[thelist] Are Web designers a dying breed?

Peter Small peter at genps.demon.co.uk
Fri Jul 21 02:23:51 CDT 2000

What seems to be the most interesting aspect of this discussion is that
there are so many different view points. Some of them are opposed, yet,
each is totally valid in its own context.

This is the problem I've had in writing books on e-business strategy. There
are so many angles, so many niches - it is impossible to grasp the full
picture. Those who claim to be able to... probably don't understand it at

Eventually, I came round to the conclusion that this is a game theory
thing, where you don't try to learn everything, but, employ a strategy
where you allow for having large knowledge gaps - yourself and everyone you
deal with. It means you can't always get things right, but, you do a lot
better than those who think they know it all.

John Dowdell points out:

1) "A good designer anticipates needs not expressed in the project spec..."
2) "a good designer anticipates the eventual needs of others"
3) "a good designer finds ways to discover what people need..."
4) "...the things that underlie what they *think* they need"
5) "...the things that will eventually be needed by those in a relationship
with the client"

These statements are absolutely true, but, being in a position to know all
these things isn't a practical reality for any single designer. At best,
they can get only a partial picture. Because of knowledge gaps they cannot
avoid introducing bias. This is the problem.

It seems to me that where you cannot rely on any single person, or group of
people, to be able to accurately predict what people need, you have to use
a flexible design system that can rapidly change and reconfigure according
to results. In other words it is the customers who drive the design process
and not the designer.

This will put the designer into the postion of a responder, who doesn't
decide what people want but have a suitable range of clever options to
offer up to the customers for their approval (judged by their responses,
buying, etc).

Overall design of an e-business then become a far more esoteric affair.
It's not about designing a business or service, its not about designing a
Web site, its not about smart marketing - it is about creating a system
that is allowed to self adapt to the unpredictable changes of the
communication environment. This involves everyone involved being
interdependent, yet, specialists in their own particular niches.


>Some good stuff here... my short two cents is that a designer implements
>solutions to problems. A good designer anticipates needs not expressed in
>the project spec... a good designer anticipates the eventual needs of
>Much of what's taught as "design" is actually teaching how to be a certain
>variety of "stylist". That's not a long-term skill.
>For me, a good designer finds ways to discover what people need... the
>things that underlie what they *think* they need... and the things that
>will eventually be needed by those in a relationship with the client (site
>visitors, etc). Once they know those dynamics, it's a smaller task to
>implement and test something which satisfies those needs.
>Web-stylists may evolve, or abandon the area, but a web-designer is someone
>who creates useful networked interfaces, and I see that need continuing to
>John Dowdell
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