Designing for Change

Unlike print, the Web is an ever-changing medium.

Designing for change is one of the new hurdles of designing for the network.

Back when print designers made up the majority of web designers, designs didn’t change after they were delivered. That’s because the practices of print design were carried over to the Web. Print designers are set on a project, they work through it, and deliver what becomes a final printed design. At this point, their work is done and they can go work for another client or on another project.

So some web sites created by print designers were set in stone, so to speak, and never touched again.

Time has shown, however, that the most successful web sites are the ones that constantly adapt to the needs of their audience. Today’s site is different than tomorrow’s. Chances are that the sites you use the most are ones that change on a regular basis. MySpace, Amazon, CNN, blogs, Boing Boing, etc. All of these sites are different every single day…or even every single hour!

It is still the case that interface designers (many of whom decended from print) are brought into a project, asked to create an interface, and then move on to something else.

I think that over time this will become less and less the norm. Designers will increasingly be part of the permanent design team, or perhaps hold an advisory role, simply because they need to be around to change their work over time. At the very least, they will have to create interfaces that can be easily modified by others who continue to work on the project after they leave.

That leaves designers with the problem of how to create interfaces that are adaptable to change, that can be modified when necessary, that don’t require another complete redesign to fix. That’s a big challenge going forward, and one that continues to creep into conversations I’m having with folks working on web apps.

Published: May 30th, 2006