Learning From Urban Design to Create Better Websites

Colin Eagan of IronWorks looks at several parallels between the design of cities and websites:

So if a city is a website (or a mobile site or an Android app or iPad app), what can we learn about the users who live there? In city planning terms, this question is one of urban design. And if the information architect is the architect, the art director the interior designer, and the developer the contractor, then the experience designer is the urban designer. The goal is to make an overall livable community, not just one that works but one where users want to live.

Here’s one example – 4. “Life Takes Place on Foot.”:

In his book “Designing Community” urban designer David Walters traces the transition from the modernist, design-focused approach of city planning to the post-modernist “process over product” approach of the latter half of the 20th century. According to Walters, a return to modernist design gives hope to making cities once again places where we interact instead of just driving around isolated in our cars.

“Casual encounters in shared spaces are the heart of community life, and if urban spaces are poorly designed, people will hurry through them as quickly as possible.” A great digital interaction should create opportunities for serendipity: for users to experience the unexpected and engage with others in meaningful ways. Striving to be more than just another database-driven travel site, Brussels Airlines provides an “Inspire Me” section along with a destinations page.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Government.

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