Is Web Design Dead?

It doesn't take much visual discernment to realize that Web sites have all begun to look alike. You know what I’m talking about: a big hero image spans the page, three little boxes focus on what the company does or sells, while fancy visual pyrotechnics make the site seem three-dimensional (personally, I find this difficult to navigate). Often times when you land on a page, a video begins to play silently in the background. Web sites have become very horizontal, very visual, and really light on words.

I wish I had a dollar for every cookie-cutter Web site I've seen only this week.

There was a time in my design career when I would've been upset by such blatant conformity. However,  as I've gotten older and wiser I have come to see merit in following trends. Trends breed familiarity which is both a strength and a weakness. The visitor is comfortable on a site because they’ve seen the layout before (good), but they are later unsure where to find particular content since all sites look the same (bad).

I'm going to side with the need for a different direction in the way Web sites look, if only for differentiation. I feel that if a Web site is attractive, engaging, intuitive and easy to use, there will be less need for conformity and look and feel. That said, when it comes to Web design, designers should function more as communicators than as artists. After all, design is whatever you do in order to change behavior. In web design, you want to make people attracted to the website. You want them to feel comfortable being there, to find what they need to find and learn what they need to learn. And if you can do it in an aesthetically pleasing way, that differentiates your website from all the rest, you are well on your way to a successful design.

The bottom line is that web design is not dead, it is just evolving like the Web and its technology. That said, here are some things to keep in mind as your website evolves:

  1. Be true to your brand, in look, feel, and personality. Will visitors get the right impression of your brand by being on your website?
  2. Be different than your competition, eliminate any confusion.
  3. Make sure the navigation, images, and words are intuitive, provocative, and engaging.
  4. Keep it simple.

Remember, design changes behavior.