We’ve just recently launched a very large website redesign for CATA. I was thinking how this site truly showcases the differences between visual eye candy design and useful informative web site design. While CATA’s makeover is still visually appealing the quality of the design comes from a underlying thought process of what information should be displayed and where as well as what users will need to do with it. The information architecture forms this foundation and the design is merely there to support that. In fact the best designs for the web are the ones where the user doesn’t even notice the design, it just falls to the background and the purpose and content rise to the surface. They simply and intuitively know where to go and how to get there because the design guides them and doesn’t distract them from doing what they need to do. While I’ve done many heavily branded and thematic designs as a web designer where the visual treatments are weighed heavier it’s important to not allow the artistic elements to outweigh it’s usability. Your website still has a purpose and relevant information to provide to it’s users.  Your web audience is an inpatient group so the quicker you guide them to the info the better. If you put that as your main focus you’ll find a clean effective appealing design will naturally follow. Everything else is just window dressing.

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