Brian Feeney

Designer & Front-End Developer

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Resident of Brooklyn, NY. Senior Product Designer at the Wall Street Journal.

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April 19, 2018

The Beholders Share

“The beholders share”: the percent of work the viewer brings to a work of art, versus what the artist offers of themselves in making the art.

Design, as a craft, is finding pragmatic ways for taking on as much of the beholder’s share as necessary to bring about the desired outcome. To remove maximum uncertainty. Usually, this means creating designs which make life as easy as possible for the user.

A website should be usable even when a user is barely paying attention. Natural instincts should usually be enough. Buttons clearly defined and placed in logical positions. Navigation and content more or less exactly where people expect to find it. This is how a designer takes on more of the beholder’s share.

It’s not always in the users’ interest to move them through a flow as quickly as one could. There are times when a user should slow down and be required to pay more attention. Like when actions could result in deleted files or when important information needs to be entered into forms. In these cases, the user shouldn’t be made to feel frustrated at unintelligible UI, but to feel that the content they are confronting is worth considering more closely.

This is an area where design and content strategy overlap, where it’s impossible to draw a distinction between the two disciplines. There’s surely more to say about this, but right now, I’m going to let this simmer in my head. It might not be worth defining any further. More like an aspect of the craft of design which is best intuited.