SXSW 2009: Everything You Know About Web Design is Wrong

Friday, March 13, 2009 2:00pm
Daniel Willis, Sapient

The session started off trying to over cheer the other three ballrooms for the introduction to SXSW. Our session, who was the first to cheer, sparked this urge. We then did a follow up by symontaniously yelling, “Ball Room A.”

Just another dead tree: “Print in disguise” is the theory that people are just taking print material and converting it to a website. Lots of newspaper websites have the same concept, but trying to get a website to look like a newspaper. “Everything we know about webdesign is everything we know about print design.”

Video from “Le Voyage dans la Lune, 1092″ which shows a moon landing, and the stuck with the standards of people walking around and always in the same camera view. After this, other movies started coming out which the artist took it to the next level. One of the first movies to show this is, :Birth of a Nation, 1915.” AKA: The grammer of film. “Cross-cutting” is when multiple conversations are happening at the same time. And as you cut between those you create lots of tension. “Bird’s eye view” in film shows how insignificant the character is.

“One plus one equaled THREE.” The grammar of transcendent Web design.

1) Random voyeurism:

  • Flickr Vision. Every photo shows the professionalism of the photographer. Flickr Vision actually gives you an insight of those people who are posting pictures.
  • Found Magazine.

2) Seld-aware (but uncontrollable) content

  • Meta-data: content that says, “I am matrix.” XML says, “I am an address.” Basically data is becoming more and more  smart.
  • Google Bombing. “I am a failure” google search results in George W. Bush. “This relects a fundamental shift in power from author to reader and from authority to popularity.”

3) User-created context

  • Context matters. Based on what website a picture falls on can give it a different feeling. Having a picture of two men next to each other on a father/son website is different than if that picture was on a homosexual dating website.
  • “When you try to control the interaction and tightly manipulate the outcome of the experience”

4) Ambient Awareness

  • Microblogging (AKA: Twitter). You’re aware what a micro blog is because they all follow the same look as Twitter. You cannot turn trivial pieces into something that is meaningful. Such as, “I just walked outside of my door.” Overtime our body language helps us know individuals in a completely separate way. This is occuring with Microblogging. Its nothing new, as humans have been doing this for eternity.
  • Every little Microblog is a simple, no meaning comment, but in full context every little comment makes someone a whole being.

5) Experiential content

  • When building.buying a CMS the first question you ask is, “What is it we will use this for?” People design rollercoasters, theme parks, the line to get on the rollercoaster. But those people cannot design how the roller coaster will feel to me, what I had for brekfast, and my individual user experience.
  • This in turn will cause the user to design what the designer is currently designing. “The designer is sharing the space with the user.”

The way newspapers are online the way they are is because that’s the way it originated 100s of years ago. You should pull out the non-relevant pieces, and leave the important stuff. From there you can find out more about the pieces that were left out if you want. Meta data is just putting those pieces together.

If we do not activly work on getting something done, then we never will. Design does not have to be “pretty.” It just needs to be usable for people to find things. A lot of people will say, “oh, you do that look and feel thing.” But its bigger than that. Designs need to be one of the most important factors in solving your problems. Designers need to step up and become the leader to solve problems. This poses the questions, “Does the designer have the capabilities to do this?” If the designer says no, then you shall fail. Design should not be considered at the end, but it needs to be pulled in throughout the process.

The way departments are spaced out, they’re seperate like a television-dinner. The peas cannot touch the potatos, and the potatos cannot touch the meat. Each department in web process (developer, designer, business, writers) need to work together. For the 21st century we need to be more like Jambalaya. So much goes into this type of food, and you can identify what exactly each one of those individual ingredients are prior to cooking it. But after you cook them you have no idea what each piece you’re eating is. We need to go the same way with design. We need to find a better way to mesh designers with every other department in the process.

Tips for Transcendent Web Design:

  • Organize cross-discipline teams; exploit and protect expertise
  • Design for specific users and their specific needs
  • Embrace your ignorance
  • Don’t be distracted by business models that don’t begin and end with the user
  • Don’t be distracted by technology
  • Don’t be distracted by failure

email: dan(at)
twitter: @uxcrank

Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2009.

One Comment

Leave a Reply to Free Templates Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *