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April 20th, 2000

Will web design get too commercial?

I’m involved in some sort of aspect of web design on a daily basis. I maintain and create sites for my personal enjoyment, and also maintain and create sites for greater causes. Ever since day one I’ve been consistently amazed at how powerful this medium can be: it blends positive attributes of many other formats, such as television and print, into something that goes way beyond what those formats could ever be.

One of the eternal struggles I’ve had in my designs has been differentiating the commercial site versus the "artsy" site. As of right now, it’s pretty clear that there are very different standards when you’re creating, say, ibm.com versus something like Superbad. Butcan those concepts get together and merge? I’m starting to get worried that they can’t.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on design and usability lately, particularly Jakob Nielsen. His useit.com is a very useful reference when it comes to creating sites whose main goal is usability. But shouldn’t every site have some degree of usability? I guess so, but then are you willing to sacrifice a degree of creativity for it? Some "standards" for web design have really made it, via a form of Darwinism. (I wish frames would go away soon.) But, these "standards" don’t allow for personal exploration.

At least, not on commercial sites. Commercial sites are getting very much standardized and generic to the point where a designer could, theoretically, design a few basic pages and simply change graphics, fonts, and boilerplate text for myriad companies. Isn’t that kind of sad, in a way? Is there any way to bring back the creative aspect?

I fear that some aspects of web design will end up like graphic design in America and become almost entirely commercial. Some campaigns have rightly tried to change this idea, but I don’t know if it can be done at this point. It’s scary when you think of how "creative" advertisements and TV commercials are, and unless you’re "into" design, you might not realize that there is more out there. I fear that the same thing could happen to web design. People will get so caught up in generic commercial sites that when something else comes along, people might shy away from it because it doesn’t follow "standards".

One of the statements about this that hit me the most was from Vincent Flanders’s excellent Web Pages That Suck. He makes valid points throughout, but the sentence that took me back was this:

"Web design is not about art, it’s about making money."

– pm

 

Posted in Technology

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