Web designer, front-end developer, UI expert, UX master, <CMS> developer. This title has been popping up a lot in our scene lately. Add additional points by prefixing the word “freelance” in front.
Thanks to the advancement of flexible open source Content Management System, like WordPress and Joomla (to name a few), it is becoming easier for a lot of people to gain initial momentum in web design ‘so-called’ movement. The abilities to create custom themes, assisted with huge amount of resources and tutorial – available for free in the world wide web – has reduced the effort needed for anyone to jump into the ‘cool’ bandwagon of web designers.
Designing for the web is not as easy as certain people think it is. Having a little knowledge in CSS might not be enough for us to craft the ‘web designer’ title in our one pager porfolio site. In fact, we should be afraid to use that title anywhere. By having only our own website redesigned for 10 times in the porfolio page doesn’t entitle us as a web designer, or any other title listed above. It is a shame that it has been widely used inappropriately without actually depicting the real value and the nature of the title itself. Freelance is not an excuse.
When the freelancers move out of the ‘freelance’ zone to a real working environment in a real company, there are a lot of things need to be re-evaluated.
Designing for app != designing WordPress theme
Since most of the designers started out as themers for CSMes, the mentality stays with them throughout the time. Designing a real web app is not the same as designing a WordPress or Joomla theme. The blog structure that we are familiar with for the past years is not applicable to real web app – especially when it comes to user flow and experience. We have to be able to break this CMS themes’ mentality and develope “App sense” in developing and designing the UI and UX of a web app. “App sense” in a way uncovers all the important aspect in user experience.
What happen when user do this? Where should user be redirected to after he did this? What if this happened instead of that? How can user easily do this without having to do that first? If user is logged in, what should we replace this with?
It is not a matter of where to put the comment form, subscribe links, and cool widgets on the sidebar anymore. It is about the bigger picture.
Personal taste VS business requirements
Freelancers normally have the freedom to express the art (or the lack of it) in their design. They can use the latest trends and the latest shits in their design whenever and wherever they want. However, we have to be able to keep a balance between personal taste in implementing every single new trend in our design, and the business requirements that come out as the specifications of the website or the web app. It can be in any forms; from the placement of the sale pitches, copywriting that get in the way of our design, the emphasis of the branding, the need for including every single social buttons and badges available in the universe - to anything at all.
This is where our knowledge in user experience and interface design is tested. If we were confident with our design, we should be able to debate it over and fight for it. Which brings us to the next point.
Defending design decision
“..because it looks pretty like that” or “..because that’s how everyone is doing it”.
Those are not the best way to defend our design decisions when debating it with the team members. It takes a lot of reading and understanding the fundamental of user interaction in order to come out with an intelligent argument to win a debate over your design decisions. If the decision helps the user experience AND satisfy the business requirements, you just win by default.
All in all, it goes back to the first point of the need to have the “App sense” – thus reducing the effort needed to defend your design. Why would you have to defend if is awesome from the beginning, right?