Remember when Apple started their jellybean buttons? They were a way to show off the new graphics rendering capabilities of Quartz when OS X was launched. It wasn’t long before everywhere you looked there was some lickable little candy button on just about every site you pulled up, whether it made any sense in the design or not. Bulbous tabs followed and were also a style fad that continues to remain scattered over the web as well.
Styles change, and so the pseudo-3D of Apple’s revolutionary interface makeover has given way to the new look: Web 2.0 style. You see it everywhere and it’s a rejection of the bubbly, glassy, candy store look that permeated thousands of highly visible sites after Apple turned to UNIX. Now with the Web 2.0 revolution you see flat colours, rounded corners, and seemingly less fuss thanks to copious AJAX integrations. Clutter is blissfully minimised on the best of them, but conversely, too many others are losing what it is to have white-space. In their attempts to achieve radically ‘modern’ layouts, differentiation is achieved by bucking what we’ve become accustomed to navigating through over the past decade. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no curmudgeon rallying against changing the way we style a page, but changing the way a page is read is not something to mess with lightly. I personally find the un-fussy palettes and graphics are almost drowning in the desire to lay out a page in these new-fangled directions with new-fangled code bells and whistles under the belief that it is indicative of Web 2.0-ishness. This is a problem.
Before anyone says I’m throwing stones when I should be looking at my own blog first: I know my blog is looking dated, and believe me I’m bored to tears with it*, but if I write a new template (which is the goal rather than modifying an existing one this time around) I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of all flat blocks of colour and oversized type**, either so much copy crammed in that ‘the colour of the page’ is a jumble, or instituting so much AJAX and fancy/obtuse navigation that I alienate my mother*** and anyone else who isn’t a geek… I’m just saying that the meaning of Web 2.0 is pointless if we forget how humans behave with a page. I’m beginning to hate the trend of looking at blocks of stuff at the bottom of a page instead of a neat sidebar. You’ll never see a magazine stuff all of its sidebar info and pull-outs at the end of an article because that’s not how people read. “The web isn’t print,” you cry out, and I agree, but who are we creating sites for- our own geeky egos and design dreams, or to be read by the widest audience possible, absorbed, and returned to for providing an intuitive experience to the layman. Wild assumption: There are more laymen than geeks using the web. (I’m probably right.)
There’s a place for all this revolutionary new design, structure****, and code, but we mustn’t forget that the reader who visits shouldn’t have to re-learn how to read and use a page just because we want to look (and behave) modern. It’s kind of a reverse of the effect made by the candy buttons made ridiculously prolific by Apple. They showed up everywhere, even when they made no positive user experience difference whatsoever, but now, we’re taking away the superfluous candy elements in favour of superfluous interface candy. One is not any better than the other, and in most cases both reek of web designer fads instead of user-focused development.
I just did a search on Google for worst bad web 2.0 designs layouts and stumbled on an article that I’ll read more attentively after lunch. After a quick skim, it looks like he’s got much more to say on this subject, so I’ll give you a link so you can read it too.
One beautifully worded thing I pulled from it during the skim was:
“A new CSS feature comes out that allows something visually new to be done. For example, a new CSS technique to add rounded corners to DIVs. If it is able to be done, we have to do it. This, at least in some part, stems from the lack of creative control we have in designing websites. We are like sexually repressed teenagers. Our hormones lash out with reckless abandon whenever they get the chance. Do those rounded colors/drop-shadows/gradients have a significance or are they strictly for style? Who cares – we can finally do it. That is all the excuse we need.”
Right on man. I’m gonna quote you one more time:
“If you are having a hard time coming up with how you want a design to look, there is a pretty good chance that the concept is not mature enough.”
Quoting that, I look forward to what my site may look like next. 😉
* But not the platypus. I loves me the platypus.
** This trend really bugs me. Big type is not big design just because it’s there.
*** I dare you to ask your mom what a ‘tag cloud’ is.
**** Don’t get me wrong, I think the Hemingway template that everyone is copying has its very good points, I’m just sick of it already. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but damn people…