A good eye will remain mandatory in the discipline. A designer’s deep understanding of the fundamentals of visual communication will never go away. But much like a magazine designer’s knowledge of inks on paper and the mechanics of printing presses, a Web designer will need a deep understanding of the inner workings of Web technologies.
I’ve been consistently awed by how good designers can create normalcy out of chaos; how they can clearly communicate ideas through the organizing and manipulating of words and pictures. I’ve also been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decorate—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.
But Information Architecture goes beyond simply structuring of data and uncovering the patterns and relationships in content. Architects also need to present these structures, patterns, and relationships. Bear in mind that by “presentation” I’m not talking about the realm of style, but about how items are emphasized, hierarchical associations, and how the eye draws across the page, etc. These are all basic graphic art and design principles, but with the distinction of being specifically applied to the purpose of presenting information.
On certain scales and levels of complexity, having an Information Architect is definitely needed. But or the large majority of cases this responsibility should fall on the designer. A designer's role is to present the information in the most appropriate and best light possible - this includes how the content relates to other information throughout the site.
It’s tempting to reject such basic conventions as an over-simplified approach to interface design. It is, after all, an exciting new medium. To think we’ve even scratched the surface on what is and will be possible on the Web is naive. Yet for all the exploration and experimentation we’ve done to date, there have been few strategies and design implementations that have proven successful. To dismiss basic contexts such as link colors, page layouts, navigation systems, and visual hierarchy as “boring” or “pedestrian” is akin to laughing at a car’s steering wheel as unimaginative.
Some things just work. Making something simple into something beautiful is one of the most challenging things you can do. But it can be done. Don't sell yourself short and pass up something simple that works because you don't think you can make it look sweet.
Web teams are inherently interdisciplinary. Web designers may be the domain experts in their corner of the triangle, but the more they can branch out—the more they can approach the behavior and structural needs of a design—the easier success will be. This communication, and ultimately translation between disciplines, is critical.
A good Web page, of course, will be a solid blend of presentation, structure, and interactivity. Put simply, the ultimate goal of a successful Web site is a collaboration of design and editorial content with interface functionality and a solid back end system… This tenuous balance is invisible to the user when done correctly, and painfully obvious when askew.