Web Design Is Overdone
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Ever since I first stumbled upon his site, somewhere back in 2000, I've found myself in agreeance with Maddox' philosophy on web design. I only dabble in it myself, and rarely do any more than what is required to keep this site of mine up and running, but I can't help but feel that with all the web 2.0 stuff hitting the scene people tend to forget about what it is that makes us visit websites to begin with: content.

Granted, my site doesn't have all that much content either, but I've long since abandoned the notion that I'm doing any of this for anyone other than myself. I'm fairly certain that any random Facebook page receives more visitors a month than this site of mine, and to be honest it's probably better that way; since I don't run advertisements of any kind (as I have no use for them), even fleeting popularity would cost me more than I would gain from it. But I digress.

With the rise of things like Prototype and AJAX, it often occurs to me that people spend more time tweaking their website than they do filling it with things that would make people want to visit it to begin with. You can't hit up a site like A List Apart without being hit with dozens of new web 2.0 design articles with every new issue - and while I'll be the first to admit that that's likely a good thing for professionals, I still believe that it's being overdone.

I'm not advocating a return to the GeoCities era, but the same complaints many people (myself included) had with Flash, the most popular one being "using Flash for the sake of using Flash", are equally applicable to web 2.0 design: going web 2.0 for the sake of going web 2.0. It used to be that I complained about an overabundance of graphics, blinking marquees and fading links, but nowadays I'm steering towards complaining about an overkill of dynamics where a static page would have served better.

When used with moderation, web 2.0 design can work wonders on any website. But too much of it - especially when it isn't necessary - just leads to incessant clicking and even longer load times. Example: YouTube's new "Load More" button. JavaScript consists of equal parts robustness and fragility, and when it breaks (like that "Load More" button did for me) you need to juggle all kinds of workarounds to get to the content you'd normally have been served by just being a little more patient.

I've stuck to simple design from the moment I taught myself HTML, and it's generally served me well. I'm not opposed to innovation when it suits my needs, but I think we'd all be better off if web designers would focus a little more on serving content with a minimum of hassle and a little less on trying to make sure the site can survive the scrutiny of web 2.0's finest minds.

December 4, 2010

Luke Gevaerts