Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

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Archive for Design

SEO vs. Design: The Design Argument

I’m a designer before anything else. Before student, before music enthusiast – even search marketer or search optimizer. You read that right; my loyalties lie in the art of communicating information in pretty ways – not making the information super accessible and searchable. It’s not that I hold no value to optimization; in fact I often fight with designers about its importance. It’s just that to me, how something looks when it is found is more important to me than the ease of finding it. As a user, I have loads more satisfaction in going through a little trouble to find something that is absolutely awesome looking than finding something really easily and becoming disappointed at its mediocrity. However, I do understand that most people (especially clients!) think the opposite, and take that greatly into account when I sit down to do work.

Even still, while sitting through Gord Hotchkiss’ and Shari Thurow’s presentation about SEO, Usability, & Design at SMX West, I found myself writhing silently in my seat every time they gave design a roll of the eyes. We designers get such a stereotype in the search world it’s hard not to get offended. Yes, we love flash. Yes, we value aesthetics over usability. Yes, we think most things that are optimized compromise beauty. But I do think there is such a thing as a world where designers and optimizers exist peacefully in a completely beautiful, usable, and searchable world.

Take me for instance. While design trumps mostly everything, I don’t make any design choices without first considering usability. SEO and usability have been integrated into my design process, so no part of it is actually neglected. Sometimes one wins over another, and if it’s SEO I just swallow my pride a little bit and deal with it. In the end, hopefully (and usually) something that is more than satisfactory for both designer and client results.

I know that steadfast searchers and stubborn designers will probably forever be at odds to some degree, but I think if we continue to work together we might discover something new about the beauty of these things in conjunction.


The Apple-Google Superbrand: The Merging of Two of My Favorite Things. Appoogle?

I just heard news that is going to make 2008 a wonderful year for me! Two of the strongest Internet brands (and two of my favorite and most used products) – Google and Apple – are continuing to merge their services. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect marriage; that is, assuming the romance stays alive, and some sort of “formal” engagement ensues.

Apple, since its induction into the technological world in the 1980s, has been known for its simple, classy designs and easy-to-use hardware. While they’re market share is dwarfed by Microsoft’s, I’ve never seen a group so devoted to a brand like Apple-heads such as myself.

And such is the same with Google, the search king. Less then 10 years ago, a googol was just a math term. Now it’s a commonly used verb.

Here is a recap of the new (and some old) Apple-Google enhancements:

iMovie: Upload files directly to YouTube to share
iWork: Speculations about integration of Google Docs
iPhone: As you’ve seen already – Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail
AppleTV: Support for YouTube
iWeb: Easily embed interactive Google Maps and Google AdSense to your webpage. Here is a screenshot.

You can view more screenshots here.

What are Steve Job’s comments? “We are working closer with Google, they offer back end services we want to tie into our offerings,” replied Jobs. “Google likes our products, too.”

To think, I was way jazzed when I downloaded Google Notifier for Mac and received my Gmails on my desktop. Now this? Thanks for the early Christmas, Appoogle!

Read more:
Last 100 – Apple and Google Alliance Just Got Stronger
Engadget – Live From Apple’s Summer Mac Product Press Conference

A Camel is a Horse Designed by a Committee

I’m still a student of design (aren’t we all), but was still surprised that I had not heard this famous hilarious quote until recently. And how true it rings.

I first saw it in this SEOmoz blog entry posted last year, in which web designer Matthew Inman demonstrated the ghastly results that abound when multiple people are involved in the design process. The following graphs are taken from that post (click to view larger).

The Design Curve

The Design Curve 

After I finished laughing (may cause eyes of small children to bleed?!), I got to thinking about it. It’s funny initially, mostly because it’s somewhat true. It’s true that the bigger a team of designers (a team of anything is bound to have its plights), the harder it is to produce something everyone will agree upon, resulting in a sub-par design. Designers across all disciplines have certainly made good designs go bad with the wrong kind of input from the “wrong kind of people,” which Matthew described in his post – basically people with little to no design skills. We’ve all heard “It just doesn’t feel right,” from someone with zero design background, as someone observed in a response to Matthew’s post. What subsequently happens is, the designer goes back into the design, frustrated for hours, and tries to solve the problem of making it “feel right,” which is theoretically impossible to do.

While it’s funny, and true to an extent, input is still input. And input is valuable. It’s important to understand how people (designers and non-designers alike) react to imagery, because they’ll all be exposed to it. I could easily get on my high horse and disregard what my cousin or eye doctor critiques, but why shouldn’t their opinions matter? Aren’t they, like everyone else potentially, visitors to my website or audiences to my designs? Ultimately, it’s up to the designer to make the decisions based on those reactions.