Objects & processes. Liberating design.

First off, I’d like to start by saying that we are not a design company but have individuals who have undoubted talent in designing stuff. Me, I have not a creative design bone in my body! What prompted this post was a recent encounter with a client’s design company who were “re-designing” some element of our client’s web-site. What stuck me quite hard was the opposing view of object design versus process design.

Most well developed and successful web-sites are built around great processes that are easy to use, slick and give the visitor what they want. Yes, the processes are littered with objects such as buttons, banners, content, headlines and other such items but fundamentally it is the process that makes, say, Amazon or Google great. So why are web-site designers seemingly forced to work in a purely object world? Seems like they work in a straight jacket.

It seems that many web-designers were, until quite recently, designers in the static (old) world of direct mail, point-of-sale, brochures et al so how can we expect them to think about the process? The process underlines the all elements of the design, including the objects so the objects must serve the process and not the other way round. If we keep it that simple it is also much easier to evolve the objects as we can think about the objects would better serve the process (red submit buttons, big text, simple content, sensible layouts etc).

Since the turn of century, I have held onto the belief that good web-design is very rare and usually polluted by brand elements. This is confirmed in the way brand is often delivered online via a series of defined objects and properties including logo position, colour and font. These guidelines are usually set in stone and never take into account the process. It’s refreshing to see new exceptions such as Amazon and Google whilst encouraging to see older brands starting to embrace process driven design.

So, before you start wire-framing your next design how about designing and refining the process first? You could produce a bigger performance improvement with a process change alone than you could ever by changing object design when detached from the process. Maybe it’s time for process designers to start double-teaming with object designers?