The fields of user experience design, web design, and web development are often at odds with each other. This leads to web sites that are just shadows of their potential, and costs their owners a lot of foregone or lost revenue. Every decision that we make and execute has a real financial consequence, and friction leads to waste.
It is not surprising that there is disaccord among the three disciplines. Web designers strive to create beauty. Web developers like to contribute functionality. The more elegant and aesthetically pleasing a web site, the more praise will be showered onto the web designer. The more sophisticated features a web site or internet application has, the greater the reward for the web developer. On the other hand the user experience designers sole aim is to increase the value of a web site or application.
Sometimes that means foregoing a feature that will add little to the overall user experience but has great potential to alienate users by creating confusion and too many choices. Other times, it means creating web sites that have a shallower information architecture that translates to denser pages. And while it is more difficult to prove the value of an optimal user experience design without doing multivariate analysis, it is easier to recognize a beautiful web site or count the number of features that it has. Despite this, we see that some of the most successful web sites lack much aesthetic appeal or long feature lists. For example, Craigslist.org is much more popular than Monster.com and other kinds of classifieds web sites. Google’s bread and butter remains a plain web page that delivers essentially one feature – web search. And I don’t think that many would argue that Google’s homepage is a work of art.
User experience designers are really architects. We are the conceptual bridge between a business plan or idea and implementation. As such, we depend on the expertise of web designers and developers to bring our architectures to life; without the aid of web designers and developers our architectures are nothing but blue prints. Despite this, user experience designers are not always sensitive to the value of a great visual design or a brilliant feature. On the other hand, web designers and developers sometimes do not yield for user experience architectures that are not aligned with their interests.
It is certainly not the aim of user experience designers to step on anyone’s toes. However, we must all realize that our collective efforts have the singular aim to create value for web site owners. It is our responsibility to set aside egos and self-serving interests and to work together to produce web sites that will create the maximum value for their owners.
Sometimes that means foregoing perfect beauty or a nifty feature. Other times that means challenging a user experience architecture and revising it. Most importantly, we all must realize that web sites are not created in a vacuum. They are not created solely by web developers, nor web designers, nor user experience designers.
Optimal web sites that generate the greatest value for their owners are born out of cooperation among user experience designers, web designers, and web developers. They are the result of a lot of back and forth and compromise. We must accept nothing less.