Design Over Style

I was browsing through the day’s Twitter feed, when I saw this brilliant Tweet by @schneidertobias: “[…] we need more [web] designers and less web stylists.”

I was dumbfounded. After hours of pondering the implications of Tobias’s statement, I sat down at my desk with a can of cold San Pellegrino and began writing down my interpretation in my journal.

What is a “web stylist”?

I am going to give Tobias the credit of coining the term “web stylist,” but I will take credit for defining it (aren't I so humble?).

A web stylist is someone who simply styles the web. He or she doesn't worry about content or hierarchy; form or function. All a web stylist really worries about is making the final product fluffy and pretty. Websites designed by a web stylist often lack strong usability, a cohesive organization pattern, and other essential design patterns.

What is a web designer?

A web designer is a “web stylist” that gives function to form. A web designer’s workflow begins with an idea and ends with a beautiful and functional product. Content, usability, hierarchy, and all the other “functional design” buzzwords are the some of the first and last things that enter a web designer’s mind while working on a project.

In other words, a web designer gives beauty function and soul.

Now that we have the definitions out of the way, let’s explore the implications of Tobias’s statement and some methods of solving the “web stylist” dilemma that seems rampant in the web today.

Designers need to put design over style. What does that mean? It simply means that before a designer can make a project beautiful, he/she must first consider what I like to call “ACHOO” (pronounced ah-choo).

Accessibility - Easy use regardless of any physical disabilities.
Content - Clear, concise text and easily identifiable images.
Hierarchy - Easy to distinguish the important from the insignificant.
Optimization - Works in all major browsers and operating systems.
One Minute Rule - Given one minute of viewing time, what will a user remember about the site?

Only after successfully going through and passing the ACHOO can the designer move on to beautifying the project.

Don’t merely style the web, give the web function. If every web designer put some more effort into recognizing the necessary function and fulfilling it before focusing on beauty, the web would be a much better place to browse; work; and, hopefully, play.

I urge all of you to take some time to evaluate your standing with relationship of form and function, and if you discover that it is flawed, remember to always ACHOO.

Put function above form.
Put the user above yourself.
Put design over style.