Dear Clients: print design is not web design

The hidden cost of bad design.

by Pete Albertson

One of the hardest parts of my job is saving clients from themselves. We are all guilty of being that kind of client at times because we all have blind spots and deficiencies in certain areas. We can’t be experts in everything!

When it comes to designing software, it’s difficult for the layperson to understand how a given design decision affects the engineering of a given software product. In fact, in many cases in my experience, people will ask “is this even possible?” over the simplest changes while assuming it’s nbd to changes that have drastic effects. This is no one’s fault. Because of the way the web works and the fact that to most people, the entire world of software feels like a black box, knowing the difference between a significant and insignificant change is pretty hard. In fact, even seasoned engineers often miss these differences at the start of a project.

The best way to catch these differences before they derail a project budget or timeline is to not only hire but hand the decision-making keys to an experienced web designer. You may have a valid opinion or preference for a certain look or design for that add-to-cart functionality, but someone who has designed and built that e-commerce experiences a dozen times can tell you why a particular layout or component might mitigate other headaches and complexity. They will save you that headache and others you didn’t even know you’d have.

The worst way to avoid these differences is to put someone inexperienced in web or interactive design in charge of your design. The most common way I’ve seen that done is when a print designer is given web design responsibilities. Print designers, in my experience, are hugely talented people and often have a fantastic eye for design. They are excellent at choosing typeface, archetecting visual hierarchy, and overall just making things look great. They do not, however, design with UX design, accessibility, or responsiveness in mind. If your product is anything more than a blog or content site, those aforementioned areas are going to be crucial to your product’s success, much more than typeface I can assure you. Furthermore, people inexperienced in web design are likely inexperienced in working with web developers, thereby adding additional unnecessary friction to the project’s progress.

So when vetting a designer, be sure to ask for their web design credentials and experience. A few other questions you might include in your vetting process: