Aug 20, 2010 by Aaron Rubman
Last week I wrote on idea and form. These two elements of design are often decided internally before you even begin the search for a designer, and they sit at the core of the creative process outlined in Scott McCloud’s visual textbook Understanding Comics.
However, once you bring a developer into the process, they’re going to want to get at the infrastructure of the design, and for this we’ll need to move onto the next two layers.
The design’s idiom is like its genre - a set of design standards that help visitors to stylistically distinguish one kind of presence from another. You have likely encountered several of these idioms of web design without even thinking about it: blogs, news sites, Facebook pages, online stores, interactive brochures, animated showcase environments. You may already have an idea of what format you want to use, but it does not hurt to ask your web developer which style of web site they think best serves your idea and resources. Better still, ask them what the different types of websites are. If your web developer can define common web site variations in an easy to understand manner, it fair to assume that they also understand the capabilities and limitations of each of those idioms.
Structuring a design involves taking the idea, form and idiom, and connecting them in a compelling manner that fits the needs of your specific project. It is here where a developer like Marissa Berger really gets the chance to shine. A developer with an eye for structure will undoubtedly want to get at who is visiting the site, whether or not there is a narrative to help drive their path, what level of access visitors and administrators will have, what information can go live right away (or needs to be held for internal approval first), who should have access to that information, and how it will be displayed. A site that you can navigate without a second thought has been well structured, and if it draws you along a particular path without your realizing it, you have encountered a masterwork.
We come to the final stages of the design process, the craft and surface.