Information and participation replace standardization, power and anonymity of decisions to produce a precise fit between elements and function to meet need. The need for power and standardization to resolve design problems can be countered by substitution of careful observation, acquired knowledge and direct participation. Given adequate information we can achieve precise fits between system and function and make design more closely related to particular user needs. This information may be applied in initial shaping of the environment or during operation and use where feedback may be used.
For much of history design has been an intuitive part of culture. People understood their regions and communities and knew the design templates that would work. More recently, design professions have supplanted intuitive design processes.
Ok there are a couple of really important things being said here. The first quote, which may seem confusing, is really just saying design your environment to suit your taste and approach (but obviously still consider your neighboring sites as mentioned before). In other words, think local vs global. Or if you’ve read any books on designing online communities, most will tell you to build your community based upon the focus of the community itself. In other words, don’t use a cookie cutter approach. Just because another site is using a certain structure and design, it doesn’t mean that same design will work for your site and its community. Figure out your needs or focus and design your site based upon them.
The second thing said here in the next quote is something I’ve seen recently elsewhere actually. It is basically saying that the average person can understand design. However, I believe they often can’t because of the faster paced world we are living in. To understand design, all you need to do is to slow down and observe what is going on upon your site and those neighboring sites around you. Often times people don’t have the time to do this, thus they leave it up to the experts who do focus most of their time to observing and learning these things.
BTW I just remembered one more thing. This local vs global issue is one that I’ve been noticing quite a lot with regards to tagging or categorizing my content. Basically I found tagging my content, say using global Technorati tags, to be pretty much useless for me on a local level because the tag groupings become less useful to me the more I have of them. Instead I find that categorizing my content into meaningful topics works much better. That way each category tag is almost like a discussion thread that someone can follow like reading a story.