“Web design is DEAD.” “All websites look the same.” “Apps killed the web.” If you’ve kept your ear to web design trends this past year, you may have heard some of these harsh sentiments. We’d like to discuss some of the reasons why these sentiments aren’t true, and how they are negatively affecting the current state of web design and development.
Principles of Web Design
Web design isn’t dead, and thankfully others agree. It’s easy to make the argument that web design has reached its peak, but the web was never really about design to begin with. Mixing web and graphic design with too heavy of a hand has been historically terrible (looking at you, excessive Flash sites). Instead, the web has always been about the spread of information: it’s up to the content to dictate the layout and design of the site, not the other way around. As technology changes and the ways we interact with personal computers evolve, we’ll be looking to designers to convey the content in new and interesting ways.
Not all websites look the same, but there is a good reason why they might look similar. You may have seen this image floating around the web:
It’s a wireframe of a very popular landing page layout. But just because this layout is popular doesn’t make it bad or wrong: in our opinion, that actually makes it right. Imagine an internet where every page you visited was vastly different from the last — navigation floating freely on the right, images and text placed without any adherence to grid or structure. It would get very confusing and very tiring, very quickly.
Having a familiar layout for web pages helps the user focus on what’s most important: the content. When we visit the web, we have the reassurance that the navigation will probably be on the top, and below that we’ll probably be greeted with visual elements, such as a photo and blurb on what the website is all about. This familiarity helps users digest the content on your page, rather than making them work hard for it.
How to Distinguish Your Page
To help set your page apart from the rest, consider adding some purposeful animation to enhance your content. Avoid using stock images, which raise usage rights issues and can be used by multiple sites across the web. Investing in some custom content, like an infographic or custom illustrations, can also go a long way to making your site unique. Remember that your brand should dictate your content and your content should dictate the design of your page. When making decisions about your site, first ask, “Does this properly represent our brand?” The next question should be, “Do the visual components here work to enhance our content?” Sticking to this structure can help dramatically improve your existing site.
Apps and The Browser Can Coexist
Web design may differ from graphic design, but it isn’t dead, and apps will never kill the browser. The browser has survived some pretty intense paradigm shifts, and has usually adapted gracefully (but sometimes, not so much). While app experiences have the advantage of being more polished and tailored to their native platform, the browser is platform-agnostic. No matter what device you use to visit the web, the web is essentially the same. Sure, the content may format itself differently across devices, but you’re accessing the same information no matter what screen you’re on. The browser will always be the great equalizer.
The claim that web design is dead is sensationalist and unnecessary. Web designers and developers have worked very hard to get the web to where it is today. Considering the browser’s staying power through these rapidly changing times, we don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.