A lot changes in ten years. Not surprising – but I find we tend to overestimate just how much can be done in a short period of time yet we underestimate how much can change in five to ten years. In that time we’ve developed pocket computers and futuristic glasses that no one would be caught dead wearing. I’ll pick up on this later.
Ten years ago the web felt like the Wild West. We had Flash websites, separate mobile sites and splash pages. If you were a real cow-boy you had a splash flash page with a 15-second animation that revealed the “enter site” link. What were we thinking?
As a designer, I often feel torn about Flash. The responsible half of my brain say’s that it was a search engine optimisation (SEO) and usability sin with an over-saturation of multimedia and silly animations. The other half tells me that it was a creative gold mine. Virtual graphics and interactions were in harmony with seemingly limitless possibilities. Good or bad, (probably bad), Flash was an era the web needed to go through to push CSS, HTML and the likes to where it is today.
In the late 2000’s, when the aforementioned pocket computers could be found in every hand, there was a call to re-evaluate how websites were structured and ‘responsive design’ became the new buzz term. For a period here, there was very much a design template starting to take shape and a monotony of websites was being produced. We started to lose some of the creativity previously found on the web during those Wild West days. SEO and user experience (UX) became the focus following the rule of form follows function. The dilemma of form follows function is that often we lose sight of who we are designing for in the first place: humans.
Good design is aesthetic. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
– Dieter Rams
If you are designing with love, thinking about your end user, you will naturally think of function. We are very much of the belief that it’s not about prioritising one above the other. Stefan Sagmeister, a New York-based graphic designer believes this contributed to Google Glass’s demise. It wasn’t beautiful. No one wants to walk around with a computer mounted on their head. In the words of designer Marc Newson, “Google glass makes you look like a dick on a Segway.” The glasses could have X-men Scott Summers optic blast for all people cared, but we couldn’t see ourselves wearing them in public.
As web capabilities improve we are starting to get some of that playfulness and variation back in the web whilst recognising the importance of UX and SEO. Recently we’ve noticed web design has started to take a lot of visual hints from the more traditional medium of print. The lines between print and web have started to get a lot closer with modern aesthetics such as minimalism, flat design, pairing typography, varying scale and shifting layouts all being on-trend in 2017. UX design features such as personalisation (without being creepy) and infinite scroll continue to influence the way we design for the web and will continue to do so.
Web design had a lot of growing up to do but over the past couple of year’s we have really started to see harmony between technology and good simple, intuitive design.