I recently came across a quiz that purports to tell you whether you could be a web designer. It seems meant as a fun marketing hook and, therefore, not rigorous, so I don’t want to be too hard on the folks who made it. But the quiz made me wonder: what do most people think web design is about?
The issue with the quiz is that it focuses solely on aesthetics: your ability to distinguish geometric proportions, colors, fonts, that sort of thing. There’s nothing about content or navigation, which are central to web design. The quiz could’ve easily asked the same questions about graphic design.
What makes the web different from other media is the link: the ability to relate elements with each other so users can explore the system at will — to “find their personal paths to knowledge,” as Wurman put it. The web is a hypertext environment; web design entails structuring effective hypertexts. The visual presentation is not irrelevant, but it’s also not the defining factor.
Web design isn’t about knowing which hex values map to which colors or the difference between Arial and Helvetica. Instead, it’s about making the right information available to the right people in the right context in terms they can understand. To ignore that fact is to miss the point of good web design.