Liveblogging a presentation by Andy Clarke (no relation) at @media2005, London, 2005.06.10 (@media; atmedia2005; atmedia; @media2005). (Speaker’s original presentation notes:
Julian tells us Andy just got back from a design meeting for the WWF (F? not E?) site that, curiously, Hulk Hogan didn’t like.
Andy, with his Quadrophenia/’60s-rock-star leanness, gait, suit with slim necktie, and modified mullet hairstyle, I like the cut of this man’s jib. He manfully crumples up pages of notes as he finishes with them.
“In the main, large clients don’t give a monkey’s about standards or accessibility. And why should they?” Each department has its own priorities. But they’d do it if it makes a difference to their bottom line or, for accessibility, “the likelihood that they might get sued or a bit of bad publicity.” “I actually don’t believe that accessibility, or even standards, for that matter, is any more important than the other issues that clients have.” “We do tend to get wrapped up in our own world, I think.”
But the Disney designs are beautiful. They are fantastic sites. They may not be as usable as we would like and they may be code hell, but they are beautiful sites. It does drive me mad when we focus on what’s going on in-house and not what’s going on outside, and it’s the smallest details of a failure that get focused on. ABCNews: It didn’t validate, because of the CMS. Who gives a shit? It was a great site!
[Green-eyed, black-haired] Simon Collison did a site for the Libertines, “a popular beat combo,” in a fast 48 hours. “Oh. Well. There was a frame.” Simon: “There was a frame initially because we had 48 hours to do it. To get the site up in time for the album release, we just went with it, because you can’t argue with record companies.” But two weeks later the label let them fix it.
Designers find accessibility hard to comprehend as a part of their day-to-day work is that “sites that promote themselves as [experts] at accessibility is they look like shite.” His question with consultancy sites is: Where was the designer in this? There’s no such thing as fully accessible and there never will be, so we just need to get over it.
Question from man: In the real world, why should the client have to ask the design agency to produce an accessible site? Shouldn’t they do that without being asked?
A. “Yes. Absolutely.”
Q. Why don’t they?
A. As I say, I don’t have any answers to that. As Molly said, the Web is very young and there are very few people here who have not made table-based sites. If this is a representative sample of the historical legacy of table-based layouts, then it’s probably going to be representative in the wider world. And possibly it’s a question of education. It’s certainly a question of “old habits die hard.” People don’t change until they’re forced to. I don’t think they should be forced to by law; I think they should be forced to by clients. The way that I don’t want it to happen is through legislation. Really it should be about clients who demand services from their suppliers, and… a client will go to an agency that can do it and can do that work. I think that the whole thing should be commercial-driven, and I’m very, very much against any issues of compliance or legislation, though that’s a personal rather than a company [policy].
Question from Faruk Ates: But what about all the government sites? (Woman: And education.)
A. That’s a good point. Yes, absolutely. If government says they want all government sites to be accessible, great; that’s no different from me telling [my employees] they have to wear a shirt and tie. But should that be a question of legislation? Dangerous ground!
Question from man: You recently wrote an editorial that called for a more national identity in design. I’m wondering how that sits with Disney, which is an international organization.
A. I can’t get into discussion about Disney, because the big mouse would come and get me. It’s very early days [in the Web]. (Draws an example with old Star Wars posters in different countries.) A lot of people say, “Yeah, well, the Web is a global medium.” We’re not citizens of the world; we’re citizens of right here. The Web is in danger of going [in the direction of car design, “a homogen(e)ous grey soup”]. Unless you are a worldwide brand that exists on the Internet, then I think there is an argument for a globalized design. But I would be very sad if the Web went that way [in general], because the design gene pool would be reduced dramatically. Would you know, looking at Dave Shea’s, Bowman’s, and his sites, that one was a Canadian, a Yank, and a Pom? I don’t think so.
Question from man: When you pitch for new work, you have a probably user-centred-design approach.
A. We explain the process that we work, yes.
Q. The other way of doing it is the design would inform the user experience afterward, and that’s a problem.
A. I would tend to agree. We’ll get comps sent over [from third-party developers] that bear no relation to usability or content. We have a policy of no pitch. We won’t produce designs gratis in a pitch, because how can you?
Q. The clients tend to want to see that, and the clients will get wound by things that are not buildable, and it tends to end up in inaccessible [and noncompliant] sites.
A. We don’t work that way. We explain how we work and what we want to achieve. If they say “Can we see some designs?” we say “Of course. It will be three months down the line and cost you £10,000.”
Question from Bruce Lawson: You said that clients are not banging down your door asking for standards-compliant sites.
A. Did I say that?
Q. You replied that.
A. Oh, they are, in huge number [laughter].
Q. Why do you use standards, then?
A. Business reason is it makes sense. It’s quicker to implement jobs. Now we can [spend four days on design and one on implementation rather than the opposite]. From a personal point of view, as I alluded to earlier on, I went to art school and I had great anticipation of becoming this famous painter, which I did not achieve because I was a bit crap. In fact I was a bit crap at everything. [But he did enjoy printmaking, especially lino and woodcuts.] It’s the process of relearning or coming up with solutions or new techniques or implementations of new techniques, and that’s what I find fascinating.