So, who should we start with?
How about graphic designers? For them, it seems like a lot depends on how long they’ve been out of school, or alternatively how artsy their program was. If it’s “not much” and/or “a lot” for those two questions, you may have a problem on your hands. What that actually equates to, often, is that the graphic designer will be creating something, not for the user, but for their portfolio instead. Scratch most graphic designers, and you’re likely to find someone who would really rather be drawing comic books or painting masterpieces, and is really only pushing those pixels around just to pay the bills.
Writers? Well, they might be even more problematic. Chances are, even if they came from a tech writing program, they got into the field because of their love of creative writing. Scratch most writers, and you’re likely to find someone who works on the Great American Novel in their spare time. Now, it’s not that they’re concerned about their portfolios so much this time, but that it can be a lot harder for them to get jazzed up about short, sweet instructions instead of short stories and sonnets.
A similar problem comes with writers with a communications or journalism background. Writing press releases about organizational changes or articles about city council meetings is not always the best preparation for trying to explain a website feature or sell a product. Yes, copywriting skills are very translatable online, but whatever you happen to be writing, you have to realize that, online, it’s a whole different ballgame. In the online world, the less there is, the better. That can be a pretty hard adjustment to make for anyone who ever had to work with word counts.
A final group you might have issues with are developers. They’re usually pretty good at just building what they’re supposed to, but sometimes they will fall in love with some widget or gizmo or some special way to code something.
In general, anyone on the project team – information architects, interaction designers, business analysts, clients, whoever – can become a little enamored of what they’ve come up with and lose sight of the fact that there is a purpose to the website, and that that purpose is not necessarily to create something “cool” or for you or the team to look good.
For all these groups, what’s needed is a realization that doing their particular thing is even more exciting when there are some constraints involved (with numbers one and two being what the users wants and what the business wants). That, though, makes the problem bigger, and more challenging, and – ultimately – more satisfying when you finally nail it.
A final thing to realize is that – and this may be the hardest thing to get comfortable with – is that you will ultimately be successful only when nobody notices you. Success is when your graphic design allows users to successfully pick the product they want from a comparison chart, your content lets users complete this from so they can sign up for that service they need, or really whatever you come up with simply lets users do what they came to your site to do.
The man behind the wonderful webpagesthatsuck.com