Who Does the Design?

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Design can be considered from various perspectives or roles such as content designer, information architecture, interaction designer, and visual designer. This does not mean there are four people working design (although it could mean that). One person can perform each role.

Visual

Let’s start with the visual designer. This perspective considers the color and graphical perspective of the site. This role creates the visual look and feel; it sets the mood of the site and can establish credibility. Remember the old saying "You only get to make one first impression."

Structural

Once the audience experiences the visual impact of the site, they need to understand how to find what it is they are looking for. To do this, the audience needs to understand the site structure and screen layout, where everything is. There are two roles whose job it is to that influence structure (organization) and interface layout of your site, the interaction designer and the information architect.

The information architect organizes the site sections, sub-sections, content, and data of the site. The information architect helps decide what should be presented in each section and sub-section of the site. The interaction designer focuses on usability, accessibility, and site behaviors, helping to make the site intuitive and therefore easy to navigate as well as responsive.

Content

Once the audience understands the layout of the site (which can take all of a few seconds), it is time to look at the content, the reason they are their in the first place. The content designer or strategist is going to focus on what the content should be (form, purpose, topic, and type) and how it should be presented (text, tables, images) in order to meet the needs of the audience. The information architect will work with the content designer to ensure data is captured and stored in such a way as to support the content layout plan. The interaction designer will want to ensure that the content has an interface that is easy to use and understandable.

Design Process

The trick to design is getting all these roles (or perspectives) to come together and create the best site possible. Of course, this challenge is a lot easier to over come when you have one person wearing all four hats but the easy way doesn’t always yield the most clever, efficient, and intuitive design. Having multiple opinions and perspectives working together can yield designs that might be overlooked by just one person.

Whether you have one or four people filling these roles and considering these design perspectives, there are going to be compromises at times. The data purest in the group (no matter the role) might see the graphics as unnecessary embellishments. The visual enthusiast might argue a picture is worth a thousand words. The information architect might want to provide multiple ways to allow the audience to find what they need but the interaction designer may suggest that more is not necessarily better. Depending on the circumstances, all perspectives offer some truth.

As the planner of the site, you need to decide which aspects of the design are going to meet the requirements. You need to consider all perspectives and understand that there isn’t one right answer. You will need to gauge how much you can trust your own design instincts versus using unbiased usability testing to confirm that your plan will meet your audience’s expectations. Design is a dynamic and interesting process.
 

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