Design View | Articles and opinion on design professionalism, technique and culture by Andy Rutledge

Redux Anatomy

May 1, 2006

As my redux articles have become something of standard fare around here I want to try and make sure that their purpose and my aims in writing them are not misinterpreted. Actually, I notice that a great many readers (lookers) do miss my purpose and misunderstand the content of the articles each and every time one appears on this site. This is because these individuals do not care to learn and, therefore, do not read the articles (or likely anything else), but only look at the pictures. Big mistake.

While I’ll never be able to change the fact that many refuse to actually read the articles and only look at the images they contain (much of the Digg population is especially guilty of this), perhaps I can shed more light on things for everyone else.

Let me begin with a few things that these articles are not. First and foremost, they are not comprehensive, contextually accurate redesign exercises. If you read the articles, you’ll notice that I always cite the fact that I am using the article to highlight some specific or general design flaws and show an example (not the example) of how to remedy those flaws. Notice, however, that these flaws, while real flaws, are taken out of context from the otherwise relevant information I would need to know to actually redesign one of these sites.

Furthermore, the redesign example comps I put forth in these articles are not actually valid redesign examples. Instead, they are examples of what might be suggested if my limited context accounted for all relevant information. However, as I make sure to observe in each article, I am not privy to loads of relevant information that would be needed in order to do an actual redesign job.

Also, the redesign suggestions I create for these articles are not the result of an in-depth discovery and research effort. On the contrary, they’re the result of roughly an hour of playing around with the information architecture in the context of having addressed the specific design flaws cited in the articles. A real redesign would certainly require significantly more time and effort.

What I do hope to accomplish with these articles is to offer examples of how poor design decisions and bad information architecture negatively affect user experience and site usability. I want to show how the advisable application of some design fundamentals can greatly improve page architecture and user experience, and do so quite easily.

These articles are for those who are working to better their skill and understanding of Web design. These articles are for those who have rightly assumed responsibility for how their grasp of design directly affects the fortunes of their clients

But those lessons are not contained in the before and after screenshots included with these articles. So if you merely look at the site’s current design and then look at the redesign example and then make assumptions and measure the value of the exercise, you’re missing the point and likely learning nothing. And that would be a prime waste of your time (and mine).

These articles are for those who are working to better their skill and understanding of Web design. These articles are for those who have rightly assumed responsibility for how their grasp of design directly affects the fortunes of their clients. Design is power, and those who dare to wield this power have a responsibility to do so competently.

We creatives are a dime a dozen. Creativity, along with a solid understanding of the Web environment, HTML, CSS, semantics, Web standards and usability amounts to half of the baseline minimum skill set for Web designers. Those things must be taken for granted as being a part of our professional arsenal. But they’re all for naught if we don’t possess the other half: a comprehensive grasp of design fundamentals.

Design begins and ends with the fundamentals. Poorly applied design fundamentals will wreck any chance of your achieving an effective design, while fundamentals correctly applied to a project can greatly enhance its effectiveness. That’s what I hope to show with the redux articles.

Design means better communication, enhanced usability, solutions to problems and a better user experience – all within a specific context (as each project has its own context and constraints). Understanding potential problems and design pitfalls better arms us to deal with them appropriately when we encounter them.

So with the redux articles, I hope that readers will look into the lessons and find ways to absorb and apply them to their own design work by learning from the mistakes of others. But know that I don’t merely suggest that this or that site should be redesigned according to the graphic suggestion I present in each article. Instead, look at those redesign suggestions in the context of the specific design flaws cited in each article – and only in that context.

And, yes, I sincerely hope that you’ll take the time to actually read the articles rather than just looking at the pictures. Otherwise, you miss the whole point, do yourself (and perhaps your clients) a disservice and learn something that was not intended at all.