I love sports.

The theatrics of great competition is exhilarating.  But when I watch these professionals at work, I’m observing the final step of a process.

Your favorite NFL team doesn’t just show up on Sunday and run around the field based on a series of gut feelings.  They are executing plays that were crafted by professionals and executed by design.

Design is a term that is used in various contexts.  A good architect designs a home with a sense of style, purpose, and safety.  A pair of shoes is designed to both provide comfort and project an identity.  A commercial is designed to communicate and motivate.  These things don’t just happen—they are the outcome of expertise and experience.

So what about web design? All of these dot-coms we visit daily—what part of that experience constitutes “design”? There are so many misconceptions that the purpose is often lost on even the smartest of business professionals.

One reason for confusion stems from a priority on style over solution.

Design isn’t (just) about mastering a specific style or aesthetic. It’s not defined by fonts, drop shadows, or gradients. These are tools used when crafting elements of a design solution.

Web design accounts for why, how, and even where people interact with information. Web design drives people to a specific outcome. When you load up your favorite website, what you experience is the final step of a process.

Design is as much about what people want to do and how they do it—as what they see and how it looks.

In football, coaches don’t call the same play on a 3rd-and-1 as they would on a 3rd-and-25.  It takes a combination of wisdom and experience to know what to do.

A professional designer must master the principles of design in order to help their clients make the right call.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.