In the last week or so, there has been a lot of talk in the tech industry about the upcoming theatrical release of a lost interview with Steve Jobs from 1996. The interview was part of a series by Robert X. Cringely, called “Triumph of the Nerds.” An excerpt of the interview has been circulating lately, including at Fortune. This particular excerpt includes some of Steve Jobs’ thoughts on the design process.
And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.
Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
And it’s that process that is the magic.
Design is a challenging process for me. I don’t see myself as the world’s greatest designer. To me, good design is functional – in that the design of something is integral to the overall strategy of that thing. This to me, is a major factor in the design of a website, for example.
Well designed websites are highly functional. The design serves as a vehicle for delivering a message to the visitor/reader. The overall strategic goals for a website should thus inform the design – not the other way around.
I have been publishing content to AECforensics.com for just about two years now. The site started as a reflection of my passion for pursuing quality in the built environment, following more than a decade of work as a construction consultant. I realized that there was a large void in our industry in terms of reliable news and content pertaining to the A/E/C (architecture, engineering and construction) forensics field.
From very early on, I had a vision of how the design of the site would play a part in the overall strategy. The problem is, I just haven’t been able to implement or execute that design intent. Until the other day…
The amazing designers at WooThemes recently released a new theme for WordPress that caught my eye. I could see the potential for how the building blocks of that design would serve to meet my goal. After a nearly sleepless night of modifying the code of the new theme (that’s where the “keeping five thousand things in your brain” comes in), I finally found what I had been looking for all along:
Above is a screenshot of the new design. One of the things I am most excited about is that this theme is based on the concept of responsive design. This is a fancy buzzword that folks are using these days to describe web design that dynamically adapts to whatever device the site is being displayed on. If you are using a computer screen to view the site, it looks similar to the screenshot. But if you adjust the size of your browser window to a narrow width, the layout of the site adapts to that smaller display size. The site also looks great on an iPad or other tablet device.
So there it is. I could have spent 100+ hours trying to develop a design from scratch. Instead, with the right starting point, I have been able to achieve the design intent that I have envisioned all along. Is it the world’s greatest website? No. But that isn’t what I’m going after. Is it the right design for communicating the information that I am trying to share with the A/E/C industry? Yes.
At least until I decide to shift strategies…