I wholeheartedly agree with Sarah Horton’s ‘Beauty is Only Screen Deep‘. She laments about doing things in web design that confounds the medium. Particularly using graphic text for beauty, only to ignore the fact that users want to READ the text not LOOK at it. I too am frustrated, and I too am committing the same sins even in my latest web effort.
In the best case all web design should be using text as text, scaling to fit users’ screens, allowing for users with disabilities to access it, etc. But right now I am struck by how web display technology is getting better, but is still the worst case. I am getting up to speed on CSS, XHTML, XML, DHTML, etc. And I’m finding that it still is far too similar to the days when people hand coded PostScript to get their layouts to print on early laser printers. While we “young” designers take for granted the fact that we don’t have to do paper mechanicals, is designing for the web not almost nearly as bad? In those days making a mechanical took the designer away from conceiving of ground breaking communications, and set up the whole system of Creative Director (conceive of the concept), Art Director (execute the concept), Production Artist (execute the mechanical). In a pinch the Art Director could, and would do it all.
Now we have – just a few of the players listed here – the Creative Director (conceive of the concept), Interaction Designer/Info Architect (create the user flow), Usability specialist (test the experience), Art Director (execute the concept), and Programmers (execute the mechanical). In a pinch the “Web Designer” can, and will do it all. But wait, when trying to do so, you find out that the medium is STILL in the dark ages. The whole construct of the web and HTML was built to communicate text on screen, not visual experience. Even with all the latest standards and browsers, it still comes down to hand-coding in text, that which is meant to provide a compelling visual experience. It would be a totally different story if the web were built to be interactive based on a more visual platform.
Television works. It is completely designer controlled, and has dealt with device flexibility and accessibility. TV inaccessible? Turn up the volume, move closer to it, turn on the closed captioning, or the Spanish. What if Flash .swf + actionscript were the default web standard, natively supported by every browser without a plug-in? That’s closer to the right kind of medium for on-screen display, and designer flexibility. Plus it provides a much simpler content creation approach. Making a red square box doesn’t involve 13 lines of code.
Sadly, Flash .swf will not become the default web language. It is owned by Macromedia. Instead I encourage the W3C to provide whatever other positioning tags necessary within its standards to allow some great vendor to come in and make a completely free form HTML editing environment. The code that gets created must be perfect so that all the standards-nazis don’t complain. So that all the programmers don’t say “Oh what messy code that thing makes” (NetObjects Fusion anyone?). Give me Quark for the web now! Let it be accepted by all. Let it be the industry standard. Let it have all the options necessary to make the content it creates flexible, functional, accessible, and beautiful. When is the last time you needed a programmer to help you create a great printed piece? Let that be with the web soon! PLEASE!