Because of the fact that site designers are required to interface with people of various different knowledge levels, it is imperative that they have strong communication skills to fill this job role. In addition to being the mangers of site development, they need excellent design skills that are tailored for the Internet. They are not only responsible for the general layout of the graphics and content of the site, but also need to be able to organize the content of the site into a structure that is both easy to follow and easy to navigate.
The daily tasks of a site designer are much the same as a project manager. As a site designer, you will find yourself in meetings discussing layout concepts, business models, and organizational structure.Typically these meetings take place with the client or company management. In addition to these meetings, you will also be interfacing with content editors, artists, and Web developers. During the final phases of the development stage, you will be in charge of coordinating usability testing. With the results of those tests, you will then need to coordinate with the development team to make any necessary changes to the site that are needed. The following list contains some of the more common tasks that face a site designer:
- Research /Evaluate available design technologies-One of the more challenging aspects of being a site designer is researching and evaluating new design technologies. Although this may seem easy enough, the challenge comes when you interface with corporate management or clients that have limited knowledge of Internet technologies. A delicate balancing act must be performed in deciding when to implement new technologies that may not be compatible with older versions of Internet browsers.
- Conceptualize/Plan new Web site design-The old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt" applies tenfold to Web design. The longer a particular Web design is staring you in the face, the more the desire to change it will grow. The challenge is to create a design that is not only visually appealing, but also functional and easy to navigate. Particular attention must be paid to creating designs that are accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities.
- Interface with management/client for design needs-The true test of good site designers is their ability to gather the necessary information from their clients or management teams as to what function(s) the site should perform. Questions like, "What do you want this site to do," and "What sort of image do you want to portray on the site," will begin a dialog that will give you an idea as to the direction the project should take.
- Design site security-It's no secret that there are those among us who would seek to break into a Web site to deface it or steal critical information. The site designer should, at a minimum, be familiar with available security technologies to provide the greatest degree of protection necessary. Ideally, a site designer would have a security specialist available to consult with to determine what steps to take to lock down the Web site from most invaders. However, there is no such thing as an unbreakable security system, so the challenge is balancing security needs with budget constraints.
- Develop project plans-As with any construction project, coordinating when all of the various parts and pieces of the project are brought to completion is an art form in itself. The nature of the Internet and its related technologies is inter-connection. Therefore, when one component is behind schedule, many others soon fall behind as well.
- Develop site standards /templates-Many Web sites that sell products or provide up-to-date information need constant updating and additions. To facilitate this process without re-creating the wheel, you should develop generic Web page standards and templates that have all of the basic elements used in your site contained in them.
- Perform usability testing-After working on a project, such as Web site, for a length of time, it becomes easy to overlook the small details that may not function properly. Ideally, you would have a team of site testers that would navigate through the entire Web site and document any challenges they found. However, in the real world, budgets don't always allow for this sort of testing. Therefore, as the site designer, this responsibility will fall on your shoulders. This type of testing requires a very detail-oriented person with good communication skills to report specific findings.
As stated earlier, you can think of a site designer (also known as a Web site designer, Web architect, Senior Web developer, or Web site project manager) as a high-level Web developer. These two jobs share common required skills and qualifications, such as page layout and design, graphic design, and development techniques. Typically, a site designer will have been involved in Web development for a couple of years.
The primary difference between a Web developer and a site designer is that site designers interface with the client more so than the Web development team. This requires having knowledge not only of Internet technologies, but also business principles as well. Oftentimes clients will tell you what they want in terms of functionality as it applies to their business, yet not have any knowledge of how to implement it on the Internet. This is where a skilled site designer really shines. The ability to communicate the confusing and technical aspects of Internet technologies into something that can be understood by less technically savvy clients is of paramount importance. Excellent communication skills are therefore essential to this position.