How to do Digital Design: The 5 Layers

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How to do Digital Design: The 5 Layers

If you've ever thought (or still think) design is easy you may want to rethink that after this. Design, in my opinion, is more challenging than most realize and is more of a process rather than a visual exercise.

The-5-Layers-of-Digital-Design

If you’ve ever thought (or still think) design is easy you may want to rethink that after this. Design, in my opinion, is more challenging than most realize and is more of a process rather than a visual exercise. Design rarely has to do with just the aesthetics and visual appeal of a web site or page. The reality is that design is about surface as well as 4 other layers of research, process, and discovery. This is not new stuff either, design is about Strategy, Scope, Stucture, Skeleton, and Surface as described by Jesse James Garrett in the early 2000s.

If you’ve ever wondered what designers spend their time working on, it is this process from beginning to end – NOT just the photo or illustration that appears on the page (surface) or where each button should be placed. Each platform of the process helps designers to visualize the best custom solution for each site. When there is a hole (or many holes) in one platform, the next step become more difficult, and could get so bad to the point where creating an appropriate surfaces (visuals) is nearly impossible. Whether you work at an agency or in a small or large business, it’s important that designers are fed all the same information that is fed to the executives reviewing the process as it goes along. Any missing pieces of knowledge will lead to holes in the visual aspects of a site.

Here is a brief overview of some things to think about to determine if you’ve approached the design of your website properly.

Strategy
What is your purpose for doing this site? How will you obtain and maintain customers who visit? What are your main objectives and goals?…

Scope
Who are your customers? Who will you listen to and who will you ignore? (let’s face facts, you can’t talk to and realte to everyone) What content will you include/not include?…

Structure
Is your content organized in a simple structure that can be navigated by words alone? How many pages will your website have?…

Skeleton
Where will you place your content on the page (whilst ignoring what it’ll look like; wireframes)? Does the placement of your content properly suggest it’s importance?…

Surface
What colors will you be using in your site? What look are you going for (grungy, clean, simple)?…

As you probably may have noticed, these questions sound simple and very straightforward, which they are. However, there are a lot more detail to the platforms than I’ve noted above. Jesse’s site provides more insight into the details of each of these platforms and how to properly utilize them to build your site. DESIGNERS (with electronic tone), more than meets the eye!

5 Comments

  1. warrenshea says:

    Interesting post. As a web developer, I do find that the conceptual process of design is somewhat foreign to me, as well as difficult to comprehend. It’s a mentality that you can’t just get overnight and requires a lot of experience. I do see this process stronger with good designers while rookie designers generally just focus on the final, surface step (which obviously leads to holes, especially once another set of eyes sees/codes the mockups). These are definitely steps that I can benefit from learning from. I’ll admit, I generally skip strategy and scope…but I’m always looking to improve my design process 🙂

    • It’s definitely a lot of steps, and what’s horrible is when things are missed and it’s expected the designer only knows and does the surface level. Given time, hopefully people will better understand us and our role. Businesses in Europe and some parts of the U.S. do, but Canada is behind.