Why Design Matters – A Lesson from Yahoo! Inc.

Kudos to Yahoo for tapping Marissa Mayer as the company’s new CEO. If you’ve been following the news, you know that she brings experience in several positions to the job.

Various media note her accomplishments. She joined Google in 1999 as its 20th employee and was its first female engineer. Over the past 13 years, she served as an engineer, designer, product manager and executive and held key roles in Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Product Search, Good Toolbar, iGoogle and Gmail.

She also oversaw the layout of Google’s search homepage and most recently was Vice President of Local, Maps and Location Services and Vice President of Search Products and User Experience.

The fact that Yahoo hired a designer emphasizes the fact that design matters. It’s a key component and perhaps the most important element in Web design. For that reason, WebProfessionals.org is focusing on Web design along with other disciplines such as Web development and Web business topics in its new SchoolofWeb.org education initiative.

I think design and user experience are almost synonymous and as Executive Director and founder of WebProfessionals.org aka the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) it’s been our 15-year mission is to unify Web professional education and to advocate on its behalf.

To that end, we will continue with our core mission to support Web design education and those that aspire and teach Web topics.

WebProfessionals.org launched its SchoolofWeb.org initiative at its annual National Web Design Contest in Kansas City, MO. To assist with the kick off of the 10th annual National Web Design Contest and the announcement of the SchoolofWeb.org initiative, WebProfessionals.org tapped Cindy Li, Product Designer for Yahoo! Applications to Keynote on “Why Design Matters.”

Cindy Li has been a strong advocate for the Web profession and has worked extensively to elevate the role of aspiring Web designers and to increase their participation in the Web profession. The decision for Cindy Li to keynote coincides with the WebProfessionals.org organization goals to close the skills gap, by encouraging the participation of art and design students as well as the highly technical and those that teach Web topics including Computer Science. Our goal in launching the SchoolofWeb.org is to educate up and coming web professionals and those that teach technology topics to think of balance in design. Technology needs to be more user-simple and centric and that is what good design is all about.

Athir Mahmud, Associate Professor Harold Washington College agrees.

“If we are sending our students out into the workforce and they are going to be the very people that are designing the web sites we’re all navigating to, then we want them to understand design.

They need to do this before they hit the workforce and are suddenly faced with a corporate culture that is not accepting of one design principal over another, she said.

“I think that encouraging and instilling design principles in our students in terms of Web development is important so that they have the idea that it’s not just about coding and it’s not just about making something work, it’s also about making something attractive enough for people to want to go” Mahmud said.

The SchoolofWeb.org initiative will promote Web design, Web development and Web business topics for aspiring and practicing web professionals and also those who teach.

We need to be teaching design because companies such as Yahoo! are hiring people like Marissa Mayer and it’s the right thing to do for the Web profession.

To succeed, Web professionals need to understand the elements of design as well as the elements of technology and business.

Design matters because it’s important in creating simplicity that’s visually appealing as well as ease of use.

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