the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

The site needs redesigning

in Design & Usability , Monday, April 18, 2005

I'm not very happy with the current design of this website. I should be able to do better as a (sort of) usability professional. So I've decided to start off by trying to practice what I preach. In our work environment, a lot of what we do is heavily influenced by the work of Jesse James Garrett, a member of the Adaptive Path consultancy. In the past I've been personally attracted by one of his colleagues at Adaptive Path, Jeffrey Veen. To some extent I find the two don't always entirely agree. For example, unless I've misunderstood, Jeff favours flexible design, where content reflows to match the browser window - I've been trying to do this, up until today. Jesse, on the other hand, seems to be more in favour of fixed widths (which I'm trying now). In any case I suppose this is subjective. I have far more issues to deal with than layout, for example deciding what this site is for. Therefore, although it is intended more for commercial sites, I'm going to attempt to apply jjg's celebrated "Elements of User Interface Design" methodology to this site, and see what happens. However, I'm still informed by and interested in graphic design, and at the same time I'm a big fan of CSS. I recently bought (and read - doesn't always follow !) the book of the CSS Zen Garden website, "the Zen of CSS design". I have to admit to being a bit unsure about this book - and indeed the site. The idea is that given a fixed HTML file, contributors can supply their own CSS (and only CSS) to profoundly alter the look and feel. The scope is really on graphic design - not web design, and I think the idea is to demonstrate that graphic designers can recapture lost ground in web design. The problem is that so many submissions are exactly the same, if you abstract the background graphics and te typeface. And so many look as if the designer STILL haven't got the basic idea that the web is not print in their heads. The second problem is that the designs are for one single page. The web is not about single pages, but here the designers are not at all concerned with basics such as navigation and context. For these reasons, I don't find that the Zen of CSS design really contributes anything outside of the bounds of it's very beautiful, but walled up zen garden.