heads in the sand design

DT&G Editor, Fred Showker, interviews Ilise Benun, noted creative consultant and author of "Designing Websites: For Every Audience," a new book from HOW Design Books

How, or how not to design

Ilise Benun chats about today's design challenges

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Ilise Benun, recognized expert on marketing for creative professionals and author of "Designing Websites for Every Audience" from HOW Design Books. Ilise has written many articles about online marketing and published The Art of Self Promotion, a quarterly newsletter of nuts 'n bolts for manageable marketing, for 10 years. Her landmark book "Self-Promotion Online" (HOW Design Books, 2001) carved out new standards for design and creative community survival in the new world of online marketing. Thirteen years of consulting in the trenches of the design industry sets the ideal stage for our chat today. . .
Ilise, we're thrilled you could take time from your busy schedule to visit with us today! Thank you so much for joining us, and for sharing some of your insights into the way designers approach... or, shall I say, should approach design in today's world.
Really good to be here, Fred.
Ilise, first let me say, I loved the book and although at first it seemed to be a departure from your main concentration, after digging in it really brought home today's design psyche. How did your expertise as a marketing consultant bring you to the idea for a book on web design?
During my thirteen years as a marketing consultant, one of my most persistent tasks has been to remind designers and other creative types to think first of their audience when designing a brochure, direct marketing letter or any other self-promotional tool.
      Sounds easy, but this is a huge challenge. You want the work, the art, the design to speak for itself, regardless of who sees it. But in marketing, before deciding how to market a product or service, you must know who your market is and what they need to see and hear.
      When my clients started designing web sites, I noticed that although their creations were beautiful, they seemed aimless. When I asked who their market or users were, these designers had only a very vague idea (and certainly no real data or information) on which to base their designs. They were almost exclusively focused on the appearance of the sites they designed; whether or not the design would work was usually someone else's territory.
      This struck me as odd, because most designers know that effective marketing requires a constant effort to step outside your own shoes. So too with Web design: you must substitute your market's perspective for your own. This entails a little mind-twisting and some actual research, but it is very possible and very effective.
      This concept was the seed of the idea for this book -- in addition to my personal interest in trying to understand the way our minds work, which is an important element of usability. It seemed to me that if designers (especially those with a background in print) knew more from the outset about what works and what doesn't for different kinds of users, and how interaction design is different from print, they would be better Web designers.
So, do you consider this to really be the "rules" of designing "Usability"?
Actually not.
      This book is not Ilise Benun's Usability Rules for Web Design. [laughing] There are plenty of usability books out there! The "rules" become apparent when top usability experts and Web designers share how they turn ideas into functional, well-designed Web sites. So, I went searching for good examples of sites that received "usability makeovers," or sites that took principles of usability into consideration from the beginning -- and then built detailed case studies of those sites.
You organized the book into a first chapter on insights into the thought processes of design, then followed with five chapters, each focusing of a different reader "profile" or "personality" -- how did you arrive at those five "personality profiles"?

Ilise answers as we continue on the next page...

Ilise Benun
Ilise Benun is the author of "Designing Web Sites for Every Audience" (HOW DESIGN Books, 2003) and "Self-Promotion Online" (HOW Design Books, 2001). She has written many articles about online marketing and published The Art of Self Promotion, a quarterly newsletter of nuts 'n bolts for manageable marketing, for 10 years.
      Through her Marketing Mentor program, she works closely with creatives to teach them how to fit marketing into their day-to-day lives. She is also a national speaker who has conducted marketing workshops for many trade groups, such as the HOW Design Conference, Graphic Artists Guild, AIGA, Fox River Valley (WI) Ad Club, the Family Business Council, Baruch College's Entrepreneurial Summit and the Usability Professionals' Association.
      Download an excerpt of Ilise's book, and don't forget to check out Ilise's "Art of Self-promotion" and Quick Online Marketing Tips newsletter.
Copyright: 4/5/2003, all rights reserved

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