I often write about Web design, although I’m not a designer. Oh sure, I can muck around with Macromedia’s Dreamweaver, HTML, Adobe Photoshop and other tools of the trade, but I didn’t get a degree in graphics design. Mine was in mass communication.
Most of what I know about Web design comes from working with some very good designers over the years and a goodly amount of my studying on the side. I’ve learned to speak the designer’s lingo and I so respect the work they do to the extent than I’d starve if God hadn’t made good Web designers. I’d like to believe I understand their objectives as much as they understand mine.
When I work with a designer, my thoughts often go beyond what many writers think about into the realm of things that most designers think about. I start to worry when a Web design gets in the way of how site visitors will be able to find information logically and intuitively, how the site navigation is structured, how site visitors travel through the site, how fast the page loads, whether the site is optimized for search engine optimization and several other factors that designers should also be thinking about. The one thing I dislike is design for the sake of design. If you use Flash animation, there should be a reason for it other than the fact that you think a dancing monkey is cool.
So how should designers and writers interact so that we solve the real issue of why were even working on a project in the first place, which is to meet the client’s requirements?
I’ve been thinking about Web designer and Web writer interaction lately because I just completed a project with a designer I’ve never met face-to-face. We hooked up online and I worked almost entirely with the designer to get the job done. It was his client and I would never do anything to jeopardize the relationship between the designer and the client. That’s one of those things, professionals never stick their noses into.
The guy I worked with knew what the client wanted, and he knew what he wanted, but even so, both he and the client asked me to toss my opinions into the pot. Why? Because they know that everyone likes to see a flashy car, but it also matters what the dashboard looks like, how easy it is to understand what the gauges and buttons do, how comfortable the seats are, whether the pedals are positioned correctly and so on. To abuse my analogy a step further, think of the person who does the back-end work and the engine designer who makes sure the car zooms-zooms, the way it’s supposed to.
We worked together exceptionally well and we did a terrific job for the client, if I do say so myself. We both kept our egos out of the job and focused on the client’s needs. There were a few things I was asked to do on the writing side that I didn’t agree with but I kept my mouth shut because that’s the way the designer (and client) wanted it. The deadline was tight enough already and I wasn’t about to give people I’ve never met face-to-face my opinion on why I thought they were wrong. I hoped that maybe down the road I’d get a chance to make some changes.
I’ve pulled together a list of sites that I think will help the both of us–Web designer and writer–to understand how a Web site looks and works. However, in the interest brevity, I’ll run that tomorrow.
Meanwhile, from a designer’s perspective, what are your expectations from the writers you work with? How do you find designers, or how do that find you? What’s a good way to collaborate. Does it piss you off when you think a writer has his nose too deep into the design side, or do you listen first and yell later?
Let’s get a dialog going.