Am I a strategic thinker or a creative?

Recently scrolling through the myriad of blogs, articles and tutorials around web design, I came across a post about the different approaches one can take on in an effort to create and promote themselves as a web designer. Even at these the initial stages of my web design journey, I find the dichotomy of the need to be creative and the push for strategic and logical thinking within myself hard to reconcile to say the least.

In her article ‘Creativity vs. Strategy: What do people really want?’, Kendra Gaines (2011) addresses the need for both creative and strategic thinking to become a great web designer. On the one hand she describes the way that creativity is the essence of design and a sensitive beast that can be stifled by overthinking or too much analysis. Conversely she describes the benefits of being strategic and ensuring you prepare yourself logically for what is to come and what you need to undertake. To me, the ideal balance between these two worlds is illustrated in web design by the creation of wireframes on one hand, and storyboards on the other. The wireframes represent the strategy, you are logically and deliberately planning in the simplest way possible how to structure a website to optimize usability and return on investment for your client. The storyboard (the most fun for me) shows the aesthetic of the site, what colors will be used, how the menu will be dynamic, the imagery you’ve created to deliver optimal branding to your client.

As found by Gaines (2011), I too am a mix of strategic and creative thinking. But the real challenge is finding the RIGHT mix between the two, and ensuring that they nurture and enhance each other. Because you can be the most creative person in the world, but if you have no strategy around what to do with it, you won’t get very far.

Gaines, K. (2011) Creativity vs. Strategy: What do people really want?, http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/11/creativity-vs-strategy-what-do-people-really-want/ (Accessed 4 November 2011)

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My first client!

And so it begins…

My next big step in the journey towards being a Web Designer happened this week, I successfully obtained my first official client! (On a volunteer basis)

Ok, so I’m not yet being paid to make and remodel business and community websites with the trademark aesthetic that has made me famous the world over… Yet! But I have secured a job volunteering my growing expertise and skills redesigning the website for Pride March Victoria.

If you haven’t heard about them they are a community based organisation that is part of the International Pride association running pride marches and queer celebrations world wide.  Every Summer the finest in Victorian queer culture proudly marches in St Kilda to show that we are here, we are queer and we’re proud about it.  I’m so honoured to be given the opportunity to work with such a fantastic organisation and one that promotes such a fantastic message.

So, bring on the wireframing, drafting and consultation I’m ready to jump head first into my first ‘real’ re-design job! I know it will be an amazing experience that will make me a better person and designer.  Watch this space for updates!


Privacy online, is there such a thing?

The world is too much with us.

With news that Facebook is introducing “frictionless sharing” it begs the question of if and how you can protect your identity online, or if you lose the right to privacy as soon as you step foot in the rabbit hole.

Facebook, known previously among users as having somewhat questionable privacy policies, the launch of “Frictionless sharing” has for some pushed the friendship too far.  Basically this new ‘feature’ allows apps from services and publishers to post a users activity without asking their permission for each item that it posts.  A once off, and possibly unread opt in allows third parties the right to access and republish your posts at any time.

But is this all too different from the once reproachable ‘News Feed’ that gives each user a stream of the most recent posts and activity of those that they ‘Like’ and are friends with?  When it launched in 2006, the news feed feature caused outcry and mass account deletion in protest of the invasion of privacy it posed.  But one wonders if Facebook would have reached the infinite proportions it currently has, if this feature had not been available.  Where would the draw card be for users to come back to the site?  Although initially it seemed as though our lives were being put on display against our will, now many users log in with the sole purpose of checking the news feed as an easy way of finding out what their nearest and (questionably) dearest have been up to.

Although Facebook acts as a “free” service, is it any real surprise to users that there’s a catch?  The reason it is free, the reason they have the money to run a multimillion user service with minimal downtime is that advertisers and marketing companies pay Facebook for something else, for us.  That means that the real ‘product’ that Facebook sells, is us, it’s users and our information.  Is it any wonder that a marketer or company wants to know the intricate details of their target audience, what we like, what we don’t like, how we react.  This is marketing 101, but in this case we’re creating our own buyer persona, can we really be surprised that companies are trying to get it?

To me it seems clear, whatever you put online, wherever it is posted be prepared for that information/image/text/video to be seen by the entire world.  That is the beauty and curse of the internet and especially social media.


Why Web Design?

The perfect storm of a creative, logistic and scientific mind.

This is what makes Web Design so formidable.  Evolution tells us that it is not in our nature to have both our creative (right) and logical (left) sides of our brain working at the same high level.  But this is what Web Design asks us to do.

Creatively you need to see the end product, to envisage beauty, sleek lines, beautiful or powerful images, you need to see each page as its own work of art, having its own beauty and fitting into the showcase of the website as a whole. A website is not raw creativity, you can’t  just envision your page and start painting it using fine motor skills that we have developed over thousands of years, in the technological age it would never be that easy.

In order to translate your vision there is a myriad of technical hurdles to jump, you need to think about usability, will anyone be able to go to the site and intuitively know how to get where they want to go?  You need to think about functionality, do you need a sidebar on the left, the right or both? Do you need a footer? Do you want the menu to drop down or pop up? How will this affect click through rates? Will you need to reference the work or images of another?

Once the vision of the page is determined, and the site’s functionality is drilled down, the web designers job is not over, no not by a long shot.  This is when the days of endless coding come in, typing frantically into the night, squinting at lines of seemingly illogical code looking for the hidden piece of the puzzle that will make your vision a reality.

Web Design as a pursuit pushes anyone who commits to it, if you are a naturally strong creative person it draws you in and then challenges you to be systematic and logical.  If you are left brain dominant, it pushes you to stimulate your creativity, to draw on inspiration from others to find your own vision.  I believe this is why Web Design is such a booming industry at the moment, every business needs a website to survive.  If you’re not on Google, you won’t be found.  This is forcing the Web Design industry to push the boundaries of their creative, usability and technical sides to have continuous growth and improvement.


In the beginning

In the early hours of the morning I found myself yet again staring furtively at the screen, my eyes weary from hours spent searching the endless lines of code for an answer that I was starting to believe wasn’t going to come. As I rise to fetch a new mug of coffee to fuel my endeavors for hopefully another hour or so, I ask myself “Why?”

Flashback to a few months earlier, I am at home, slumped on the couch half watching a TV show just to pass the time.  I’ve returned from another day at work, going through the motions, doing the same thing I did the day before, and the same thing I’ll do tomorrow.  A sobering thought flashed across my mind, the same thought I’d had for as long as I can remember “Is THIS all I can do?  Is this all I’m meant to be?”

Then something changed, an idea, a spark of life, an online business.

My friends and I decided to create our own business, but how to get it online?  I’ve always been technically minded, always wanted to know how things work, why they work, with a keen eye for detail, systems and patterns.  As soon as the website was mentioned, something deep inside me said “I can build it”.  Up to this point I’d never had any training or experience with web design or any other kind of programming, but still this voice “I can build it”.

Despite my lack of experience, my friends put their faith in me to bring our website and our business to the world.  I started reading, I watched seminars, I downloaded videos, I attended online conferences, I signed up to every web design blog/article/magazine I could find.  Slowly but surely it started coming together.  The more I learnt, the more it fuelled me to discover more, the more it challenged me the harder I pushed myself.  I was driven, I was alive!  But there was only so much I could learn on my own.  On a leap of faith and without a second thought I enrolled in an Internet Communications & Web Design degree and I’ve never looked back.

The internet has changed the world and continues shape the way we live.  Web design is the perfect mix of creative and logical thinking, driven by beauty and inspiration, built from systematic technicality, built for me.