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Re: Decorators with keyboards

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 10:34:29 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <200307180934.h6I9YTU01650@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

> A quote:
> "Unfortunately, we have hired a generation of web designers who don't
> web designers at all: they are graphic designers, or print designers,
> who have strayed into an area they don't understand. They are just
> painters and decorators with keyboards."

At least in the early stages, and still for many small businesses as
clients, they weren't even that.  They were would-be graphic designers who
had more end user PC IT skills than the mature designers, but neither
good design knowledge (simplicity is often the key to good design)
nor any real understanding of the web.  They got in there because the
traditional design companies were caught out by the new medium.

(With the maturer designers now coming on board, there is still the
problem that their clients don't understand the medium, so they
expect everyone to have Flash, fast connections, IE, scripting on,
etc.  The designers may now temper the designs, but they are still
not very conscious of the true nature of the medium and still under the
influence of their clients.)

[ Not from second level quote...]

> We work a lot with a design firm whose tag line is "Not just pretty
> pictures". They chose because after being in a client meeting with a

Over the years I have come to deeply distrust company tag lines,
particularly for consultancy type companies.  They are advertising,
not information.  What they tell you is what the marketing department
thinks the propective customers want to hear, not how the company
actually operates.  If you are extremely lucky, the rest of the company
may be in line with that, but more often than not they have exactly the
same faults as everyone else.

> don't understand. Equally, in developing websites that need to
> communicate, that need to sell things and do things, and that are for

Here is the real problem for commercial sites; they don't want to
communicate, they only want to sell.  Real information about products
tends to trigger a fear, uncertainty and doubt reaction in the prospects
(as a consequence of revealing limitations, or by showing that the
product is really rather complex), so the sites appeal to emotions not
to understanding.  Real information is also saleable in its own right,
so they do not want to volunteer it without charge.

Most sellers will not even link the manufacturer's web site (in many
cases, they are badge engineering and would rather retain that fiction,
but even well known brand sites are not linked).

I find trying to extract real information about products extremely 
frustrating, even when using a medium that could make it very easy.
(I'm in the market for new fridge freezers, but it seems to be impossible
from both the electrical retailer's, and even the manufacturer with the
best real information I can find, web sites, whether they have a divertor
valve, to allow independent control for fridge and freezer, or not.  In
many cases it is not possible to tell whether they even have independent
thermostats (a likely indicator of this).  (Dual compressor designs are
now rather rare, probably because of the use of divertors in up market

The real problem, though, is that organisations that do have a brief
to provide real information (governmental bodies, and charities (when
operating as educators, rather than fund raisers)) emulate the design
styles of those only after influencing emotions.  I think this some
reasons are:

- their employees would like to get better paid jobs in commerce, so
  practice advertising design techniques;
- managers don't understand the medium;
- pressures to outsource mean that they employ the same design companies
  that create big company advertising sites.

> (and paid for) by clients, we're straying into an area we don't
> understand. It's an area that design agencies (and communications
> companies etc) have been working successfully in for a long time.

This sort of (information sparse) advertising was basically an American
invention in the late nineteenth or early 20th century.

> Aside from the fact that surely no one uses "cool" to describe a
> website now (do they?), why, why, why is there a belief that a site

They do.  At least amateurs do.  I don't know about the top or bottom
end of the design consultancy market.  I'm pretty sure many marketing
people would use the term, though, although probably not in formal,
written, documents.

> history of communication and advertising tell us that. We should

Again, you are mixing opposites here.  Advertising, as practiced in the
last 100 years, is rarely about communication of anything more than
the brand name.  (This is particularly true of major contract, B2B,
advertising, where the real sale is done face to face.)

In my view, Adobe have always better understood the commercial advertising
and information for sale markets, with the concentration on predictable
appearance and some measures towards intellectual property protection.
Where they went wrong, I believe, is:

- Failing to understand that Mosaic was a serious competitor, until too late;
- Failing to give away an entry level authoring environment to compete 
  against hand coded HTML and later, the free versions of tools like Front
  Page (PostScript hand coding skills had died out by then);
- Allowing the market to perceive of PostScript and PDF as old fashioned;
- Getting on the wrong side of Microsoft (although getting on the right
  side may have involved being taken over!) so that Microsoft never bundled
  Acrobat Reader with its products.

The possibly good result of this is a small part of the original goals
of HTML, to aid the universal access to information, have got through to the
extent that legislators are legislating for accessibility and Adobe have
had to account for that.
Received on Friday, 18 July 2003 09:07:29 UTC

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