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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict tauperkin's Avatar
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    Question Good Designers vs Bad Designers: How Do You Know?

    I'm trying to evaluate the field of web design because I'm considering my own freelance business.

    As a result, I have been reading lots of books, looking at a lot of sites and reading a lot of information and opinions. I look at websites done by people who label themselves "Web Designers." Some of it is good; a lot of it is bad.

    To me, bad includes not using CSS (an external style sheet), using tables and nested tables for page layout, more emphasis on splashy graphics than content, using javascript for navigation (because search engines can't see it), code that doesn't validate, etc. Those are just a few things.

    What I'm getting at is how do you know whether someone is good at what they do or not?

    And a real biggie to me is this: What the Heck does the client care? What are the ramifications from the practical point of view of the client? They don't really care if somebody lays out their site with tables, puts tons of words in the meta tag, etc.

    Can you/do you explain the consequences of bad design practices to clients? Do you say, yes, that's pretty but here are the ramifications of such things, in practical terms?

    There are a LOT of people out there who consider themselves Web Designers, but I would beg to differ with them. A few are trying to jump on the SEO bandwagon, but they know nothing about it.

    There are tools I can use to refute the claims of some of these firms (like show their rankings in search engines, other things like that).

    I don't just jump into things. I have a degree, I know lots of programming, I spend time reading and learning and looking at things with a critical, educated eye. I know there are lots of varying opinions on some things out there. But in general, how can I know what's what?

    The typical person knows squat about HTML, SEO, CSS, M-O-U-S-E....
    How can they possibly know if the Web Designer they have is good or not?

    To me, it is based on results: SEO optimized pages, clean site, easy navigation, helpful content.

    I would like to have your thoughts on these things. Help me out a little!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    hmmm...

    I think the role of a web designer is to 'design' websites, and this is one of the reasons why I proudly label myself a Web developer instead. What i mostly do is take web designs (in PSD, or a sketch on paper) and make those 'plans' or 'designs' into working websites (i.e. development(

    In my book, web design, by definition is the planning and more creative side of making a website; development is the implementation and introduction of functionality to the website.

    This term... web designer is thrown around a lot and i think you're right to question it.

    I am probably one of those people you are talking about... labelling myself without considering the integrity of my claims. I do make designs into functional websites... not for a living, but for a fair income every month (i am only a 17, a student). This is why I think i'm okay in calling myself a web developer... (btw... DON't look at my website... its all lies )

    Basically this is how I feel about the whole Design thing:::

    With a painting, it is all about the resulting piece of art, not the process by which it was created: nobody cares of the challenges you went through in creating it, as long as it represents its purpose and fulfils its objective.

    This can be applied to web design, ... the client does not, and should not have to care about the ins and outs of valid code, browser compatability, whether tables are used or not, and the difficulties the designer/developer goes through in the production of the website. THE CLIENT IS PAYING YOU FOR THE RESULT... that's all!

    the industry of design is truly subjective in its nature and appreciation and so i think everyone who has rightly gained the title of 'web designer' is a 'good' web designer,... but this is certainly not a black and white situation so many of you will disagree with me, most probably with specific examples fo bad designs but the fact is they are bad because you say they are in this instance of time!
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    I was intrigued by your main line of thought and reckon you might be placing too much emphasis on the wrong things, so with my freelancers head on here's my way of thinking...

    Your main qualification would be people/communication skills
    - you can be the best web designer in the world but if people don't like you you might as well pack up now
    - being able to communicate with customers
    - being able to express your ideas and methods in a way they can understand (ie no jargon)
    - being able to listen to their ideas, comments and critiscisms and react with solutions and ideas to solve problems
    - being friendly and approachable
    - give an air of trust

    Next up would be your problem solving skills
    - every web project is a problem that needs to be solved, it's up to you to listen to your customers ideas and turn them into reality
    - if a certain idea isn't practical or feasible yiou will need to explain why and offer alternative solutions to achieve the same ends

    Next up is support
    - most clients haven't got a clue about how sites work or are built, as you say "why should they care?". However they still need hand-holding throughout the whole process!
    - clients often ask for things that you might find obvious or simple, helping them do mundane things like setting up email accounts and generally going the extra mile will create a good impression
    - being prepared for the unexpected, no matter how trivial, will always show that you are on the ball

    Lastly are your design skills
    - you don't have to be a *top notch* web designer to succeed. Of course pushing out well coded html and css is important but those are elements of a any good designer and should be "just what you do" - a good plumber checks his work for leaks and tidies up before he finishes the job
    - if you need something that's beyond your current capability outsource it! - A plumber might not be qualified to install a gas boiler but he can do the pipework and subs the installation out - web design is no different (in context)
    - never promise what you can't deliver
    - and yes a lot boils down to the end results but remember that an average site that works and fulfils it's objectives is always better than high end one that doesn't

  4. #4
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    I'm in the same boat as JP here as far as the defiintions and roles of a Web Designer and Web Developer are concerned.

    However, when people ask me why they should care, I go for the jugular and hit them where it hurts the most - the pocketbook. How? Simple. I tell them that the techniques and best practices I use can help them make more money than if they were to go somewhere else (I also say this isn't a 100% guaranteed fact, but more of an observation) since the sites are more accessible, easier to use and far easier to maintain, not to mention being far easier for search engines to crawl and index as well (with the possibility of higher rankings than the other guys).

    In the end, people are going to conduct business with those they know, they like, and they trust. It's your job to get them to know, like and trust you (not to mention your wealth of knowledge).

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict Fre420's Avatar
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    A good webdesigner is one that knows that he isn't just making pretty things, but one that designs the content to make it stand out & make it more clear.

    A bad webdesigner is just someone who wants to make a nice looking site without even caring what content is needed to make the message clear.

    If a designer thinks about the content / message in the first place, he'll write semantic code & think about usability & information architecture (even if he doesn't know exactly how this works).

    IMO

  6. #6
    SitePoint Addict tauperkin's Avatar
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    Great stuff!

    I have to say I would rather label myself something other than web designer, because I think my talents and skills go beyond just "making something pretty."
    So I liked that input, JimmyPaddy.

    And although a client shouldn't have to concern themselves with all the details, those things *DO* affect their site. Yes, as Dan said, in the pocketbook. That's why I was thinking about explaining it in language they can understand--more like results or consequences. There *are* things in design that won't make their site function as best it could. They need to understand these things.

    It seems to me that there are people that think of design as just making a cool, pretty site. That's nice if you're just trying to see what can be done with all the tools available. But to me it encompasses much more. It's functionality.

    When I see things like bloated code, tons of tables, no CSS, I think of the person that made the site as unprofessional because, if nothing more, they aren't keeping up with their industry. Yes, CSS isn't perfect. But it's just keeping up with the knowledge and ability in your field.

    Love the comments and insight. Thank you...keep 'em coming

  7. #7
    SitePoint Evangelist ramone_johnny's Avatar
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    For me a good designer is one that delivers. In the short time that Ive been self employed, Ive already heard countless times, "the guy we had before promised us everything and delivered nothing"

    RJ

  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru rageh's Avatar
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    Bad designer: Someone whose main aim is to be visually extravagant; too big images and unnecessary flash animations with the "exit the intro" button at the bottom. It is actually that button that I frantically look for when I come across such websites. Totally pointless. To a bad designer, the content is after-thought. The page is bloated code-wise. I can go on and on.

    Good designer: certainly not the above. Plus, each element/chunk serves a purpose. And the attention of the visitor is driven from one section to the next. In other words, the most important part stands out the most prominently. The whole purpose of the website is to present the content in a way that makes it easy for the visitor to browse. That is to say, the visitor is not overwhelmed.

    NOTE: I am not limiting the role of a web designer to that of creative graphics design in this context.
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  9. #9
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    My view on this is the question on whether someone is a good or bad designer is very subjective.

    Everyone has different styles, thoughts, ideas on what makes a good design. A good designer, I believe, should consider usability (afterall they are designing for the web and for that a level of interaction is required with the user). That should be the number one consideration - and usability includes things like navigation, colour schemes and so on.

    You can't design a site which everyone will like, not everyone will go for the colours used or the font and so on. But thats not the point. If a client wants a site to appeal to the majority of users, anyone and everyone, then the designer should pick something neutral (just like how a developer painting a house to sell will pick the colour magnolia!) . If the client wants the site to appeal to females, then the colours, navigation, layout etc should appeal to a female brain. In my opinion this is what makes good design.

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  10. #10
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wwdc View Post
    My view on this is the question on whether someone is a good or bad designer is very subjective.
    I totally agree. The whole topic is pretty subjective.

    In some people's eyes, your abilities as a designer are in fact shown by the extent to which you conform to tedious layouts and known styles, but not by the actual creative aspect of what you create! - this is a problem!
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  11. #11
    SitePoint Addict tauperkin's Avatar
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    Well, I agree that some parts can be subjective. Others aren't so much for me.

    Using frames? Bad.

    Flash intros? Bad.

    Sites that look like they were constructed using Frontpage templates? Bad.

    I think I could make a list of bad design elements categorized by type. There are some things that are bad from a visual point of view (like backgrounds and color scheme), there is bad SEO design (javascript navigation only, using images instead of text in cases) and there are bad things from a usability standpoint (ability to find information quickly, links that makes sense).

  12. #12
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tauperkin View Post
    I think I could make a list of bad design elements categorized by type. There are some things that are bad from a visual point of view (like backgrounds and color scheme), there is bad SEO design (javascript navigation only, using images instead of text in cases) and there are bad things from a usability standpoint (ability to find information quickly, links that makes sense).
    Are all those things actually design? ... or implementation... i.e. development???

    This is what I am saying, where do we draw the line between design and development???
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tauperkin View Post
    Well, I agree that some parts can be subjective. Others aren't so much for me.

    Using frames? Bad.

    Flash intros? Bad.

    Sites that look like they were constructed using Frontpage templates? Bad.

    I think I could make a list of bad design elements categorized by type. There are some things that are bad from a visual point of view (like backgrounds and color scheme), there is bad SEO design (javascript navigation only, using images instead of text in cases) and there are bad things from a usability standpoint (ability to find information quickly, links that makes sense).
    But this all comes down to usability no? Flash intros bad - because they dont give anything to the user, just an additional click which noone has the time for, people want to get to the info they want asap with no interruptions. A flash intro presumes every user wants to see some animation (noone wants to see animation of the company logo being put together bit by bit)

    Even your category about visuals which are bad - probably comes under usability. SEO stuff is separate as I think its slightly more technical and also content driven rather than specifically focusing on design.

    There are some designs that are just bad, but the rest lie on a very thin line and it just depends to the clients/designers viewpoint. Obviously some get it really wrong - either due to lack of experience, or due to lack of professional training!
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Evangelist ramone_johnny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimmyPaddy View Post
    With a painting, it is all about the resulting piece of art, not the process by which it was created: nobody cares of the challenges you went through in creating it, as long as it represents its purpose and fulfils its objective.
    I disagree. Quite often its the history or story behind a painting that inturn makes it more valuable.

    RJ

  15. #15
    SitePoint Addict tauperkin's Avatar
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    I don't know.

    What is design? What is function?

    But a web site is not much good if it is irritating or has bad navigation systems, etc.

    To me, design is more than putting up some pretty pictures and all. It encompasses the whole site.

    A website is supposed to be functional. If it irritates your visitors or they can't find what they want, or they're greeted by one of those stupid Sitepals that you can't shut up (like I just was)--to me, that's not good design.

    All the things I mentioned as elements I consider bad make the web experience less than ideal and can render the website ineffective or irritating or both. To me, that's bad design.

  16. #16
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ramone_johnny View Post
    I disagree. Quite often its the history or story behind a painting that inturn makes it more valuable.

    RJ
    I get your point... but are you saying that the value of a painting or peice of art is directly related to how 'good' it is as a piece of art or design?

    ...Maybe the painting thing was a bad analogy, but its application to web design is true ( i think ) ...
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  17. #17
    SitePoint Addict tauperkin's Avatar
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    Isn't usability part of design? Isn't it something you're supposed to take into account?

    After all, it *isn't* a picture I'm going to hang on the wall. If you're designing websites, usability is a big part of it. What good is a website that is usable?

  18. #18
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    Isn't usability part of design?
    Yes.. a big part! Without 100% usability your website is useless because it has failed to acheive its objective! (Unless the objective was to be useless )

    And i do agree, it is not a picture that ur going to hang on a wall, and that's a good point because some people solely treat the creation of websites like that and forget the true meaning and purpose of the internet which is to supply information which people can use.

    I'll think of something else a bit more clever and fluid to say eventually
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  19. #19
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    A site must be visual and functional design, they should be a unit. One depending on the other, a symbiosis.

    It is no good to have a visually appealing site if it does not function and a functioning site that is not visually appealing. For pure information sites visual design can play second fiddle, but the site still must have appeal, must be organized for ease of use, pleasing colors to read without strain, etc..

    I would not compare a site to a picture, to art. It is more related to industrial design if you want to relate it to something. There, function and visual appeal must also be in harmony. One grows out of the other, intertwined, dependent on each other.
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  20. #20
    SitePoint Wizard mcsolas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tauperkin View Post
    And a real biggie to me is this: What the Heck does the client care? What are the ramifications from the practical point of view of the client? They don't really care if somebody lays out their site with tables, puts tons of words in the meta tag, etc.
    Simple. Well designed sites using semantically correct markup have a better shot at ranking highly in search engine results. Ask you client if he wants to do well in the search engines? Ive never heard someone say no, its kind of a loaded question .. but it sets you up to explain why its important to have a well coded website.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    All decisions should be based on furthering the success of the accessibility, interest, information and communicative nature of the objective. Common misconception is that function follows form but, in reality the should be joined in union. Neither one or the other is more important. A great problem solver analyzes these key objectives every step of the way and constantly questions their decisions based on them. Great design can't only be judged aesthetically but, much of it is based on the process it took to arrive at the final solution. Not that the end result isn't important but, the path to is equally as important as well. Someone who doesn't look at these things is a terrible designer because they are a terrible problem solver.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Another thing to clarify is that art is not design because there is no objective. A common misconception is that art is art because solution utilizes traditional "art" supplies such as;oils,canvas,watercolor,etc. However, the materials has nothing to do with art. Art is merely to satisfy ones self. Art can be anything a person creates. Art is just created to satisfy the creator. On the other-hand, design is pursuing the satisfaction of many rather then yourself. The designer is less concerned about their feelings and more concerned with everyones else or the end audience they wish to reach.

  23. #23
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    Talking Great

    i'm agree with you bro... i think that we as a web developer should know these things. But anyway how can they know if this is a good web or this is a bad web?

    no body know except ourself... (no body perfect)

    but I still agree with you... though

  24. #24
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    First, I'm going to define "web designer" as a combination of graphic designer and front-end developer.

    A good web designer...
    • Focuses on user experience and interaction design that respond to information architecture.
    • Uses good accessibility practices.
    • Understands the web as an information medium.
    • Knows W3C standard XHTML/CSS and related browser support issues. Can understand the errors that the W3C validator spits out.
    • Has at least a basic grasp of the W3C DOM and JavaScript.


    A bad web designer...
    • Doesn't pay attention to usability.
    • Still uses tables to lay out web pages.
    • Ignores accessibility concerns.
    • Misunderstands the web fundamentally (thinks it's a rigid medium or a "multimedia" medium).
    • Lets a WYSIWYG editor and copy/pasting do all his work for him.


    Quote Originally Posted by JimmyPaddy View Post
    With a painting, it is all about the resulting piece of art, not the process by which it was created: nobody cares of the challenges you went through in creating it, as long as it represents its purpose and fulfils its objective.
    While I understand what you're saying, the BFA in Painting (that I'm not using) is screaming. In contemporary painting, process is just as important as the finished product (more important in some cases). Example: Jackson Pollock. In art school, there's plenty of talk about "painting about painting" and "taking an active interest in the process" and "markmaking" and "intellectual rigor" and other lofty terms. "Value" in terms of money doesn't come into it. That's not what real artists think about (in my experience and opinion).

    Sorry to go off-topic there.

  25. #25
    Learning...
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    I have read thorugh all the replies. I don't understand one thing:

    Why content is being put under "web designer or web developer" roles?

    Aren't copy writing and "web designer/developer" different roles?
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