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Graphic Design: Enhancing User Experience

Graphic Design Enhancing User Experience

Graphic Design: Enhancing User Experience

As I was drinking my morning coffee on a lovely Sunday, I came across an article online that really got my attention. It’s called ‘Graphic designers are ruining the web’. So much for enjoying my coffee.

In the article written by John Naughton and published on, the author expresses his distaste for graphic design on the Internet. Basically, his view is that graphic designers are taking away from the integrity of the information by using extraneous graphics to load down web pages – in doing so, crippling the user experience. Obviously, Mr. Naughton doesn’t truly understand what graphic designers do.

As most of us know, web and graphic design is not that simplistic and it certainly has no devious intentions. It’s not about pretty pictures or design for design’s sake. Graphic design is about visual communication, clarity of message and ultimately the audience, market or end user as the case may be – for the given media. It focuses on the flow of information and contributes to the ease of which it can be absorbed by the reader.

The web is evolving much faster than any other form or media and with that comes a learning curve. Designers today are very much aware of this and are creating for the web in order to enhance successful user experience. Graphic Designers are using their skills to provide not only an aesthetic environment but also aid the streamlined flow of content.

User Experienc

When in their infancy, web design and development both had a lot to learn. There was a time when all we did as users was wait for pages to load – even when every pixel was used to it’s fullest efficiency.

The site referenced by Mr. Naughton, is indeed quick to load. And visually, if compared to an Excel spreadsheet, it also makes perfect sense. However, there is no real indication of how to navigate the site – it’s just made up of links, and many don’t provide enough, if any, information as to the content they contain. I guess for the user who has all the time in the world, this doesn’t matter. Clarity of information was not something this site deemed important and shows a lack of understanding of the user.

Yes, there are still a great many sites that continue to ‘weigh us down’ so to speak. Although, how many of those are a result of the businesses themselves not improving their sites because they don’t understand how to or believe that it’s a priority? As a result, the majority of users know not to visit these sites. And no traffic, well we all know what that means.

The World Wide Web needs not only be efficient but well designed. It’s end user experience and quality therein will continue to grow as it has been and sites will continue to thrive as a result. And graphic design will continue to play a large part in that success. So what have I learned out of all this? We, as graphic designers, still have a way to go before the public truly understands the value of what we do. Oh, and I also learned to stop surfing the web while I’m drinking my Sunday morning coffee.

Lindsay Sleightholm

Author: Lindsay Sleightholm

Lindsay Sleightholm dares to take risks that lend strength to her design in whatever medium she is working. Her conceptual thinking adds to her nimbleness and her innate sense of brand. With over 13 solid years of experience in design and production of print-ready, digital and interactive creative, Lindsay is an intrinsic part of the creative process from conception to delivery.

Comments ( 12 )

  • I know many web developers who refuse to work with graphic designers and copywriters because they don’t believe in the value of concept or content. This philosophy is flourishing and the results are a blur of identical looking and consequently sounding websites which create no interest and contain no selling proposition. The goal now is to create search efficient sites, even though 99.99% of them are either so specialized or inconsequential that no one would go there anyway. It’s an interesting dilemma for talented, marketing focused designers. With Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, and emerging content management web tools, design and content development will continue to be marginalized. The problem will be in measuring site performance, not in activity, but in conversion.

    • Miriam Hara

      Tony, I get what you mean. It’s a sad state of affairs when there is no perceived value in design or content! What is the world coming to! What’s the point in getting found, in measuring site performance when there is no value when you get there? I agree that conversion is key (dare I say ROI?)… As such, concise content, with a clear selling proposition/call to action is necessary…. as necessary as the need to layout content in a manner in which the information flow is streamlined… easy to navigate, easier to reach. Isn’t that graphic design?

  • Graphic design helps build identity and credibility of an online business.  If applied incorrectly on the web, i.e. images aren’t optimized, too many images and not enough necessary content, etc. then it can harm the business but if applied to enhance the visual experience and contribute to the user flow, then it will have a positive impact. But a website can’t survive solely on graphics. It also needs solid content. Both these elements should be designed together to work well together. 

    • With the right developer and graphic artist mix, you can optimize any design and content. Creation must serve purpose. If you remove the colonist aspects of the web and look at innovative design’s and concepts, then it’s apparent that graphic design plays a large portion of what is seen on the web today. Even more so in the HTML5 and Mobile content. From apps to games, the developer and artists work together.

      Template designs for Web 2.0 are mainly created by graphic designers, and templates to open us up to a web of non creativity.

      Lockerbox, and Pintrest are pushing new forms of social creativity, With Google and Apple creating a market place for how the web will be used going forward. As a developer, you need Digital Graphic artists to get past what only be done in code.

      It’s not about the how many images you use on a site, it’s about how you get them to a user. Sprite Sheets have reduced the Http requests, optimization of graphic files reduce the size.

      • Lindsay Sleightholm

        Thanks for your insight Darren!

        I agree wholeheartedly. It is more often than not, a yin-yang that makes the greatest solutions possible. Developers and designers together are the best case scenario to create something greater than their sums individually.

        What is optimal, is like-minded professionals working in tandem towards the same goal.

  • Miriam Hara

    Absolutely Marianna! And you as well Darren! The best outcome is when all parties (graphic designers, web developers, content providers) all come to the table at the beginning of the project to ensure a cohesive website that is easy to navigate, content rich and streamlined in design… and loading!

  • CV

    Thank god I was not having my coffee while reading this article.

    What I got from this article is same as “Is Science a bane or boon”

    Every site has its pros and cons….Why do we need to blame graphic designers for this?
    If you want to blame then blame it to owner of the site who asked graphic designer to make flashy, shiny and sexy looking site. Directly it will result in great looks but heavy pages and low information. (If you want to make site for Victoria Secret or Playboy then do you think information will work?)

    Take another case…everyone uses google…I do…Why?
    Because it loads so fast and having low graphics…but now they are also using graphics(google logo changes daily with some animation) to be in race.

    So i think don’t blame that innocent graphics designers they are doing their work.

    Signing off

    • Lindsay Sleightholm

      Thanks CV!

      Exactly. If you’re going to throw blame around make sure you’re aiming in the right direction!

  • Henk C. Meerhof

    Mr. Naughton maybe just forgot that we ar visual beeings, we look and judge in a split second on our sensory input. For most of us the eyes are most important. So maybe we should judge Mr. Naughton’s toughts the same way?
    No, we are designers, each in her/his own right, speciality, way. We are born differently, we research the thing we see, hear, smell, thouch. Then comming with a fitting solution to get the message across, whatever concept or content.
    I can agree we have some way to go, on the other side is our business in many occasion hidden. Everyone shouts about the bad design, do you hear them about all those working designs (I don’t beleave in good nor bad design, just in a fitting/non fitting solution for the brief).
    So have another cup, and enjoy it, Mr. Naughton or not.

    • Lindsay Sleightholm

      Thanks for sharing your views Henk!

      So true. As designers we strive to create the best possible solution for the given brief. It’s all about visual communication and the design is simply the medium. If the solution fits and speaks to the audience, mission accomplished.

  • I am at a loss as to why that guy’s website deserves any comment at all (the one at: ). If he likes it and it works for him, fine. If he wants to sell something he might want to learn more. Otherwise, the site is what websites looked like 15 years ago, maybe longer. I bet this guy is a coder/programmer. I say that because they are pretty much like this: “I got the data in the database onto the webpage. What more do you want?”

    • Lindsay Sleightholm

      Hi David,

      The reason was referenced was that it was one of the prime examples given by the author of a successful website. I’m sure those were the intentions of whoever coded/programmed the site ‘’ – to just display the content. However, it actually could have been a lot more successful with its communication, had it been designed for clearer legibility.

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