Skip to content


April 18, 2013

It is a challenge to write about a textbook in the first place; but probably even more challenging to review one on web site design and planning. My first thought in taking on this task was that it would be like trying to wax poetic on your next set of stereo instructions. Nevertheless, a good how-to book is worth mentioning – if only to leave breadcrumbs for others on similar paths. Dan Brown’s Communicating Design fits the mold.

In order to understand this book, first we have to get with the lingo: This book is about “deliverables,” which outside the design world can be safely referred to as documents. Secondly, the book is about the structure of various web-based projects and how the deliverables fit into that structure. Third, Communicating Design provides some guidance into going about creating these structures for future projects.

So what does any of that actually mean? A lot of this book has to do with planning the presentation of material on the web and how to design the user experience. Thus, a lot of this book has broken down this process into simple bits of advice: Write down what you are actually planning to do, organize your thoughts when you lose focus, put yourself in the shoes of the person who will actually navigate your web page, etc etc. While much of this wisdom seems like a no-brainer, it is good to see these steps broken down into requisite parts.

A few conundrums appear in Communicating Design design that are also worth mentioning. The vexing problem of web site maintenance is one of them. How does one manage the fidelity of links with the chaos of the ever expanding universe of online content? Furthermore, how does your content stay relevant generally? There’s not much about history here, but Brown’s text does provide a road map for historians wanting to present their work in the digital realm.

  1. While I do think Brown provides a “road map” I found myself wishing he used examples (…preferably history-related) that were carried throughout the book, or at least several chapters. I think his points would have been more effective had he shown how to develop an idea from start to finish.

  2. I like the book because he really emphasizes several themes that we have heard from others in the course — design needs to be audience driven, and the big ideas or objective really needs to shape our approach from the planning process through the implementation of our projects. Lastly, I think he offers great suggestions on working collaboratively on a large scale project. I think you are right that there should be guidance on the day to day as well as the major revisions.

  3. Jay, you bring up a point that I’ve been grappling with pretty consistently all semester–that is the maintenance of web links. Last night we had guest speaker Patrick Murray-John in class discussing coding and letting us try it out. Even he made a point to mention how common it is to overlook something and end up with a broken link. When dealing with deliverables and creating a “finished” digital product, how do we ensure that it is properly maintained and exists in the future?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: