Forking out the cash for a good designer is never easy and even more difficult when you’re not sure what to look for or even exactly why you are hiring one. The value of what designers bring to the table is (and definitely not limited to) the analysis, interpretation, and application of graphic and interactive knowledge.
Knowing how to use data to create a definitive user experience is something every designer knows how to do. Now most business users know how to organize and collect data for the purposes of a site but sometimes have a lot of trouble understanding how to effectively use the data.
Designers are familiar with how users interact with web sites and thus data that shows problem areas can be easily solved by a designer. Most of the time issues tend to be aesthetic, or have to do with information architecture and/or nomenclature.
It’s always one thing to point out a problem and it is another to figure out (conceptually) how to solve it. However, it is different when it comes to application (or execution). I find that quite a number of times, solutions are presented and sound amazing conceptually but poorly executed. I find this to be quite true among projects with ad agencies. You pay a ton of money for a great idea and then feel like you’ve lost out when it does turn out the way you expected. Having an experienced designer makes a BIG difference when it comes to execution and interpretation. It’s why we have Art Directors!!
Designers are more than just “Make it look pretty” artists, we are a collective of idea makers, artists, and marketers with a diverse set of skills. Realistically this full potential has yet to been marked as important in Canada, but maybe one day it will be. And we’ll be more like those designers in Europe debating the importance of “User Experience Specialists” rather than web designers.