Of course, that’s nothing against Web designers — there’s also a lot of atrocious Web copy out there, too. The difference is that everyone thinks they can write well, while most everyone believes they can’t draw. Moreover, the popular perception of good writing centers on clarity, whereas the popular perception of designcenters on creativity. All of which means bad design gets unleashed on the world, and goes un-optimized, more often than bad web copy.
Having dropped that turd in the punchbowl, let me admit that I’m no designer myself, with any knowledge I do have coming from self education.
Yet precisely because I am not a designer, I’ve always aimed my self-education at developing a knowledge of design fundamentals rather than of design tools. And this has left me continually scratching my head when I consistently see those fundamental design principles violated by Web designers.
Sometimes I wondered if it was just me and my own deeply-ingrained Conversion-centric view of Web design, pounded into me by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. But as it turns out, it ain’t just me…
- This Smashing Magazine post shows at least a few designers who feel similarly
- And Tim Ash’s recent ClickZ article re-confirms my long-held bias towards clear over “snazzy” design
Why does this matter to a copywriter?
Because your Web copy’s effectiveness will be dramatically affected by page design.
So what do I recommend if you’re a copywriter who is forced to work with a mediocre designer? Educate yourself, learn to speak design, and force designers/clients to test disputed design decisions.
Here are 14 Starter Resources to Begin Your Design Education:
- This Andy Rutledge article on Contrast and Meaning
- Jakob Nielsen’s Website
- Mark Kennedy’s Temple of the Seven Golden Camels blog — tons of great stuff here
- This Free Design and Layout Tutorial by the Poynter Institute
- Bryan Eisenberg’s post on Revenge of the Pixels: The Battle for Screen Real Estate
- Anne Holland’s A/B Testing Site, WhichTestWon.com — getting a feel for what design elemts out-pull others is crucial!
- ABTests.com — more A/B split tests
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- Save the Pixel by Ben Hunt
- Type & Layout by Colin Whieldon
- Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, et al.
- Picture This: How Pictures Work, by Molly Bang
- Before & After Magazine
- Always Be Testing by Bryan Eisenberg and John Quarto VonTivadar
When you can articulate your objections to bad design more eloquently and professionally than the designer can advocate for his design, you’ll have a huge leg up. And when that fails, you can always demand a split test between the simpler, cleaner design and whatever creative layout your designer has come up with.
So what about you? What design resources have you found invaluable? What do you recommend when working with a less-than-stellar Web designer? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. The “Bad Design Kills” icon was created by Von Glitschka and used with permission.
P.P.S. Sorry for the lapse in posts. Had some health issues and am just now feeling on the mend.