Disposable Design and Problem Solving

Web design is disposable.  Design is different than art.  Art…at least good art…isn’t disposable.  I have a replica of the Mona Lisa hanging in my living room.  The Mona Lisa isn’t disposable, but web design is disposable.  Web designers are often embarrassed about including works they did two years prior in their portfolios.  The designs look outdated….and they are!

The reason web design is disposable and art is not, is that web design isn’t art.

(Pause for outrage…breathe…are you breathing?…count to ten…aaaaand we’re back…)

Web design can be creative, beautiful, engaging, and through-provoking just like art.  It can elicit emotion, and in some cases it’s fit for museums, but the main goal of design is different from art.

The main goal of design is to solve a problem.

Problems change.  There is no magic bullet that drives ROI, draws in new customers, and completes a singular task in such a way as to be the *only* way.  Some might point to Google and say “Okay, but wait, look at their design….it’s been consistent…they found the way…” but Google does so much user testing and change their designs so frequently you just don’t notice it.  Sure, the standard homepage looks about the same today as five years ago, but it doesn’t *work* the same.  When new problems arose, Google solved them.  They kept roughly the same design language, but their language was flexible enough in the beginning to accommodate new problems and solutions.

Design is about problem solving.  “Our company has a great site, but people aren’t buying as much as they were six months ago, so we want to re-do some aspects of our site.”  This isn’t a question of art, nor is it a question of science.  This is a classic problem-solving question.  “Why do you think re-doing the site will help?  Has the direction of the company changed, and if so in which direction?  Where do you want to be six months from now?  What are your competitors doing?”  These are the questions that lead to solutions in this case, and they are *design* questions.

The reason then that web design is disposable is that problems change…and in today’s world they change very fast!  The best web designers then are the ones that can adapt quickly, and learn to solve new problems. 

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