In this video, the godfather of web design, Jeffrey Zeldman, talks about how he first got into the field back when websites looked like this:
It’s well worth taking the time to watch it, whether you’re a web designer, digital marketer, small business owner, even a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Everyone that has any involvement in internet marketing whatsoever will learn something significant that could change the way you view the world wide web forever.
Around 12 minutes into the video, Zeldman makes a comment that exposes a truly organic outlook on what the internet is and what websites are. It’s a fundamental principle that web designers, developers and digital marketers across the globe should have tattooed across their foreheads, stitched into the inside of their jackets and etched onto their fridges. Go watch it and see if you notice it. I’ll wait here.
Did you find it? Just in case, I’ll tell you what I’m getting at:
When referring to websites and web designers back in 1995 and comparing their philosophy to his, Zeldman said:
“Nobody was thinking of the web as an exciting presentation medium.”
That insight is so striking, it’s worth reiterating. Zeldman saw (and hopefully still sees) the internet as an exciting presentation medium. How many businesses out there today see their website as an exciting way to present?
As the internet becomes more accessible through the likes of DIY website builders2 and user-friendly platforms like Wordpress, Tumblr and Blogger, are we foregoing creativity for the sake of pulling more people online?
It would certainly appear so, given the amount of similar websites out there. More or less every website seems to follow the same template: logo in the top-left corner, menu across the top, side bar to the right or left (or both) and content in the middle or left aligned.
There was a fantastic talk on this (among other things), given by Matthew Butterick, called ‘Bomb in the Garden’. You can read the transcript here (and you should). Butterick highlights an absolute abundance of websites; big companies like magazines and newspapers and TV channels, that all have, not just terrible websites, but extremely similar websites! Here’s just a few examples of some of them:
[Images borrowed from Unitscale]
It’s not just the ‘classic’ style that’s similar, even the more contemporary ‘flat design’ leaves us with with the same issue:
Believe it or not, the two above examples are two entirely independent websites created by two entirely independent companies.
So what’s happening? Are we neglecting exciting presentation in favor of convenience? Are we foregoing creativity for the sake of playing it safe or giving people what we think they want?
At Fast Track, we’ll build anything you design, so break out of the shackles, refrain from designing for your client or browsers and focus on nothing else but your users. Get in touch with us today and let’s talk about how we can break the mold.