With commended articles published on recognized websites, including his own, the high-flying Digital Web Magazine. Nick Finck has lead a passionate career of working in online communities and creating user experiences that find intentional balance and comfort between design and functionality. A wealth of knowledge, Finck shares some of his expertise, insight and a peak into his personality.
Your identity on the web is somewhat incognito to personal information, other than personal opinion; do you intentionally try to play a modest role?
I think most people who have worked with me on the various projects that I have been involved with would consider me more of a behind-the-scenes kind of person. While I can't say I intentionally pursue this it often comes with the roles I sign up for.
There are a lot of projects out there that try to enlist endorsements from those who are well-known in the community, in hopes to gain some attention from the press and other media. I prefer to focus my efforts on well-meaning projects that draw the same level of endorsements simply because they are a great cause. I think there are plenty of talented people out there to share the limelight with should the need arise, but I prefer to stay outside of the public spotlight and help guide it to the projects that need that level of visibility.
Interestingly enough as often as I stay out of the spotlight I find myself being put back in the middle of it, be it by interviews such as this one or simply by project association. And it's great to have that level of support, but it's not my goal. If I wanted to gain public recognition I would have pursued a career in the movies.
You've mentioned you couldn't keep Digital Web Magazine alive if it wasn't for the love and passion you have behind it. What is it about the site that brings you the most satisfaction?
Several things - one that comes to mind is seeing great ideas that our authors created being embraced by the web community. Most of all, I love seeing our staff and contributors succeed within this industry. Be it getting accepted into a reputable art school, getting a book deal or getting an article printed in one of the nation's top magazines or papers. That's what puts a smile on my face and makes me see how all that hard work pays off. That is why the magazine exists, to see help enable others within the community to succeed.
You have helped judge the Webby Awards, what is it that you look for in an award winning design? Do you intend to judge any further awards in the upcoming future?
There are a lot of different criteria I look for in a site. I think one of them is the proper balance of form and function for the target audience. This is pretty much one of the first methods I use for weeding out the good from the bad. Outside of that there are a number of rules that come in to play, some more so than others depending on the award show that I'm judging. Most of those can be found right on the award show's web site. Beyond that I would have to say the site has to have passion. It has to be alive. The site has to show me that there is someone behind the scenes who has as much passion about maintaining the site as I do for my sites. If that's not there, the site is nothing more than perhaps some good design and architecture, a solid shell with an empty middle.
As for what other awards I will be judging for in the future, there are several. Some of the ones I currently have confirmed are the Webbys
, Philippine Web Awards
, SXSW Interactive Web Awards
, and perhaps the 2005 WebVisions Student Competition
You've written for a list of prominent websites, from Design is Kinky to Scene 360, are there any sites or publications in particular you'd like to contribute for, and on any particular subject?
There are a lot of publications I hope to one day find the time to contribute to. One publication that has been on my radar for some time is Boxes and Arrows
. I also hope to write another article for A List Apart
sometime soon. There is also a publication that has not yet launched within the user experience community that I am eager to contribute an article for. I think for me it's a matter of finding the time to commit to an article and finding the right topic that is important to the community at the time of publication.
"Life is what you make of it. Failure is only part of the journey..."
[/color][/i]Have there been interferences for Digital Web Magazine in avoiding corporatization? Do you still see that as a rampant battle between anything for a buck vs. quality information?
I can't say that I haven't been approached by various businesses about taking the magazine to the next level. For me, if I was ever to do such a thing it would have to be with the right business that has the same ambitions and commitment to the web community that we do. That's something that doesn't come around much within the business world.
However, for the most part I don't look at Digital Web Magazine as a corporation, it is a non-profit community driven publication that serves simply no one other then the web community itself. Because of this we can do things that simply wouldn't be practical within the corporate publication world. You can be sure to see some new things come to light on Digital Web Magazine, the likes of which have almost never been seen of within the online publishing industry. It's not because we want to do something new, it's because we want to do something right, something that goes beyond just the interests of business.
Through 1999-2000 there was an insurgence of flash art sites that lacked purpose and explanation; do you still think that functionality is continually compromised by design? If you had one tip for designers what would it be?
Well, that is a two way street. Yes, I think functionality is compromised by design on some sites, yet I also see design compromised by functionality. It's not about which should be the priority, it's about finding the proper balance between the two.
Take a look at Slashdot
; that site has more beautiful functionality than I have seen on any publishing site out there… but there is almost no design… and maybe that's just the right balance for that audience. Then take a look at 2Advanced
, there is more technically detailed design than I could have ever seen in any web agency site on the market… but no functionality… and, again, maybe this is exactly where they want to be.
I think knowing who you want to target and market to and knowing more about those users is critical to the success in finding the right balance regardless of what tools and technologies you will use to achieve that balance.