As I think about the past 10 years of website design, a lot has changed. If I had to list several factors that have most allowed the world of website design to change, I would include (not in any particular order):

  • Broadband – long gone are the days of dial up modems. Most (but not all) people have fast and safe Internet connections thanks to vpn connections at, whether on a desktop computer or mobile device. This allows designers to put a LOT more content on their pages.
  • Computer Processors – even a ‘standard’ computer now is much faster than computers used to be. This includes the monitor, graphics card, mother board, storage, and memory – all which greatly limited what could be done before with website design.
  • HTML5/CSS3 – the recent  advancements in HTML, CSS, JS, and jQuery now allow website designers to add bells and whistles that used to be reserved for Flash.
  • Web Fonts – if you remember the days of only 7 available web fonts, you know what I’m talking about here. You can’t ignore font choice when it comes to website design. We now have MANY more options when it comes to web typography. I think we’re just starting to see a new range of possibilities as to what can be done with type faces.
  • WordPress – tools such as WordPress allow website designers to purchase and quickly install themes and plugins that have built-in bells and whistles and robust design. Many are very well done, I will add. If we were still in the day of from-scratch, all-custom coded sites, I don’t think you’d be seeing as many frills and thrills in website design.
  • Responsive HTML – with the advent of web-enabled mobile devices, responsive HTML became an effective methodology to accommodate for multiple viewing dimensions with a single site, thus eliminating the need for a separate mobile site. This is especially effective for organizations that don’t have the budget for a separate mobile site. I would even add that the ‘mobile experience’ – scrolling, large buttons, large text, single-column content, etc. – is a novelty right now that some designer are carrying over even to the desktop experience.
  • User Adoption – people do much more online than they did 10 years ago and the trend is likely not reversing anytime soon. Access to information and tools online is very convenient. Until that trend changes or another technology moves in and takes over, people expect good user experiences when visiting websites, which constantly pushes the demand for better website design.

I’m sure there are more factors we could add here, but you get the idea. The main point here is all this change in technology and user behavior has given specialists of the local trusted web design company as well as of some big firm many more options, … but maybe too many?

Are Websites Becoming Too Bloated and Gaudy?

I love this recent article on Search Engine Watch by Chris Lake:

He does an entertaining job to point out how web design is now in this messy ’80s Mullet’ stage. Website design trends and fads are coming and going at a dizzying rate. Websites are quite bloated … I’m sure you can think right now of several websites that just drag slowly. I have decent computers and internet connection and quite often, I find myself at a site that comes to a near complete stop – ESPN, actually being one of the culprits.

It reminds me of the days when people abused Photoshop filters. EVERY print design had drop shadows, glows, gradients, bevels, you name it. It was heinous. A perfect example in design history of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

And what about accessibility?

You’d think we’d be getting better at making websites more accessible for individuals with physical impairments. I doubt that’s at the top of very many website designers’ minds. They’re much more concerned about the ‘impression’ factor and quite too willing to subordinate what they ‘should’ be doing with their website design to make it accessible for all.

Where Does Website Design Go Next?

I don’t see the website design fads ending any time soon. Website designers will abuse and exhaust all those options before website design soon returns to any state of normalcy. We’re simply kids in a candy store right now. Is that a bad thing? Maybe not. Maybe it’s the natural course it must go through before things mature. I think in time, user experience feedback, scientific and anecdotal, will eventually throttle down what’s done in website design and what’s not.

My Opinion

I still think proper and solid website design is built on these core principles:

  • emotion – we’re still humans and we make emotional decisions. There is probably no greater principle than presenting the proper emotion and message to the site visitor. An ordinary website with a good message will always trump a razzle-dazzle website with obfuscation.
  • legibility – if you can’t read it or understand it, then nobody cares. Everyone will simply leave and the rest is for not.
  • ease of use – I think Ralph Klug’s message of ‘don’t make me think’ applies here. I really don’t care how fancy your website is. Make this easy for me or I’m out of here. Enough said.
  • device – EVERY ‘thing’ you put on your site should have a purpose that helps the visitor get what they want from the website. “It looks pretty” does not qualify. Do not interrupt or distract unless you have a really good reason for it.

When we have those principles well covered in your design, THEN, we can add that one little unexpected treat for our visitors. Maybe that’s where an animated effect comes in, or a parallax background image, or what have you. That’s when it’s nice to have a lot of options in website design, but options that should be used sparingly and appropriately less they lose their novelty and value.