Who are designers really designing for?

I asked myself this question when I needed to re-design my Studio site, it had become tired and broken, my philosophy had moved on and so had my portfolio so a full redesign was needed… you get the picture!

However I can confirm that it has been nearly 4 months in production, the development of my new studio site is in constant state of evolution it feels. With every new principle and technique I discover and learn, JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS3 and so on, I then feel I need to apply to my project because it’s the latest thing. I want to crate a site that’s functional, current and intuitive (with a sprinkling of that “wow” factor), along with my own style, the site should showcase my abilities visually and provide lots of info to read… However I’ve discovered that during the process of design and development I have increasingly designed my site for other designers and not my target audience. I’m constantly criticising my code, use of colour, type and ability, causing the site to be in a constant state of “evolution” or “design flux”.

I am my worst critic

I look at my code, I scrutinize my grid layout, I over analysie my tone of voice but, when I get paid for this shit, it’s perfect, the client loves it, I don’t over work anything. The sites I create, of course, go through a rigorous journey of testing and re-designing but, the end result is a fusion of purpose and definition, not like my personal work which ends up as a combination of “make-do” and “I can no longer be bothered to work on it”! So this get’s me thinking who the hell am I designing my website for? Of course every website must be put through a critical analysis before launching but, who really is looking at this site – people who can’t make websites themselves that’s who!? These folk don’t care about semantic mark-up, the prettiness of my CSS or if I’ve used super lightweight scripts, they just want it to look good and load fast… job done! but, BUT, I do care, because when I look at other web designers portfolios, I scoff at elements of outdated design, right click > “View Source” and snigger and their poor use of HTML, all so I can feel better about my own shortcomings! I do this on a daily basis and I know other designers will do the same to my work, so I change it, I see impressive work by others, so I change my work again, I learn something new, then I change it again, someone invents a new thing, I then hate the thing I’ve invented… Arrgghhhh!

My site becomes part of this perpetual cycle – “criticise”, “re-work”, “criticise”, “re-work”, “criticise”, “re-work”, “criticise”, “re-work”… never leaving local development for the bright lights of the open Web.

I am the client

It occurs to me that I need to change my state of mind, be happy with my design and mark-up, confident that what I’ve created is at a good enough standard, after all, folk looking at my site wont care or understand whats under the hood! I really do feel that as a web designers we need to realise that some folk dont care about how a site works, just that it doe’s work and work well. So when it comes to creating a site for my own projects, I need to adopt the mind of a client, ignorant to the inner workings of a website. I don’t for a second here mean that mark-up or writing script needs to become sloppy, quite the oppersite, I mean we (me) need to realise where the finish line is and cross it once and once only.

And to hell with everyone else

I listen to a lot of podcasts about design and I’ve discovered that if the podcast is not specifically about website design (front-end development), but discusses the “design” of a web page, then the knowledge of how sites are built is quite limited. Very few designers know how sites work under the hood. It still surprises me that designers of websites do not know how to design with code, it’s accessible and easy to find methods in order to learn, however not everyone wants to learn and that’s why we have this job. Front-end designers/ developers will look at the sites I build and chuckle at the use of some (or all) of my methods but, I don’t care, I need to be free from this, the folk who I design for care about the end product and not the “geeky” side of things. Web projects need to be less esoteric and more open, so remember (if you’re like me) don’t design for other designers, design for non-designers, after all that is the very purpose of good design. As I type this I’m beginning to realise that it just doesn’t matter if my mark-up is not totally semantic or I haven’t used the latest CSS3 animation. The only thing that matters is that my site looks good, is light and works on all browsers… to hell with the geek crap and the latest version of whatever!