and layout; in fact, relatively rarely do we talk about content. Nevertheless, even though we should concede that content is king in this realm, this doesn’t mean that design should be devalued.
It may seem logical that the user experience lives and dies by how the user relates on an emotional level to the content on a website. But this is not necessarily the case. From a design perspective, our job is to maximize the value of every visitor, whether they love the content or hate it. The role of a UX designer is not always to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a growing excitement around mobile or device oriented web design. This excitement is fueled mostly by the high adoption rates of devices that come equipped with full scale browser capabilities but that’s not the only reason. A lot of talk lately has been centered around designing for context. So what does it mean to design for a user’s context?
Since the early days of communication, humanity has been captivated by the methods it uses to convey and preserve information. How we communicate with each other defines who we are and constitutes so much of what makes a culture and an individual unique.
Over the centuries, we have seen media evolve across a wide array of channels, from print to radio to television to the Internet. Each one of these channels, or media, has its own unique characteristics, much like the people who use them.