Friday, March 17, 2006

Form and function - Designing for Print and Web

I've been working with creatives recently who come from a very solid print background but don't have masses of experience with the web, and it has been a real education process for me.

I had heard of teams of creatives with their sketchpads and then creating boards based on the sketches that were then inked in, but I had never seen it before.

These people are highly creative and work in teams of a designer and a copywriter to collectively come up with the concept.

Its not usual for a producer to get involved too much with this process and it is seen very much as the creative domain. I completely see that this is an ideal way to deal with print.

The web is an interactive medium and the type of projects I usually deal with feature online applications and high levels of functionality in addition to presenting brands online, and this world isn't immediately obvious to a creative.

Where this leads to is the old form and function debate, and I am starting to see where and why the camps became so divided.

Form says that fantastic creative is what engages the user and that any functionality can be accommodated later.

Function says that there are clear objectives which the user must complete in order for the campaign to be a success and so any form should be secondary to this goal.

My view is that form and function should work hand in hand and the best web projects prove this. If one takes on more importance than the other then a balance is lost.

How then do you implement that in a traditional print creative team?

Going back to basic web principals, the first thing is to create an information architecture and a workflow of what the required user experience is (such as purchasing a product or giving up information. This will give you the elements that are required on the site, and can be placed on a loose wireframe. At this point the creative concept will be developed and the workflow elements can be made concrete so that the design adds emphasis to the aims and thus form and function will be married together.

So the task is to teach the creatives I am working with about information Architecture and wireframes.

Of course there is also Cross Browser Cross Platform compliance, understanding screen resolutions and adaptive heuristic design but this will do for starters.

I will probably be writing more about this as I start to develop presentation aids about it.

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