This post is a continuation of a thought started in the comments at “Jonathan Snook’s”:http://www.snook.ca/archives/000489.php site. Jonathan quotes an article written last November by Gerry McGovern titled “Graphic Design Plays a Minor Role on the Web”:http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/nt/2005/nt-2005-10-24-web-design.htm
Mr McGovern has made a decision about what does and doesn’t belong on the web. He has decided that emotional connection has no place online – that the web is a tool to be used for the display and collection of data. He says, in effect, that branding, trust, expression, and individuality have no place online. I call bullshit.
The role of design on the web varies with the intented purpose of the site. While Google and Skype’s designs are exemplary for their purposes, they would not stand out if their purpose was to elicit an emotional response.
Design (whether on the screen or the page) can play a number of roles. One of those roles is, as Mr McGoverm mentions, as facilitator. Another, equally important role, is to act as an emotional catalyst.
Or to think of it another way, one of the roles of design is to add the non-verbal cues (facial expression, intonation, volume, physical presence, etc) that are lost in the translation from personal communication to straight text.
Recently, I watched Hero with my 4 year old. The movie is subtitled. Yet my daughter followed the story line with shocking accuracy. She cried when it was touching, laughed when it was funny, and was scared at the appropriate times. All without understanding a word of dialogue.
On the screen and on the page, design plays the role of scenery, music, movement, pace, costume, expression, and even intention.
To deny this is to short change one’s clients and one’s self.
Of course, usability comes first. But it doesn’t stop there, unless the purpose of the site dictates it.