Big Hair, Spandex and Web Design

Big Hair, Spandex and Web Design

Too many web designers seem to be stuck in the 90s.

Like glammed-up big hair bands of the past, they’re churning out more flash than substance.

Meanwhile, for more than a decade, Internet experts and users alike have been calling for simple, unobtrusive and accessible designs. It seems straightforward enough: a website that promotes productive and positive online experiences will form a fan base.

Yet, useless Flash intros, superfluous splash pages, confusing menus and difficult-to-detect scroll bars continue to be created. Plus, music — usually of the cheesy genre — is still making users frantically reach for the mute button at the office and home (during the wee hours, when the rest of the household is fast asleep). The list goes on.

The problem arises from designers who consider website design to be entirely about aesthetics, giving absolutely no regard to function. “You need to grab the user’s attention,” stated one designer at a recent web content workshop. He believed splash pages and intros function like magazine covers.

But there’s a big difference. Magazine covers are usually on thick, colourful and glossy stock because they sit on long, packed racks, competing for consumers’ attention. If the cover grabs a reader’s interest, it gets picked up. If it doesn’t, it collects dust . Homepages, however, are visited by consumers who have already chosen to visit the site.

Unfortunately, too many designers and web owners believe flashy designs attract visitors online when, in fact, they hinder websites’ usability, cause confusion and can drive visitors away. Moreover, when designs get loud, visitors may get the impression the sites have little or nothing to say.

If your site is boring, don’t dress it up with ornaments or fluff. Web users don’t visit sites to look at decorations. Instead, rewrite the web copy or hire a professional photographer. Some of the most popular and successful sites are visually bland, and that’s fine. As long as the function’s there to get people to the information they need or desire, swiftly and with ease.

With content being the driver of the Web, designers need to put egos aside and design for the end user. Only then can an optimal product be delivered; one that works well, benefiting Web users and site owners alike.

Good Web design is not about awards, and it’s not about going wild with the latest technology. Good design doesn’t get in the way of usability; it promotes it. The best web designers make websites that are clear, simple and fast.

Rockers have put the spandex and hairspray away. It’s time for web designers to finally follow suit.

2 responses to “Big Hair, Spandex and Web Design”

  1. Jakerman says:

    Wow, that photography site is absolutely brutal from a usability viewpoint as well as SEO. Good luck having that site found through search engines.

  2. Aubrey Suto says:

    Yet another interesting read, keep em coming!

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