Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interactive Media: Quantity vs. Quality

In the article "Graphic Designers are Ruining the Web," author John Naughton argues a point that may be boiled down to the notion of quantity vs. quality when it comes to web design. Naughton defines quality from a usability standpoint as well as a size standpoint. Aka he is of the school that webpages should be smaller in size and that aesthetics aren't necessarily the makings of a winning web page. He has a good point. Websites that load slowly are a hassle, and in the age of immediate information, waiting ten extra seconds for a pretty website to load just isn't something that anyone is willing to do. Naughton, it seems, does not care so much about the aesthetics of a page as much as he does the content of the page. He points to Peter Norvig's site as one that has quality information, but isn't necessarily aesthetically designed. This is where Naughton and I's opinion begin to diverge. Yes, I agree that large page size is an issue and needs to be controlled, however I would ask Mr. Naughton how many new followers/fans Peter Norvig gets on his site. Personally, when I clicked on Norvig's site, I couldn't even begin to access the information. It was jumbled, there was no hierarchy and quite frankly, I saw nothing on the page that might engage a visually inclined person and prompt him or her to read more. Therefore, I think that Naughton needs to think further upon the true implications of minimal aesthetic web design. It can be simple and small, but still contain valuable aspects of CSS and HTML that helps a user understand and communicate with the design. This is the balance that I believe Naughton does not speak about as much in his article as he should. 
That being said, I align myself far more with the thinking of the author of the second article, What Constitutes Good and Bad Web Design, Alice Rawsthorn. Rawsthorn takes a much more balanced perspective on the balance of aesthetics and usability. Where Naughton seemed to see aesthetics as a hindrance to information access, Rawsthorn believes that the look of a website can actually lead to usability and allow the user to engage with the web designer in a balanced way. I couldn't agree more. In fact, I was quite stunned after I read and looked at the Milwaukee Police Department website. As a former resident of Milwaukee, I would have never expected something that a) looks that nice and b) is that easy to use coming from the MPD. But it works! Immediately I am engaged in the site. The simple, clean graphics are eye catching and the navigation on the side makes it simple for users to jump to the part of the site they need to access the desired information. It is clean, loads quickly, is quite lovely and is easy to use. 
When Rawsthorn was talking about web design being made for new and up and coming computer monitors, it reminded me of our templates for our websites that ensure that users with an older computer can still access our information. I think that this is a very important point, and a point that modern web designers tend to ignore as they want to work with only the best machines. We must consider our audience. With more and more areas gaining access to only the most basic level machines, we must be aware that the internet is becoming more readily available and accessible and in order to get the widest audience possible we must design to a broader range of monitor sizes and web capabilities. 

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