An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design

Being a designer is being a professional problem solver. One of the joys of web design and development is that are always multiple solutions — always another way to do the same thing. This variety keeps me on my toes. It requires that problems are clearly defined, that users are considered, that edge cases are accounted for, and the rationales are justified and reasonable.

But this variety is a challenge. Drawing each project from a teaming pool of options requires considerable, well, consideration. Starting from scratch tastes good, but it’s tons of work, and usually just too much work.

To the rescue come patterns. Similar problems have similar solutions. Solutions are not only defined by their specifics but by their generalities. There are broad patterns. Since first reading A Pattern Language (Christopher Alexander, Oxford University Press, 1977) in 2000, I’ve seen an obvious connection between that school of thought and the “Towns, Buildings [and] Construction” of the web.

I must give credit to my Dad, who has recommended this book to his friends since probably the early-1980’s (in an architecture context), and encouraged me to read it. In fact, his first-printing copy sits in prominence on my office desk.

I’ve been working on web patterns extensively at my day job, and will write more about that here soon. In the meantime, let me point you to this An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design that’s been getting passed around the web since Ryan Singer posted it on October 5th, 2004.

It’s not exactly what I’d write about patterns, but it’s worth a read.