Do designers have a sense of Genre?
Marie Laurie Ryan (1981) said "the purpose of genre theory is to
lay out the implicit knowledge of the users of genres". I would extend
that to the writers of genres.
In researching this essay I read a number of interviews with web designers.
When questioned along the lines of ‘what are your influences?’ they almost
never refer to other websites, nor refer to a website by genre.
<Q>What influences do you feel serve you as inspiration in
<A>Ideas come from anything. I check how people do things and
try to think why some things are good and some not and also how would
I have done them.
There is some awareness of genre as an aspect in web design, but it is
Most arts have recognizable styles, like impressionism or transcendentalism.
What recognizable styles of websites are there? And could you describe
their chief characteristics?
Style is an important component of authorship in any medium…You know
Mozart when you hear him…I haven't categorized Web styles [Author’s
italics], but off the top of my head I can describe a couple of people's
work, just to prove the point that style is always part of authorship…Lance
Arthur has a symmetrical, logical, architectural design approach that
is flawless and clean and deceptively simple…there is almost-tactile
pleasure in interacting with his interfaces.
(Digital Web, 1999)
In newsgroup discussions (macromedia.dreamweaver), I asked respondents
to advise me on their awareness and use of website genres. Replies implied
the negative (See Appendix B: Web designers and conversations).
It may be concluded that many website designers do not have genre at
the forefront of their minds when selecting the visual aspects of a website.
The criteria that follow might therefore be seen to sometimes have only
an incidental relationship to genre.