Remember: Functionality trumps Creativity.

| February 21, 2011

“The web isn’t a wall for you to hang your artwork.”

These days, everyone with the Adobe Creative Suite and some spare time is a “web designer”. The saturation is part of what made me hesitant to launch b.CAUSE designs, even with a four-year degree in the topic under my belt.

With hundreds of individuals, small businesses, and large design firms running around, it’s hard for you–the client–to discern who really is the best fit for your needs. It’s  like comparing apples to oranges, you say.

Well, here’s the thing. There are a lot of creatively-inclined people out there…people who can create some awesome graphics. I applaud these people and the skills that they have; I really do.

What I take issue with is when novice web designers simply treat the web as their personal art board–when they put design over functionality.

I’ve stumbled across one too many bloggers who start offering design services (at outrageous prices, no less), only to click on their portfolio work and quickly see they know next to nothing about coding…only how to make a cute header in Photoshop.

Have we forgotten that structure comes before style?

HTML is the cake; CSS is the icing.

Look. I’m not one to stifle creativity. Those who are able to blend creativity with accessibility are rock-stars in my book. I’m just looking out for the innocent nonprofit board member who gets sucked into the vortex of super cool graphics only to find no one’s visiting their website. When un-knowledgeable web designers place “the look” over the “the structure,” one of these things is likely to happen (as told from the perspective of a visitor to your website):

  • “your website takes too long to load.”
  • “your website looks weird in _____ browser” (e.g. Internet Explorer)
  • “I have _____ disability. Since your website doesn’t meet certain accessibility standards, I can’t use it.”
  • “I want to print out information on your services. But when I print from your website, all I get is a bunch of graphics. Thanks for wasting my ink.”
  • “This is the 21st Century, and I’d like to access your site from my phone. Oh wait…I can’t.”

A good web designer will know how to alleviate all of these issues. When you’re looking to hire a new web designer, really get to know their work. Don’t just look at it–use it. That is what a website is there for, after all: to be used. Test your site in different browsers and on different monitor sizes. Test all the links, forms, and media. Check to ensure all graphics are loading. And please, read the content and ask to edit any errors.

It’s up to you, the client, to decide what you want. But, more importantly, it’s up to you, the client, to make sure you find the right professional who can give you what you want…in the most effective way.

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