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I've got pretty good vision, but I do find many sites with poor contrast and/or small fonts to be somewhat painful to use.
For me, it's one good thing to come from the standard 'web 2.0' designs - large fonts.
MUST. MAINTAIN. CONTROL. AT. ALL. COSTS.
I consider myself a designer (vs "coder") but I keep in mind that the site is there for the benefit of the user, not my ego. I like "control" of the design to a certain degree, but if a visitor needs to resize the font, who am I to deny them the oppotunity. Too many web builders (whether designer or coder) forget this simple fact.
Also consider that small black text starts to look bad. Small grey text is visually more pleasing.
The main problem we have had is that graphic designers seem to often have a "Vision" that is so delicate, the slightest deviation from it will destroy the entire thing. It may not be ego, as much as it is insecurity.
Sadly, this type of attitude does not mix well with the Web, where it is all about compromise. Your designs need to be very robust, and stand up to serious abuse and misrepresentation.
You also need to be able to compromise to meet various standards, whether it be accessibility or corporate visual identity. I used to work for a very large company that had an entire rack of 3-inch binders, dedicated only to the use of their logo. Any representation of this logo would need to fit within these guidelines. Artists would regularly throw tantrums when presented with this.
Minimalist, flexible design works best for this type of chaotic environment.
I consider myself to be an artist, graphic designer, interaction designer and programmer; all wrapped up in one
Except for the programmer part, I consider myself all the same. However, I think the advantage I have, if you want to call it that, is over 30 years of theatrical set design experience. In theater, assuming a proscenium stage, you design assuming the closet audience member is at 30 feet (about 9.5m). BUT!, you also have to consider that person sitting in the last row of the balcony. One venue I design for regularly, that last person is 110 feet away (34m). While the set looks great for the people in the first 20-30 rows, it has to be distinguishable to that person way in the back. That in mind, and while I love detail, the nature of scenic design forces you to compromise. To that end, I see the Internet as a large theatrical production and each site is a set design where I try to focus on the audience member sitting in the middle and allow the rest adjust accordingly.
My advice - be the audience member when you design.
[edited by: Marshall at 12:23 pm (utc) on Aug. 31, 2007]
That's a good question, and one that may not be easily answered. There are left brain/right brain issues involved. It is literally comparing apples to oranges.
I would say that it is tougher for a designer to be a programmer, but look at some of the sites run by the luminaries of the Web, like:
The W3C Posse [w3.org]
Brad Templeton [templetons.com]
Richard Stallman [stallman.org]
You get the drift. These guys don't have aesthetics as a priority.
However, programmers get more money than graphic designers. I think that it is considered a less approachable medium, but good graphic design is every bit as complex as programming. It can get real hairy.
I definitely have more training and particular experience in programming (as opposed to being an HTML jockey) than I do in graphic design. I'm also very good at troubleshooting. This seems to be something at which you are skilled as well.
Being a programmer is, almost by definition, being a troubleshooter. You are given a problem domain, and you craft a structure to address the problem. The same can be said for graphic designers.
Programming, especially Web programming, is very frustrating to graphic designers, because of the tremendous amount of compromise that is required. There are all sorts of unreasonable restrictions and limits. Accessibility and usability impose even more (take, for example, underlined links).
To be fair, experienced industrial designers are used to doing this, but many graphic designers go nuts (I am always fighting with our designer over this kind of crap).
Another problem is that people think Web design is graphic design. It's not. It is industrial design. Designing a Web site is a lot more akin to designing an automotive control panel than it is to designing a yogurt ad.
I think that industrial designers (like Johnathan Ive) are also an amalgam between the two brain hemispheres.