What is holistic web design …?

When I mentioned that I was a web designer to "my" programmer the other day, he corrected me once again, saying that I shouldn't use that term. Referring not to any fabulous-ness on my part, but rather to our marketing, usability, sales and search engine optimization capabilities in addition to web design, he said: "You're so much more than that".

Well. Okay. Easy to say. This of course turned the conversation to what kinds of descriptive terms I could possibly use — such as the holistic web design term I first heard at cre8asiteforums during a discussion meant to solve this very issue of what to call what some of us do. Unlike other mostly search engine related forums, cre8asiteforums has purposely included — beyond simple lip service — a wider variety of web specialties.

Holistic web design

is simply a term coined to mean web design services that includes other specialties such as usability, marketing/sales expertise, search engine optimization, etc. The problem, of course, is what the "etc." stands for. Having a term that stands for some or all of an unspecified list of specialties is not very defining.

That and, to me, the fact that "holistic web design" reminds me of health food. Or health fad. "What is she? Some kind of alternative medicine web designer?" So that's out.

We could also simply list our specialties after "web design": usability, search engine optimization, Web Standards, graphic design, etc., etc., etc. Of course, this would force us to use strings of descriptors in everyday conversation. I simply can't see that happening on an ongoing basis.

The other problem, of course — and the main problem — is that while we can use any terminology we like among ourselves, the general public simply won't understand it. I've seen enough eyes glaze over at "web designer". So "holistic web design" simply does not work as a descriptive title for marketing purposes.

Ah well.

4 Comments to "What is holistic web design …?"

  1. Adrian says:

    Hehe, the health food thing, that is one problem with the word 'holistic', being more of a sci fi fan, and reading lots of Douglas Adams, it always reminds me of Dirk Gently and his Holistic Detective Agency. Which is main idea, the interconnectedness of all things.

    Short of forcing the general public to read the same book though, I can see many people getting the wrong end of the stick…..

    I think you'd also get the same problem with any convoluted way of describing that style of web design & development to the public though.

    Good thoughts though :D

  2. Diane Vigil says:

    I've thought of what you said, Adrian.

    The thing is, by constant use — albeit for half a decade — our search engine compatriots have gotten both "search engine optimization" and "SEO" much more recognized by the general public.

  3. Tyler says:

    Intersting post. Until I hear something better, I'll vote for "Holistic Web Designer" to describe someone who not only codes and does graphic design, but who also understands search engine optimization, usability, and analytics.

    I know you prefer that URLs aren't included in your comments, but I recently wrote a blog post on holistic web design that gives examples of how the disciple was applied to a specific site.

    I think the point is to not only make people outside the industry understand what is meant by holistic web design, but to encourage web designers who stop at graphic design and coding to realize that more should be expected of them.

  4. DianeV says:

    I know what you mean, Tyler. On a similar note, there was a 2001 article at A List Apart entitled "Web Designer and Proud of It" — and there, too, the general idea was that more is needed of a web designer than simply the ability to design a website.

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