“Build it and they will come”
Teddy Roosevelt (attributed)
I do believe that this mentality has been prevalent in the field of professional web design over the last few years and I think it has made some designers lazy. It’s too easy and simplistic a view, to think that a site will deliver great business results based solely upon how well it performs in Google - and Google have recognised this.
Sites are no longer given a search engine ranking solely based upon how many ‘keywords’ or ‘links’ are embedded into a site. Google (and others) now look at visitor engagement as a key factor in how they determine a position in the ‘search results’ listing. In short, if you design and build a website that is easy to use, is full of relevant and engaging content and is aesthetically pleasing, then it will be ranked higher than one that doesn’t. So see the rapid emergence and rise of the specialist UX designer (user experience) and/or the IA (Information architect)!
A quick trawl of the internet will offer a number of definitions of what a UX/IA actually is. On his site Anthony J Davies describes himself thus: “One of the key considerations in my role as a user experience designer is to make sure that the site or application I'm designing makes sense to the target user groups” he continues “the best (and still quite rare) user experience design allows for the combination of impactful creative presentation of information in a way that preserves and optimises usability. Combining these 2 sometimes competing disciplines (along with the overarching principle of 'usefulness') is in my view an act of high level creativity, often resulting in world class design solutions.”
Now I maybe quite a ‘seasoned’ professional, but nothing in the above description makes me feel the need to label this specifically as “UX design”. Please don’t misunderstand - I’m not disagreeing with anything that Anthony has said here – it’s just that his philosophy isn’t new at all, it has been at the heart of ALL good design since human beings first started creating.
I do accept that the (UX) designer, when working in a digital context will have to have some particular skills sets (notably technical), and will have to overcome some problems specific to working in that media, but it’s still just about the basic design process – common to all design practices - whether it be product, fashion, graphic, or packaging etc. Good design - however it might be labeled - is an intelligent, problem-solving activity and it always has been.
So yes, I do think the explosion in digital media has made SOME designers lazy and complacent – happy to produce ‘easy on the eye’ websites that appeal to their own sense of aesthetic, but that lack the deeper level thinking around user engagement required to make a design really work. Happily those days are over.