Web Design by Democracy?

When it comes to web design, is the customer always right? [Cut to Jenny Holzer‘s “Protect Me From What I Want“] It depends on who you ask. Google is a believer in crowdsourcing, constantly tweaking its interface based on user behavior. The company’s allegiance to this model was a key factor in designer Douglas Bowman‘s decision to leave Google earlier this year for Twitter, where he is now creative director. Miguel Helft sized up the data-driven design debate in a recent New York Times piece that also highlights a hybrid approach that aims to go deeper: “It is more from engaging with users, watching what they do, understanding their pain points, that you get big leaps in design,” Debra Dunn, an associate professor at the Stanford Institute of Design, told Helft.

That approach informed a redesign at Cooliris, a start-up whose software offers a way to view pictures and videos on a three-dimensional virtual wall of thumbnail images. In the new version, which Ms. Dunn helped design, the company includes headlines and other text next to images.

“Even though it changes the visual impact, it is critical that people have access to that information as they are scanning the wall,” Ms. Dunn said. “Now that it is out there, we can do the kind of micro-testing that Google talks about. But the broad design decision was not made that way.”

Previously on UnBeige:

  • Ex-Google Designer Douglas Bowman Moves to Twitter