Graphic Design and Web Design are two very different skill sets. Earlier in the week, Gerry McGovern published a rather provocative article, Graphic design plays a minor role on the Web. A quote from that article summarizes the point he is making,
The best websites are highly functional. They are task-focused. Graphic design has an important, though limited role. Don’t try and force the Web to be what it’s not.
There are many graphic designers who design websites and they may wonder what McGovern is trying to tell them. Graphic Design has been around for centuries and many fine techniques and skills have been developed. Some amazing printed brochures demonstrate the excellence that is possible with good graphic design. So what’s special about the Internet.
A Print Brochure Leaves Your Graphic Designer In Control
If your website looks exactly like your print brochure, you may be in trouble. Why shouldn’t your website look exactly like your print brochure? It sounds like a good idea. The same look and feel for both would likely have a greater impact on a potential customer. Well .. yes but then again no. To understand the hesitancy let’s look carefully at what happens in the two situations.
With a print brochure, you know exactly what the viewer will see. Everyone sees exactly the same brochure. What they see is what the graphic designer intended they should see. Of course it can be costly to get the brochure into their hands. You’ve also got to hope they read it, rather than putting it immediately in the waste paper basket.
A website operates in an entirely different way. Only those who want to see the website click on a link to arrive there. Perhaps they did a Google search on some appropriate keywords: or perhaps they clicked on a link in an article or an e-mail message you sent them. So they have some motivation to look at the website. However a website has a fundamentally different make-up from a printed brochure. The website designer is not in control the way the graphic designer was.
A Website Puts The Visitor In Control
The visitor is in control of what they see on the website. What they see will depend on choices they have made. Some choices were forced on them. Perhaps they have a smaller monitor or a dial-up connection. Other choices were made freely. Perhaps they’re not using Internet Explorer as their browser. Perhaps they try to increase the size of the fonts because they have a problem with small print. Unless the right choices are made in website design, some of these people will not see the web pages as the designer intended.
The Graphic Designer’s Website Design Dilemma
There is the crux of the website designer’s problem. Should the website be designed so that as many as possible of these people can see the website? Or does the designer decide to put the whole website in Flash. This imposes the same view on all visitors but some visitors will not have hardware or software that allows them to see it at all.
That’s not the end of the challenges for the website designer. Unlike the printed brochure, the website should have two additional strengths. Websites should be constructed so that search engines will easily find them on the Web and will rank them highly for appropriate keywords. Websites are also interactive. Visitors should easily navigate around the website and find what they are looking for, without confusion or irritation. These two aspects bring in a whole slew of additional factors to build in to the website.
Harnessing The Strengths Of The Internet
To maximize what can be gained from the Internet the graphic designer must ensure he is on top of all these other skills required for an interactive, search-engine friendly website. If not, then the website may turn out to be little more than the equivalent of an electronic printed brochure. The most effective way of delivering that to prospective customers might well be to make a CD of the website. Handing it to them would certainly be more reliable than sending it across the Internet. However this loses all the power of Internet Marketing.
A much better approach is to work with a fully competent website designer who can develop a truly selling-effective website.