The Guardian homepage is OK, but an irrelevance

In response to the Voxpop last week on The Guardian’s home page redesign, I should first note that Mark Porter deserves credit for being one of the few established British editorial designers to proactively embrace on-line interaction design.

He can also talk about his work more cogently than some of his peers in the on-line news industry.

As Porter has found, unlike other areas of design, every-one is a critic when consid-ering the Web.

Yet the quality of our discussion of this area of interaction design is less developed – even in the design media. For instance, it is crude to to juxtapose functionality and aesthetics.

This imposes on the Web a print-derived model of evaluating design. Although graphic design has influenced Web design — as I discussed in my contribution to Rick Poynor’s book Communicate – they can’t be evaluated in the same way.

In fact, good aesthetics can improve functionality, or at least usability, which Denise Wilton champions in her Voxpop. And functionality also has an aesthetic, which profoundly influences user experience — but there is little mainstream discussion of, for instance, the design of the forms that we interact with all over the Web.

In the case of The Guardian, the real problem is that the wrong functionality is being addressed. As we embrace fresh news models around syndication, blogging, story- rating tools and customisable portals, newspaper home pages become increasingly unimportant.

But the new design challenges are increasingly important, and we need them to be engaged with by more of our talented, established designers.

Nico Macdonald, Principal, Spy, by e-mail

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