Every Design Is a Portfolio Piece

Monday, March 22, 2004 at 8:02 pm | Comments off

I’ve recently (read: in the last 9 months or so) realized the importance of “designing for design’s sake”, in relation to web design. I am no longer satisfied doing sub-par work, but feel it’s my responsibility, not only to my clients, but also to myself to do my best on each and every project. If when I am done with a site, I do not feel it is “portfolio-worthy”, I have not only wasted my clients time and money, but also my own.

I am in the process of redesigning my business site, and my new portfolio will contain only my latest work, partly for this very reason. As my knowledge of the importance of standards has increased, my old work is the very type of work I would now encourage developers to stay away from. Apart from that, through sites such as the CSS Zen Garden, the CSS Vault, and simply working in this medium, my design skills have improved greatly.

My point in all of this, of course, is to encourage all of us to keep pushing ourselves to new heights. Don’t get in a “good enough” mindset! The web has enough mediocre sites, who’s designers were obviously just designing for a paycheck. Let’s push the envelope, and continually strive to do our best.

I realize that I may not create work the quality that people such as Jon Hicks, Dan Rubin, or Douglas Bowman do, but is that going to stop me from trying? Heck no! Maybe one day, my work will stand on it's own with the best...


Zach B
March 23rd, 2004
12:40 AM | #

"in a 'good enough' mindset"
Of course, if your Ryan Brill, 'good enough' is more than most people's 'good enough'=P

oooo....I just noticed the blue highlight around the textbox....pretty....lol

Nate L
March 23rd, 2004
2:00 AM | #

When you're working for The Man (http://www.gannett.com) (that's not the site, just the parent company), sometimes you have *no choice* but to get something up fast n' furious.

If I was a designer with infinite time and resources, I agree, spend all the time that is needed to make it "perfect". The problem is, sometimes the client wants something UP and cares very little about standards, design, or really anything else. I will make my stand/argument to uphold those things, but in the end, if my boss tells me to get my butt in gear, I'll ask him how high...err...you get what I mean.

Do you have a Maaco in town? In case you don't, Maaco is this autobody shop that charges a fraction of what other autobody shops charge to paint your car. Do they do a crap job? You bet. Will it last for the long-term? Not a chance. Does your car change to the color you want? Yep.

My point? There may be some flaking paint out there, but Maaco is still in business.

By the way, your way is the *best* way, just not always the realistic way.

Steven Streight
March 23rd, 2004
8:21 AM | #

Your web site is clean, uncluttered, easy to read, informative, and a very nice graphic, eyes looking to right, I felt happy just landing on your site.

I agree with your blog. Mediocrity stinks and there is never any excuse for it. I revise all my writing every time I look at almost. I can't stop improving my own stuff.

I am trying to find URLs that exemplify usability guidelines I give to clients and use in published articles.

Horrors: I can't find hardly any web sites that exemplify my guidelines. I composed them based on what I've learned from Nick Usborne, Jakob Nielsen, many others, plus my own insights from direct response marketing career and experience surfing the Web.

Not knocking designers at all. I'm a writer and the writing on the Web is pretty poor too. Hardly anyone using Web Scan/Skim techniques, stuck in Print Read type text formats.

The most usable sites seem to be blogs. Like this here one. Keep up the good work, and don't lower your standards. Too many people do that habitually.

Steven Streight
March 23rd, 2004
8:27 AM | #

Had to add: thank you for converting my properly typed in email address into an anti-spambot address. Verrrrrry cooool.

March 23rd, 2004
8:46 PM | #

Nate, building on your Maaco example, one would have to ask themselves if that is the reputation that they want for themselves. I realize that you may well have your hands tied, if your boss hasn't been enlightened to the values of producing quality work, but often times, it takes less time than it may seem to do the job correctly.

When it comes right down to designing, I'll admit that creating quality work does take longer than just slapping something together. However, I do stand by my original thought, and if at all possible, one should always create the best work they are capable off.

Nate L
March 23rd, 2004
10:57 PM | #

Ryan, you know, I just deleted a quite lengthy response when I realized that it all boils down to one point.

Your business is not my boss' business. My boss' ultimate goal is to profit. He doesn't give a rip how that is done. If web standards and good design are the quickest ways to get there, bring 'em on. If 'settling' for a design and a few web standards is the quickest way, do that. Your business, however, is to advance web usability and design.

Your goal is progression. His goal is profit.

Do they relate? Sure. Are they directly correlated? No. The users of our site care about getting organized content (#1) that looks decent. The users of your site care about semantic code and mind-blowing design (and they get just that).

My point? Businesses whose *main* goal is not to produce a website may not find the methodology that works for you on this site to be something that works for them. Again, I agree that your way is ideal (and has many long-term benefits), but sometimes we're just trying to post a profit and have no choice but to take shortcuts.

Good article, though. I enjoyed it. =)

Robert Wellock
March 24th, 2004
3:29 PM | #

Money Talks, albeit if you are your own boss or believe passionately in what you do then there is no excuse for substandard work leave that for someone else if possible.

Steven Streight
March 25th, 2004
11:01 PM | #

Direct Marketers have proven that quality copy and design generate far more profits...than "get your butt in gear" work.

Steven Streight
March 25th, 2004
11:13 PM | #

NateL: dear friend, oh how I sympathize with you, believe me, I do. Really.

So I humbly suggest: work overtime on a project and fine tune it, then let your boss see how quality does outperform mediocrity.

Maybe beg him to test "butt in gear" project versus "web standards/online copy brilliance" project...to get quantitative proof that Quality Sells.

Your portfolio, reputation, and on the job experience are at stake here...

...and boss's bottom line too.

Direct Marketers, thru A/B split tests and so forth have PROVEN that quality outsells mediocrity.

As a newspaper conglomerate type, your boss should already know this better than I do, tho I've worked in direct response mktg. since 1978...

...and worked on General Motors, U.S. Dept. of Defense, Doubleday, Troy-bilt, Chemical Bank, Scholastic, Caterpillar, and many other quality accounts.

They DEMANDED Super Quality Work...and they knew how to spot it.

Great...fast...lots...were the rule. I drank a lot of coffee and worked until midnight or later a lot. But my portfolio, and my future, is bright!!!

April 14th, 2004
1:09 PM | #

It's a good piece - and one which directly helps me... it affirms my personal feelings and encourages me to stick with them in a world seemingly-increasingly driven by 'never mind the quality, feel the width' profit-oriented motive.

in an effort to increase contact with folk so-minded, I wrote earlier on a similar subject...


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