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Where Did My Beautiful Internet Go? : Comments

By Sean Madden

January 29, 2007


Michael Edwards

January 30, 2007 6:25 AM

I think that visual appeal and beautiful graphics MUST take a backseat to usability. The four reasons why the “beautiful internet” is getting lost seem logical, but it also is indicative of what users want: speed, efficiency, ease of use.

I think the key is finding the balance between expressing creativity and showing an artistic side, and creating a usable and efficient environment.

David Airey

January 30, 2007 6:50 AM

I agree that there seem to be less and less visually appealing sits to visit.

When one comes along I’m always sure to bookmark it for future inspiration.


January 30, 2007 7:31 AM

Interesting article, but I’m going to have to disagree with the title. The web is more beautiful now than it ever has been. The lack of originality you described is just a function of volume. 10 years ago 99.99% of websites did not exist, and if you wanted to create one you had to be a bit of a maverick. These days people can just fire up WordPress, download a theme, or buy a template and plug it in to Dreamweaver. It may dilute the ‘beautiful’ web, but it’s better than randomized fonts and colors on 10-screen long homepages of disjoint text interspersed with animated gifs with non-matching backgrounds and various levels of aliasing—isn’t it?

The volume of sites also makes it difficult to do something ‘different’ because as far as layout goes there are only so many reasonable ways to do it. It would be interesting to see design experiments without headers or footers or sidebars, but I don’t think they would be any more beautiful than other sites just because they were different.

As far as fads go, they will always be there, and they will always make some people sick. Remember pixelated design (ala k10k)? pseudo-3d wires/tech? interface ‘widgets’? drop-shadows ala 1997? flash/html gateway pages? mystery meat navigation? metaphor interfaces (Microsoft Bob)?

I firmly believe if you did a survey of your favorite sites from today and from years past you would find that not only are there more beautiful sites today, but they look better than the ones you used to think were so creative and beatiful yesterday. It’s just nostalgia.

Sean Madden

January 30, 2007 8:12 AM

First of all, I would like to acknowledge that the title for this article is not as applicable as it should be and may be causing people to fixate on ideas that are not as relevant to the content of the piece.

@Mike: I agree with what you said at the end of your comment and wholeheartedly disagree with what you said at the beginning, but only because it is so final. The idea that one discipline over another should take a back seat is what makes for a lopsided experience, and I think you know that, given your comment about balance. I totally agree, balance is required, but this article took a specific, purposefully narrow approach to the practice of visual design and found it lacking.

@Gabe: Agreed. Bad Title. It should be noted that I am not pining for designs of yore, I am advocating for a visually stimulating web that I know can be produced given the examples I have seen and capabilities I am aware of. The web is bland, styles are copied b/c they are proven to work, the envelope is not pushed in deference to usability, and we are approaching a middle ground where everything is pretty much the same. The web is capable of providing a much richer experience when visual design is given the same treatment and forethought as IA, Usability, content, etc.

Antoine Butler

January 30, 2007 9:03 AM

Thank you thank you thank you, for saying out loud what so many must be feeling and fustrated with. ease of use, familiarity, and speed…. these are extremely important aspect of a web site, but one thing stands out more than anythingelse. A companies website is tool, it is an asset, for sales, leads, and more. To sacrifice what makes your company different in an attempt to seem familiar is suicide. Stand out, attract YOUR audience not the audience of the internet. Give them something new, something unique, something…. ‘you’. You can never achieve such things working from a template. There allready isn’t anything new under the sun… there should allways be something new on the net! just my 2 cents while at lunch.

Dimitry Z.

January 30, 2007 10:54 AM

Sean. Interesting perspective on today’s internet.

As a developer, I wish the contrary were true: less style amongst the sites, fewer templates. I am often forced to disable stylesheets for the sake of legibility. The designer may have put a lot of effort into their work but outside the initial ‘ooo’s and ‘aaahh’s, I need simple, arial on white with everything outside the article to disappear (at least be less noticeable).

@Mike, I fully agree with your initial statement: usability before style. Style often distracts more that attracts.

After all, it’s the information super-highway, not the illustration super-highway

nicola dobiecka

January 30, 2007 3:20 PM

I had the unfortunate experience of using a whole host of terribly frustrating sites when my sister came to stay last year during 6 month’s travelling. Trying to research and book flights, tours sightseeing and accomodation was just torture and the state of some of the sites I saw made me want to weep (after I’d stopped yelling).

I’m talking about fundamental stuff, like common sense placement of links, legibility, not changing currency in the middle of a transaction, basic functionality.

It became clear to me just how much I’d been frequenting sites by professionals and just how significant ‘web design’ still is.

Something which has been professionally designed in its entirety (including the IA, usability, accessiblity, visual presentation/design and front and back end code) is elegant to use and look at and leaves the person using it happy and stress free whilst helping them achieve their goal.


January 30, 2007 11:43 PM

I would say that we are having a variation of Victorian Era on the web. And we need attitude of Arts and Crafts Movement with Art Nouveau in one to design more appealing websites.

Andy James

January 31, 2007 7:25 AM

It sounds like the internet is walking through the opposite direction of what we thought of, at the past few years. The flashy graphical web is being no longer developing; websites designs aren’t going graphically-sophisticated as the internet speed and bandwidth rise. As Michael Edwards mentioned above; usability, speed, efficiency, and ease of use come first, as well as some marketing considerations that necessitate keeping it simple for everybody comes to the website.

Tiff Fehr

January 31, 2007 12:12 PM

The resonant idea in this article, to me, that templated web design is visual progress, but it’s progress at the expense of attention to the user and content. It might be detrimental if we (as designers) let the ease of “skins” or “templates” merge into business concepts of design. Putting a “skin” on a website doesn’t catch the subtleties a good designer can bring to content or the user experience, like marshaling user attention and emphasizing information architecture.

I, for one, plan to be a lot less careless when I tell my bosses that we can “put a UI on afterwards”. I need to respect and represent design as a structural refinement, not just aesthetics and branding.

Okay, that and the reminder that I need to watch how much time I spend on the designers-for-designers websites. Keep one foot on the ground, at least.


February 1, 2007 1:50 PM

On our personal projects we can do all ourselves from design, writing the content, and so forth.

But we cannot do this on a professional level: we simply need people to work together that understand each other (which each of them having that one speciality) and complementing each other.

Sean Madden

February 1, 2007 3:56 PM

It is possible that the introduction to my article was not clear enough. This article heavily laments the lack of visual originality. What it does not do is propose that it be given preferential treatment or priority.

I do NOT want to go back to the days of all flash sites with 5 minute intros and no discernible purpose. Strong visual design and all of the other tenets of web development are not mutually exclusive. Making an efficient, usable, content-rich site does not prohibit great visual aesthetics. All of these things can be enhanced, and indeed pushed forward by visually creative thinking.

Yes, the web is about balance, and right now it is out of balance thanks to an overwhelming focus on standards (tools) and usability. I do not want the web to be considered a print medium, but it does have the capability of displaying beautiful visual design in accompaniment with excellent content, organization, and structure.


February 2, 2007 1:49 PM

People imitate too much, without adding that personal touch.


February 6, 2007 5:52 AM

I think also you are missing the giant on our backs…Google…Every company on earth sees them making billions…soon trillions, with nary a pretty element to be soon. Most businesses say whats the point? Usable yes. Pretty no. Throw in standards, Googles “guidlelines”, and some seo, and boring but usable search engine friendly website is what floats to the top. Sad but true…

Jeff Seager

February 6, 2007 9:35 AM

I appreciate your thoughts, Sean.

mezzoblue’s “Fountain” is a poor example of what we might do better, though. I admire Cameron Moll’s work, but it’s unecessary to shun 800×600 to create an attractive and scalable layout. We have enough control over the medium at this point that it shouldn’t matter what size window the user looks through.

The essential job of design is to deliver content. Good design adds elegance and aesthetics without taking away anything. Form must always follow function, but in some ways the web remains formless because web standards continue to evolve. I believe that will change, and standardization and stability will give us a better platform for really great design. And I think these growing pains were and are inevitable.

We would do well to note what those RSS feeds are telling us about our audience. For many end users, RSS is a welcome relief because it delivers the goods without shoving bandwidth-eating “creativity” down their throats (even though good design doesn’t require more bandwidth). It’s easier than ever to create more accessible and more beautiful design, but the web standards are just now settling into a form that will persist long enough for designers to grasp the possibilities. Sadly, too, there will always be more designer wannabees than there are truly gifted designers. That’s life.

The essential problem is that we’re the pioneers, which isn’t such a bad thing. Just imagine all the people out here who leaped into web design with something like HTML 3.2 table-based layout, then grudgingly embraced HTML 4.0, then dragged themselves into learning XHTML transitional (then strict) with CSS. Now we tinker with stylesheets for handheld devices and cellphones. It’s hard to get good at anything when there’s no consistency in the tools you use. But those who love it, and those who persist with the right design principles in mind, will always rise to the top.


February 27, 2007 4:22 AM

I think you need to spend a little less time sucking up to your bosses creating pointless systems and a lil more time researching the Internet to be bold enough to make these “statements”.


March 19, 2007 2:43 PM

Perhaps you should convince your own company of what you’re saying before you try to convince the masses. Your company’s homepage is as template driven as any I’ve ever seen.


June 30, 2007 6:33 PM

The way to be top web designer is not to look back at others, and every design make not for customer, but for portfolio.
P.S. my company’s homepage is a template too =)

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