Discussion Group 1: Design Issues

Alan Leavy and David Murie facilitated a discussion group on “Design Isues” at the IWMW 1997 event.

The following report on the session was published:

The Design Issues Discussion Group was chaired by David Murie. The reporter was Alan Leavy, Loughborough College of Art and Design. Seventeen participants attended this discussion group.

A summary of the main points follows.

  • Get help – don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at history. Go back to 30s and learn lessons e.g. clarity, use of space, etc. from graphical designers. Don’t get too tied up with technological issues.
  • Have links to examples of bad design for design seminars.
  • Alan Leavy suggested that there was “no such thing as bad design”. Bad design is a learning experience – OK for students, but probably not for institutional pages.
  • A consistent identity across a website is desirable. However it does not have to have the same weight across all web pages. Different departments will have an identity of their own. Therefore use the “signature” in different ways, so the website isn’t too “same”.
  • Some people are happy with lots of graphics and aren’t concerned with the slow download times.
  • Why design for the lowest level of user – you’ll miss out on visual excitement. On the other hand some people argued that “the information be the exciting thing.” There needs to be a half-way house between these two positions.
  • Two institutes had employed an external web design company – one reported favourably on the experience, the other, however, was unhappy with the experience. The latter designer company had a print design background, which was not relevant to web design.
  • A personal recommendation may be helpful. When producing a design brief, first define the content and the audience’s requirements. Don’t start designing immediately.
  • External designers are useful to avoid “ego” issues. “This is ‘my’ site – what do you think?”


  1. Organise a workshop on accessibility issues – e.g. access for the visually impaired, users in 3rd world countries.
  2. Provide pointers to recommendations on copyright issues.

Following the last recommendation somebody asked if you could link to somebody without their permission? There was uncertainty as to the current legal position (i.e. the Shetland Times case).

One participant said that in his institute the legal departments have advised against providing definitive copyright statements.

For further information see the Library Association and Southampton web rules and regulations.