Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest has a lot to answer for. It seems Darwin supported the idea that competition is totally natural.
Survival of the fittest makes sense if you lust after unaccountable power. It’s brilliant to be able to suggest the universe runs on your principle of power. “I’m better at competition, I defeat and wipe out my competitors. It’s all perfectly natural.”
But survival of the fittest is culturally determined. I read somewhere the term did not appear in Darwin’s first draft! You can see the appeal to people seeking to justify their greed and lust for power.
The fittest is the one who fits best. And you fit best by collaborating. Even relationships we might read as violent can be mutual. Foxes need rabbits yes. But rabbits also need foxes; without foxes they compete for food and ultimately starve.
Examples of collaboration in the natural world far outweigh examples of violence and use of force. Nothing works when the bullies take over. Nothing evolves on its own, punching its way to superiority. Eco-systems evolve, not individual species.
So, the marketplace is not an arena for competition but for collaboration. It is where we supply one another’s needs and a place to exchange ideas and support each other. It is only in relatively modern times that we understand it as a place for competition. Competition happens when things go wrong, the fittest survive because they know how to collaborate.
We enter the marketplace because we have something to share. When we’re online we’re in the market place: those who go there to scam, bully or otherwise be destructive are ultimately not survivors.
Design for your Market
Web design is barely 20 years old and so it is no surprise designers do not agree about what their job is. It is an important question, especially where resources are scarce and value for money crucial. Even if a wealthy business or charity can afford a beautiful site that does no work for their organisation. no serious organisation can be satisfied with this. The problem is many organisations do not know there is an alternative.
The old model is ‘graphics – words – numbers’. The message here is the site’s graphics are most important, then the content (often supplied by the client and not of particular interest to the designer) and then numbers – the research to find out what actually works for the client.
The new model reverses this: numbers – words – graphics. First we do research, then construct excellent content, get it online, more research and as we find out what works introduce and improve the graphics.
I would add two more terms to these series, which I think shows the difference between (traditional) web design and web consultancy.
(Designer) – graphics – words – numbers – (Client)
(Client) – numbers – words – graphics – (Consultant)
With numbers first, the web consultant can help their client find their place in their market. Their site design should grow naturally from the client’s understanding of their market.
Do you know your market, their demographics, their level of awareness of what you’re offering and their habits online?
With first-rate content, visitors to your site will understand your offer and its benefits. It encourages visitors to use your service and they might recommend your site to others?
How you structure your site, your branding, each page’s appearance, how people land on your site, the links between pages; all contribute to your site’s success.
What is best practice for the various types of pages found on websites? I shall compare home, about, contact, landing and other page types. What content is on them? How can it be improved?
What are the basics for layout of pages? What works and what doesn’t? How to bend your CMS to your will!
How do we square the various demands on the site? These may originate from various priorities within an organisation or else from the competing demands of search engine optimisation, good copy, legal issues, accessibility, etc.
Reviews of sites and groups of sites to show what works and what doesn’t.