With a few exceptions, those being proven mathmatecal principals, good design is agnostic of time. Good design is in and of itself. Sure, this is hard to do in web design as the web changes literally every day; but the concept is still applicable. I’m not saying you should design a site once and never update it; that’s tomfoolery. I’m merely refering to the design impications of taking so-called ‘trends’ and applying them to your client work. Why would we do such a thing? Outside of generic design direction (i.e. golden ration, whitespace, etc.), how can trends apply to the unique problem you are attempting to solve?
So why is this such a pervasive issue in our practice? Why are there so many articles about design trends, and why do so many designers read & follow these?
There can be an argument made for wanting to stay up-to-date on things. Eh; maybe. But more likely it’s because designers don’t know better than to not use things they see as popular. Being popular isn’t always a good thing. Being popular isn’t the same as being effective. This is a huge concept that is being lost on many web designers nowadays.
I can’t tell you how erronesously used this word is every day. The purpose of design is not to make beautiful things. That is making art. The purpose of design is to make something that solves a problem, and thus is effective. Look at any startup or app these days, beautiful is used all too often to describe what the app does.
Build beautiful websites. This is the kicker for me. In 99 out of 100 cases, no where does the app describe if what they produce will be effective or problem-solving. If you are a business owner and you want results, do you really care if your website is beautful or not? No, not really; you want results. You care if you make money or lose money. If, in the process, your get an aesthetically pleasing site, awesome. But, our job as designers is, first and foremost, to solve a problem. One that rarely is the lack of beauty.
Sliders. Sliders everywhere. Or carousels, whatever you call them. But they exist everywhere because they became trendy. And then they were a must have. But why? What business goals were they acheiving? None. And yet, almost every site you visit had this at some point; if they do not still have them.
Responsive web design. Need I say more? The concept is great, but the results are generally not. Bloated ass webpages are the result. What about our users who need to sit and wait and wait and wait for these ‘beautifully’ designed page to download on their phones? Do we care about their data charges, or the fact that even though the site fits a mobile screen, it’s too large to realistically use?
The sad fact of trends is they almost solely focus on what’s visible, or tangible. Not the invisible design details; which could be argued are the most important parts. If the sites doesn’t load, or at least give the impression loading, boom, user gone.
Mused on March 11, 2014