Design consists in the creation of signs. The most common signs are the linguistic ones, i.e. words. A sign is something that refers to a concept; for example, the word "truck" does not refer to one specific thing, but to a concept instead. This is arbitrary -there is nothing that makes a linguistic sign more appropriate for a certain concept than another.
Things are similar in the field of design. The elements of design are signs that refer to a concept. But here it is relative that a sign is not more appropriate for a certain concept than another. Why? Because one specific Web design is better to transmit the idea of, say, trustworthiness than another. However, two different designs are just equally related to the concept of "trustworthiness" - there is no relation at all. In other words, there is no material thing that makes it possible to associate one design or word in particular with a concept such as "trustworthiness" or "truck", for example.
What is it that links the sign to the concept, then? The answer is categorical: it is a matter of convention. Words, as any other sign, are linked to the concepts they transmit because a speaking community living in a region, country, etc agrees to call a certain concept by one specific sign. If you think of this as related to Web design, then it will be clear why there are certain patterns to follow when looking for the best way to transmit a concept. In general, big corporations are tending to elegant, sober, plain websites, i.e. with just a few soft colors and no animation.
The Web designer is responsible for transforming the concepts you want to transmit into graphic signs. Therefore, problems arise when you do not know what you want to transmit, or you know it but you cannot make yourself clear, or you interfere in his work.
- There are many people who make an appointment with a designer and just say: "look, I want a real good website." As ideas are the stuff Web design is made of, without them it is impossible for a designer to work.
- Many times clients tell their designers: "I want a website including red and black, with some animation here and there, and also some pictures, etc." This is nothing but a person creating something that cannot be associated with any concept. It is the designer that has to find the best way to transmit whatever you want to transmit -after all, that is why he is hired. So you think of that idea or concept you wish to transmit; he thinks of how to do it. Otherwise, hiring a designer makes no sense at all.
- Another recurrent problem is when the client cannot make himself clear and therefore cannot explain what he wants. This is not unusual, as people are not get used to expressing their thoughts correctly (which remains a problem since Socrates’ time). The best thing to do is to strike up a fluent, friendly, tolerant relation with the designer, so as to find solutions together. On many occasions it helps a lot to surf on the Web looking for websites that appeal to the client.
But it is not only the client that can cause inconvenience; there are two common mistakes that designers make (and, of course, have to be solved):
- An arrogant designer who does not listen to his client because "he doesn’t know what he is talking about" is always troublesome. Even when this is true in most cases, a professional should not be that haughty and learn to listen to his client to help him find what he is looking for.
- A designer who does not work unless his every step is approved also causes a lot of trouble. This may be the result of either an insecure designer or a wrong client. A good deal of freedom and creativity is a sine qua non for design -and you, the client, have to encourage both for the sake of your own website. Consequently, the designer has to work independently of his client some times, although this does not necessarily mean to break bonds with each other.