Miscellaneous: Web Design Index 4

started by Mpj on Mar 24, 2004 — RSS Feed

Mpj Mpj
Posts: 76

Hi folks. I've just picked up a copy of the Web Design Index 4 (2003) published by Pepin Press. It's a pretty good overview of the latest in site design and got some useful ideas too.

It struck me however that around a third of all entries are sites for web/graphic design firms. Does this mean that we (designers) have our own ideal of what constitutes good design that is rarely agreed upon by our clients? Maybe it means that we spend more time/effort on our own sites than on those of our clients (possibly due to their budget constraints)?

It was also very obvious how "samey" many of these sites are. Maybe it reflects the editors' personal taste or maybe we are not always as original as we like to think we are?

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

'Samey' is a result of peer influence. Call it 'fashion' or 'conservatism' if you like. To get out of that 'rut' you have to take your influences from broader sources.

Of course, having a client or boss that says, I'd like a site like that one doesn't help. How often does a client say 'blow your mind, boy' - it doesn't happen much.

Nor does it help to say, 'I need it yesterday and I want to pay bottom dollar'. I think that more likely the reason for so little innovation and excitement.

Have a look at http://www.postback.be/links/ where the 'design' of all the sites shown is several maginitudes above average - yet there is still a certain 'sameyness' because the format is fixed.

Alanat Alanat
Posts: 8

http://www.postback.be/links/

When I see sites like this, I want to give up!

Mpj Mpj
Posts: 76

R.E. http://www.postback.be/links/, yes great. Lots of good ideas.

'Samey' is a result of peer influence. Call it 'fashion' or 'conservatism' if you like. To get out of that 'rut' you have to take your influences from broader sources.


Exactly! Couldn't agree more. I love looking at architecture and interior decoration magazines. They're full of surprises! Also films, and visits to monuments help alot. Anyone else want to talk about their sources of inspiration?!

Baxter Baxter
Posts: 157

Call me the contrarian, but I went to the link above, and I would call every single site on the first page of links a miserable failure.

First, they all demand I have Flash, which I don't in this particular browser I'm using and don't intend to install it.

Second, if I don't have Flash, I can't do anything.

Third, just looking at the page, there's no content there... nothing to make me view the site other than the pretty pictures. I'd rather look at an art book or something.

They're Motorama cars... the whiz-bang shiny numbers the carmakers trot out for the big shows. Built to wow you, but there's no engine. They have to be pushed on the stand,  and they'll never fullfill the basic requirement of a car.

For my money, the most interesting design experiment out there today is http://www.csszengarden.com/

Which show how you can have content (any content) and still wrap any number of intriguing designs around it.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

You can't blame the designers because you don't have Flash. By the same logic, if you didn't have a browser you wouldn't see any of it

The whizz-bang cars you speak of, and the ridiculous garment you see from Paris fashion shows all have reasons - they are not the end products, they are the exploration and inspiration that will be woven into 'real' products later watered-down most likely.

That's why I said that you have to broaden your inspiration. If it wasn't for the concept cars and haute couture, cars and clothes would be much more 'samey' too.

http://www.csszengarden.com/ is a pretty web site, but you could hardly say that it was pushing the envelope. Apart from the fact that it uses CSS, I don't see any 'original' ideas. Admitedly, really original ideas are few and far between these days, but there should at least be an effort.

Baxter Baxter
Posts: 157

Yes, I can blame the designers. Requiring me to have Flash installed to use the site at all is not only a major usability issue, but it fails at the key concept both designers and developers should always remember: we're here to convey a message of some kind. Even without flash, I should be able to access the message, even if it's in a diluted form.

As for the Paris fashion and Motorama cars, you're right, they aren't end products. But a website is. If it's live, it's an end product. And a website without content (or even access in some cases) has failed miserably.  Am I asking too much wanting it to be beautiful AND functional? I don't think so. I think the two should go hand in hand. To do otherwise is, at best, lazy, and at worst, nothing more than a masturbatory exercise on the part of the designer.

I disagree with you a bit on the Zen Garden. Mixed in the 100+ designs, I think there's at least a few that are pretty original. And of course there's plenty of variations on the same basic themes.

I do agree with you absolutely on expanding horizons, though. Inspiration can be anywhere, and it's better to look in different places rather than in what the guy next to you is doing.

But hey, what do I know. I've rarely been original.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

Some websites are end products and some are not. The first question you have to ask yourself about any web site is 'what is the purpose of this web site'?

Here are some valid purposes for having a web site...

To provide information
To help sell a product
To communicate an idea or concept to the masses

Here are some others...

To provide a platform for self expression (why not?)
To learn the ins and outs of web design (why not?)
To make money (some people need money badly!)
To provide titilation (if you need it)
To spread propaganda (good or bad)
To amuse yourself (why not?)

Before you even start to think about design, coding, rights and wrongs, you have to have a purpose. When you view a web site, its purpose may be something other than what you think it should be. Who's to say what it must be?

Baxter Baxter
Posts: 157

Not trying to get in a spittin' contest here, and I hope I don't come across that way, but even in the examples you mention, the builder/designer is trying to convey SOMETHING. The messages may be different, and the best methods for conveying the message may vary and be subject to debate, but even in each of your examples, form without function is useless.

Consider:

To provide a platform for self expression (why not?)

Sure, but if you're not expressing anything, what's the point. It's like writing a book with empty pages.


To learn the ins and outs of web design (why not?)

Sure. But if you're going to learn the ins and outs of web design, learn GOOD web design. An unnavigable site isn't it. Blocking your users because they don't meet your requirements isn't it, either.

To make money (some people need money badly!)

OK, but you're not going to make any money off me if I can't use the site.

To provide titilation (if you need it)
Allright, I'm going to skip this one. Just because titillation is such a loaded word.

To spread propaganda (good or bad)
You can't spread propaganda if you're message is lost entirely.

To amuse yourself (why not?)
OK, but if you're only amusing yourself, well, you're amusing yourself, eh? See masturbatory comment above.

What all the things you mentioned have in common, and what binds the web as a whole together, is that it's a mighty effective means of conveying information. Sure people usually take that to mean text, but I mean visual information, too. I just think the first thing in every designers mind (really, no matter what medium he/she's working in) should be "How effectively am I conveying the message I'm trying to convey."

I don't care if someone's designing a ketchup label, they're trying to convey something about that ketchup and/or the company selling it.

And on that basis, yeah, I think those designers failed miserably. You can design a site all in flash and still make it accessible and usable. You just have to be smart, work a little harder, and think about what you're trying to DO instead of simple superficialities.

Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

Yeh, there's a lot of things I don't like about Flash, and the message "loading, please wait..." is right at the top. It's true that the first few sites on this page suffer from that and could be improved.

When you learn to swim, you swallow some water.

When you learn to ride a bicycle, you fall off.

When you experiment, you often fail.

Doesn't mean that you shouldn't try!!!

Anything published in Real audio or video format, doesn't get through to me. Anything published in WMP format, same. I do have Flash and QuickTime though. I don't blame CNN if I can't view their news clips. I have chosen NOT to install Real plugins, I won't tell you why because of libel laws.

WMP is available for Mac but the guy who has it installed reckons that it's not much good.

Macromedia would have you believe that almost every computer in the universe has 'a' Flash plugin installed. Some people take that as an open invitation to use, or abuse, Flash. Okay. Flash is abused a lot - so is the violin!

C'est la vie.

Baxter Baxter
Posts: 157

I don't necessarily have anything against flash, and two of the three browsers on this machine have it installed. Just not the one I usually use.

I just think the designers could have, and should have, thought things through a little more, and their sites would be much more effective for it.

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