why, when and how to redesign your website (Part 1: The six-eyed beast)

So, hey! Here we go again! I’ve been busy during the last 3 days working on the new site’s design. I was pressed to have it done so I can do my usual coding stuff. There’s still some details to tweak, but the main idea is here. I hope you folks enjoy it, and I’d really like to have some feedback to improve it.

Well, let’s talk about design, and redesign a little bit. I’m in the mood for it 🙂

So what’s design?

Richard Seymour says : “If design isn’t about people what the hell is it actually about?
Indeed, designing things is making them usable by humans. Design considers the man/woman as the center of the “use experience”. Too simple, isn’t it? But the simple is the definition, the more it brings questions actually. The best one, IMHO, is: which human to design for?

Aha! See? Let’s take an example, say a website. There are 3 persons involved in the story:

  • the coder/maker.
  • the marketing guy.
  • the user.

six eyed designer

The coder

The coder is that guy who wants the website to be cool, darn beautiful and shows his abilities. He generally loves this game. He’s a passionate guy even if he’s paid by a stingy and nasty boss. He converts ideas that spark in his brain to real things. He’s the maker! Such guys are generally smart and poetic —yes, I’m talking about myself here 😉 But generally (not always) ignore or know just a little bit, or simply don’t care about sales and marketing.

The coder knows by heart the product he made, and this why he can’t be a neutral user. You can’t count on the coder to study how a product is used and appreciated. Sometimes, the coder considers obvious that some features should be used in a certain way, but it’s not that obvious for every user.

Sometimes when the coder works for a very long period of time on a product without releasing it, he gets tired of it and starts to hate it. Everything seems so obviously ugly for him that he forgets that the users don’t even know how his work looks. This is why “perfectionism” is bad for your health.

The marketing guy

The marketing guy is that man with a tie (or not) that expects that the website will bring lots of visitors, sales, ads… and all that stuff, you know. He’s not especially a bad guy! Why would someone make a website if he doesn’t care about the interest it can drawn?
The marketer doesn’t care about beauty unless it brings more results, and some even say that beauty only sells at a certain extent.

The user

This is you! You’re looking for information. You’re looking for things and features that benefits YOU. You are an egocentric and you’re right. Period. You are that guy that comes and looks for things that will make him smarter, nicer, stronger, whatever! It’s all about you. You just don’t care if the coder is happy or not. You may ask yourself if he’s doing his job right, and if you can “trust” what he made just as you buy the A phone by company X because you know (or are enough convinced by the marketing guy) that it’s better that the B phone made by company Y. That’s all.

Hey! Where’s the designer?

six eyed designer
He is the 4th man, dear! He’s the animal that sees things with 6 eyes: 2 for the maker, 2 for the marketer and 2 for the user. He knows what a maker can produce with what tools, in what environment. He won’t expect technical miracles just because he imagined them. He wears the user’s shoes and walks for miles with them, knows what the user expects, what he needs, what he is able of, and what will make him choose the product. He knows what makes things sell well, he knows or at least has an idea of the costs, he has some – if not a lot – of marketing notions.

The designer is the six-eyed beast that know what our three guys need, want and are able of.

So we come to the conclusion that what makes a great design is not only the colors, the forms or the trends. A great design is that one that can satisfy our three guys needs, or at least provides the best compromise.

You can be the coder and the marketing guy at once, but you can’t be all the users. You’re a designer when you care about your users, your money and what makes the geek inside you happy.

This is my humble definition of the word “design”, I hope you enjoyed it, if you agree, or don’t agree or simply don’t like tomatoes, please let me know by commenting on this. The next post will be on “Why and when to re-design”. If you didn’t already, go ahead and subscribe to the feeds so you won’t miss it.

P.S. The drawings in this article were made using inkscape and are licensed under a creativecommons license, you can download them and use them if you like. And oh! Yes, I imagine you, dear reader, with orange hair! 😉

P.P.S. If you liked this article, please share it on del.icio.us or on Digg. I’d appreciate it. 🙂