Redbean - It could be said that Web design is an uneasy alliance between a number of disparate groups dominated by the functionalists and the aesthetes. Within the functionalists camp we have the technicians and the usability industry while the designers and artists like to concentrate on aesthetics. Within each group are further sub-groups who can also have conflicting and hence competitive goals in the design process.
Ben Hunt describes the goals of these two groups:
“I define Aesthetic richness as a function of beauty, attractiveness, emotional depth, and visual impact.
Functional richness equates to usefulness, which is an aggregate of ease-of-use and functional power.” http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/sphere_of_design.cfm
It can be argued that both these camps are selfish, tribal and competitive and design to satisfy their personal, commercial and sometimes political goals. So instead of getting great sites that highlight design synergies most web sites end up as a compromise of ideas, political will and ideologies. Independent designers and non-commercial sites tend to be more adventurous yet appeal to a minority while most corporate, government and education sites usually reflect the ‘committee’ mentality with which they were designed and hence please nobody in particular.
What these groups are ultimately missing is what Bill Buxton says in his new book “Sketching User Experiences” -
“Despite the technocratic and materialistic bias of our culture, it is ultimately experiences we are designing, not things.” http://www.billbuxton.com/
I find most design engagements in organisations tend to be a battle of egos designing ‘things’ rather than the well considered experiences they and their customers require. As my son reminds me - “form follows function but style rules”. And style, that wonderful exciting thing that nobody can quite describe yet everyone can recognise when they sense it, can only come from designing great experiences.