Finally Finished the Book, Part 1

It took me a bit longer than I thought it would, but I finally finished The real business of web design and I thought I should summarize some of the things that I learned.  First of all this book contains no code or anything that a web designer / developer would want to copy or learn from.  It contains something much more important.  It contains the ideas that will make better web designers, better web design clients, better web marketers and better web sites.

A list of things that I thought were worth passing on.

  • Three key principles of web business brought to us by Evan Schwarts in his 1997 book Webnomics I(pg18-19).  I thought this was so important I put a flag on each one.Interaction Designers, more commonly known as User Experience, Web Designers, front end developers and such.  These people make a website desirable to visit.
    • Quantity over quality.  Lots of people visiting your site is more important than how good their experience is.  I do not want to believe this as someone who is trying to make website visits more pleasant, but it is very true.  Numbers matter more than how much “fun” each number had visiting the site.
    • Results over exposure.  The overall look of the site does not matter as much as the features and functions that you offer.  Look at CraigsList!  A very boring site that is very easy to use.  They get results and that matters more than the appearance.
    • Give customers something in return for their information.  I am one of those people that will not sign up for stuff unless I know what I am going to get in return.  I have had way to many instances of my information being sold to spammers to feel comfortable giving out my information for a “free” newsletter or coupon.  I have even set up several email address in the event that I feel the need to try a new game or newsletter.  What I am trying to say is make it clear what I get for giving out my information.
  • One website on its own is pretty worthless.  It is when the site is connected to others does it gain value (pg 35).  This makes a lot of sense.  Just like one telephone or one fax machine don’t have much worth, one website does not have worth until it can connect to the community.  Once you are able to link things together you can see and understand the value of it.


    One website may look pretty and inviting, but it will keep you trapped there. Embrace the network known as the world wide web and you will go many amazing places.

  • Use easy to understand words!! (pg 63)  I like words.  I like images more.  The problem with words (especially English words) is that they can have different meanings in different situates to different people.  I used the word parasol the other day.  Many people probably know what it is, basically a sun umbrella, but few think to use the word.  Sun umbrella is a “simpler” if not wordier way to say it.  People and companies make up words too.  Synergy, what is that?!  Most of the time it means several things working together.  Why can’t they just say “Let’s get this stuff to work together?” it is much clearer to everyone.
  • Mr. Waters goes to cover several topics that are covered in many business classes to identify the stakeholders and what matters to them (pg 66-91.)  The only real thing that can be borrowed from this book is the process he lays out for identifying the key stakeholder and how to develop the site for this person / type of person.  This section is very important for those who are not sure WHO they are trying to target.
  • “‘Don’t make me think!’ the first law of usability for Steve Krug (pg 90)”  I recently explained this to my current client.  When you are on a website looking for something you don’t want to think about where to find it or how to find it, you just want to find it.  Search features and intuitive navigation are the key points in this sections.
  • Don’t let the brand or brand image get in the way of good functionality (pg 94.)  We are constantly bombarded with brands; shoes, food, tv, movies, everything seems to have a brand.  When that brand makes a site unusable then it is time for someone to get over themselves and start thinking about the users.
  • Defining web design, web development, and graphic design (pg 112-115)  I made a post about this topic.  If you are at a loss of how to explain what you do, check it out 🙂
  • The Three-Strand Rope

    Rope is made up of fibers, yarns and strands. Each fiber can be likened to a team member, a yarn is the team or group, the strand is the department (interaction designers, functional designers or business designers) and the is each department working together to support the project to a successful end.

    • Interaction Designers, more commonly known as User Experience, Web Designers, front end developers and such.  These people make a website desirable to visit.
    • Functional Designers, more commonly known as back end developers, web developers or just coders.  These people make a website capable.
    • Business Designers, this can be described as the guys with the money, the primary stakeholder or even owner of the site.  They bring the green and make a site viable.
  • Mr. Waters very quickly brings up a topic that is on most peoples minds.  Education.  On page 123, he talks about how our education has gone from the “trial and error” we knew and used before we are sent of to school to the forma; Reading, Writing and Arithmetic that school pushes on us.  We do not all think the same and forcing some ideas into the constraints of language does not work.  There are some things that must be experienced to understand, words do not do them justice.
  • “Why Interaction Design?  Currently there seems to be confusion in general – and within the design industry in particular- over the role and title differences between and interaction designer, an interface designer and an experience designer.  These can be, and often are, used interchangeably… I use ‘interaction’ design because it  suggests a two-way street, action and reaction – a mutual or reciprocal influence.  ‘Interface on the other hand, is a surface or boundary between two areas.  On first thought, ‘interface’ may seem to the more appropriate to Web design because the surface of the scree appears as a boundary between the visitor to a sate and the inner workings of the computer or the owners of the site.  But that is precisely the problem.  The surface should not be a boundary…
    ‘Experience design may be closer to ‘interaction that it is to ‘interface’ design, but it has another problem.  Although the experience of the visitor is a primary concern, it is not in the designers’ control.  It only exists in the mind of the visitor. (pg 124-125”  This is a rather long bit, but I could not say it better myself.  We designers want to create beautiful, useful things.  Be it a website, shoe or chair.  It is what we want.  How you interact with the site, shoe or chair is entirely up to you.

These points make up about half the book and I flagged a lot of things.  I think I will break this into two posts.  I know that people are not apt to read a huge glob of text while at the computer (I am one) so I will save the rest of the points for the next post.   I wish I could say when that was going to be, but I am not sure.  Things are busy and there is always more to learn.

*Pretty much everything in this post is either directly from Mr. Waters’ book The real business of web design.  I paraphrased a few things, but they are still from the same source!


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