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I have been reading “A Website That Works” on the suggestion of David Baker. David is owner of Recourses and someone I consulted with when I was starting my agency, Atticus Communications back in the ’90’s.

Mark O’brien wrote the book “A Website That Works” with the ad agency in mind. That is a group that desperately needs a bit of advice. We are so used to giving advice that our own sites tend to get bogged down by design and they tend to not deliver much useful information.

This analogy from the book really stood out.

“As Chris Butler wrote in one of our newsletters on design, “Print design is like classical composition, and web design is like jazz.” Classical composers meticulously place every note for every instrument in an intentional spot. The pieces are faithfully reproduced by well-trained musicians (think: printers) time and time again. Compositions created hundreds of years ago are still performed with little varience today… the web after all is like jazz, Even the most brilliant jazz composers almost never set out to craft every note a musician would play.”

Too often as designers we try to lock down what a website will do and how it shows information. We treat it like an ad or flyer and not a dynamic piece. Look at web browsers for instance. Each one has it’s own nuances and can render your site slightly different. Throw the different operating systems into the mix and who knows what the viewer will see.

It doesn’t end with just design, content is a huge part of web design and SEO. Google rewards sites with fresh and original content, if your site is locked down by your design. or worse, you use flash to deliver content, you may not rank very high for your keywords. It is probably time to jazz up your site with content and then decide how you will serve that content to your visitors. The design can wait unil you aswer these questions.

On your next web project try spending more time being a jazz composer, knowing that each musician, or website, will play the notes just a little different. Your audience will thank you and reward you for it.

Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright is a graphic designer and podcaster living in Birmingham, Alabama. You can find his design work at shawnwright.net. His podcasts, the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project podcast at shadescahabahistory.com and Alabama Short Stories at alabamashortstories.com. His designs are for sale at TeePublic.com and Redbubble.com.
Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright

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