Some people are hired to build websites or supervise web designers and developers even if they don’t understand web design. Others who aren’t familiar with web design are tasked with reviewing it on behalf of the rest of us. Those who have the least understanding make the greatest noise, and they’re the ones who start fights, bang doors and hurl money at the wrong people and things.

We must educate ourselves if we want better sites, better work, and better-informed clientele.

Real estate is preferred above architecture.

It’s difficult to grasp web design when you don’t know how to use the internet. And it’s difficult to get the web when people who are paid to describe it either don’t understand it or are forced to withhold part of what they know for business reasons, stressing the Barnumesque over the clever.

Too frequently, the news media gets it wrong. Too much online journalism is devoted to pursuing profit; much too little is dedicated to exploring art and ideas. Even journalists who understand the web spend most of their time writing about deals and citing dealmakers, driven by editors under pressure from publishers concerned about vanishing sponsors. Many people do this even when the remark they’re repeating is self-serving and absurd, such as Zuckerberg’s Law.

It’s not that Zuckerberg isn’t news or that business isn’t a beat for certain journalists. But focusing on business to the exclusion of all else is like reporting on real estate deals while ignoring architecture.

And one becomes tired of the one-dimensionality of news narratives. They informed us that the internet was strange and wild in 1994. It was a kingmaker in 1999 but a flop in 2001. In 2002, journalists found blogs; in 2004, perspiring guest bloggers on CNN detailed how citizen journalists were redefining news and democracy and choosing who won the presidential election that year. I have no recollection of how that one ended out.

Nobody resigns from the newsroom when outlandish forecasts fail miserably; instead, they toss a new line into the pond, much like marketers changing a failed slogan. After decades of news commoditization, what’s astonishing is how many talented reporters remain and how hard they work to present factual information to the public. Underneath the noise of the bizarre and unusual, you can almost hear it.


The news media isn’t the only one who gets it wrong. Professional associations do it wrong every day, and they celebrate it with an annual festival. Every year, advertising and design publications and professional organizations host “new media design” competitions, which the previous year’s winners judge. They term it “new media design,” which tells you and me everything.

Although there are exceptions, most winning submissions consider the web as a vehicle for advertising and marketing campaigns in which the user is exposed to Flash and video material in a passive manner. Gaming is available for the active user, but you and I consider active web use is restricted to pressing a “Digg this page” button.

As screen pictures in glossy design annuals, the winning sites look fantastic. When the victors become judges, they recognize and award work similar to their own. As a result, places that act like television and look excellent between covers continue to be developed. A new generation of clients and art directors believes that this is the pinnacle of online design.