Nobody Goes to the Gallery to See the Frames

An argument for function over form in responsive web design.

Nobody Goes to the Gallery to See the Frames

An argument for function over form in responsive web design.

Think about the last time you visited an art gallery, museum, or our creative neighbors here at The Goat Farm in Atlanta. What did you remember most? An innovative use of materials? An immersive experience that blew your mind a little? A controversial piece that had you thinking for days?

Chances are however, what you don’t remember is the frames.

The artwork is the star in the gallery.

In the early days of the internet, all of us here spent our time crafting impressive,  intricate frames: flash intros, site structures you need a ladder to get to the bottom of, choose-your-own adventure narratives, eye-bending parallax sites. Every day was a race to the bottom of a bag of glitter to throw all over somebody’s computer screen.

This is the story of good web design.

Today though, the web is no longer a novelty; it’s a vital tool. Now you go online primarily to buy something, learn something, watch or read something, or connect with someone. In other words, you get in, get what you need, and get on to the next thing. And a lot of the time, you’re doing it on a screen the size of a deck of cards.

As a result, responsive design became imperative. Getting things done on the fly or getting a point across equally well on any screen, no matter the size, became priority number one. Whether your customers are searching for coupons in line at the grocery store, custom-designing a couch on a tablet (while sitting on another couch, of course), or scanning social networks for someone’s name at a cocktail party, the ability to easily access info is now key. And it needs to be seamless.

The thing is, designing for multiple viewports (phones, tablets, laptops) is complicated. Things can get messy (and take a long time). Fortunately, we’ve found a solution we like, and that really works.

Brand story without user story is fiction. User story without brand story is just formatting. 

Site, Uninterrupted

As we understood the need for function to rule, Edgar Allan developed a “back to basics” philosophy. For our clients large and small, we begin with simple narratives that highlight what’s important , ensure they fulfill the company’s goals, and stay true to brand. Story is the star, so we place it front-and-center on every site we design and allow it to drive user experience.

Secondly, we know that content (visual and verbal) is the engine of a website (and go to market plan) that really works, and it’s where businesses need to spend their time and money. To us, the first job is to figure out who you must reach and what you need to say to them. The second: build your container to suit it.

Further, responsive sites and apps work better when content is developed alongside the framework it’s meant to work within — not in absence, as an afterthought, or in spite of it. That’s why we use a tool called Webflow to design in the browser, and get to “real” faster.

The takeaway is this: Brand story without user story is fiction. User story without brand story is just formatting. At the intersection of both are great products that people love — and the sweet spot in which we do our best work.

It’s the difference between drawing attention to the art and to the frame. The difference between a seamless site experience and a frustrating one.

So, if you’re doing web design right, your work should just about be invisible. It’s a little counter-intuitive for a design firm to be saying this, but we know our work is more important when it serves as an effective vehicle for presenting our clients’ ideas, products, and narratives.

The best sites effortlessly incorporate a functional framework that can be filled with great content, which we call “brand journalism.” But that’s another story for another day.

Edgar Allan is an agency in Atlanta, Georgia, that focuses on digital products. We see great products as the intersection of the brand and user story. If you would like to hear more drop us a line.