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Bored by Web 2.0 Design

Glossy buttons, reflective logos and beta buttons are everywhere. Designers have become magpies taking anything shiny and using it without thinking whether it makes a website better.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

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Web 2.0 design

This is rid.iculo.us

Welcome to web 2.0. The land of shiny surfaces, reflections and half finished websites. Much like the code libraries out there designers are grabbing what is freely available without understanding how it works or what it is used for. Many Web 2.0 sites are over obsessing on design without focussing on what is really important - the user experience. Even operating systems are guilty of this. Windows are marketing the ‘Wow’ for example on the Vista UI. Yes it does look glossy and shiny. Wow. But what about the annoyance of having to click ok every time you want to do anything?

Successful sites are not jumping on the bandwagon

The emerging winners in the Web 2.0 gold rush have not adopted glossy AJAXified interfaces. Instead they have opted for good old fashioned intuitive interfaces. Look at Basecamp for example. A critical eye might say it is light on design. But it does what it needs to do and helps the user to complete tasks easily. They use AJAX sparingly and don’t rely heavily on it. Flickr is clean and lean and helps the user to perform tasks quickly and simply. Surely they could lose the Gamma tag by now though!?

Both sites have been successful as they make it easy for users to do what they want to do quickly.

Using new technologies prudently

Code libraries have emerged that allow designers to plug functionality into sites quickly and easily. Sadly though in many cases designers and coders don’t understand the code they are using. More often than not AJAX on sites is not thoroughly tested across different browsers and operating systems. This is a huge failure of Web 2.0. My personal experience is that AJAX is very hard to do well. You must cater for users with Javascript turned off and most importantly understand the technology you are using. Many projects opt to use AJAX without realising that it may in fact increase development time. As the deadline looms a worse product is produced, but with a few more bells and whistles.

Alpha - we haven't even started yet

Looking back to the 80’s

Web 2.0 reminds me of the synthesizer in the 80’s. It is a new toy for designers to play with. It does so much. The majority don’t understand what they are using and most of what is being produced is utter rubbish. A few visionaries really do get it though, but they probably won’t be acknowledged for another 20 years.

Time to reboot

For me it is time we looked beyond the glossy surfaces and reflections. Designers need to focus more on user experience. They need to look outside the web for inspiration. It seems to me the history of Graphic Design has been largely dumped for a fading AJAX effect. It is time to look around outside the web: at posters, at newspapers, at typography, at history. It is also time designers get to grips with the fact that if a user can’t interact with a site then it has failed in its main purpose and they are not doing their job.

The web is still new and we are all still learning. I’m bored of Web 2.0 design though.

I'm bored

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