Framing the web design experience

Dan Russell has a couple of posts on sense making over at Creating Passionate Users. Today’s post said something that stuck me as a key element in terms of teaching web design.

The point is that you need to frame things because the act of framing helps to focus on what to do next.

There’s a struggle involved in getting teachers who are used to teaching methods that began with Photoshop comps or tables based design moved over into a way of thinking that emphasizes semantics and interoperability. I think what we have here is a framing issue.

We need to reframe the whole notion of web design. Instead of thinking first about how we expect to make a site look, we need to think first about how we expect a site to be semantically organized. If we organize the content in a semantic manner, we achieve interoperability. Any design can be added to the structure we develop. Or as Mani Scheriar said in a previous post,

Let’s code our XHTML as if we plan to have 10 different designers apply their own unique layouts to it.

This is truly a change in thinking, a new frame for the whole idea of “designing a web site.” We can no longer assume that our web sites will be viewed on computer monitors. There are too many mobile devices out there. More, in fact, than computers. And at least 10 percent of your visitors will be using some sort of assistive device such as a screen reader to obtain your content. We have to think first about content and how it can be coded semantically in order to make our sites operable and accessible for any device. Once that goal is reached, we can think about creating a beautiful appearance for our content.

For those of you planning to attend SXSWi 2007, I invite you to attend my session on Sunday afternoon called “Best Practices in Teaching Web Design.” It’s a 25 minute power session with co-presenter Stephanie Troeth.

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