Web design is like fashion, we all have our own personal taste. And what was in yesterday, isn’t so hot today. As the Internet world also goes through its own fashion trends.
Pre-1992 era, the Internet was not known to the general public, and text was all the rage. As the graphical layouts with the Internet world we know today didn’t exist. Then there came the first graphical browser known as Mosaic which changed everything. Mosaic allowed graphics to be seen and shared on the Internet. Bringing a new dimension to the World Wide Web, where a picture is worth a thousand words. The same original developers of Mosaic went onto develop the famous Netscape Navigator. Which then was duplicated with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. And the rest is history as we know it.
From 1995 onward the Internet became more common amongst the average person. And became a great buzz word to bring up in any conversation. Similar to how today(2010) the words “Social Media” are brought up at every dinner party, meeting or company gathering. As it helps to make one to sound more sophisticated, distinguished and with the times (Regardless if you know what it is or what a computer looks like).
With the graphical interface Mosaic exposed, website visuals were taking to the maximum. Adopting a “LOOK AT ME” philosophy, using everything and anything to garner attention. Such as Animated GIFs, Flashing lights, Rainbow font colours in a single line of text and MIDI Music blaring from your computer speakers when you first enter a website (For the purpose of waking up the kids). With all these components combined without any consideration stylistically if they made sense. As it would be the equivelant to wearing a cowboy hat with a pin stripe suit combined with flip flops. Although many of these old web designs have been extinct like the Dinosaurs for many years, a place to visit these vast artifacts was on www.geocities.com. Geocities was a free web server owned by Yahoo. Thankfully, in october of 2009, Yahoo buried these tired old web designs by closing Geocities.
Then came the era of Macromedia Flash in the early 2000s. Although Macromedia Flash had originally came onto the scene in 1996, in the early 2000s it grew in prevalence. Everyone wanted a Flash intro, except nobody would watch them. Flash designers often touted the benefits of Flash, as a way to stand out from the crowd. Working with full Flash web designs to Flash Intros when you enter a website (Which thankfully the SKIP INTRO button was invented). Although Flash does have its place in todays web design world, it is used more sparingly due to its Search Engine Optimization challenges (Discussed further in this article).
The prevalent trend toward simple and clean web designs co-related with the growth of the social networking website Facebook. Facebook grew out a Hardvard domatory, to the billion dollar company it is now. Retaining much of its original look in its simplicity. Although Google(Which came before Facebook) was a proponent of “simple is better” in its own design; Facebook nailed the point home that simple can be also be profitable. One of many the aspects which made Facebook popular, was it was easy to navigate and quick loading compared to some of its respective social networking competitors such as Myspace and Friendster. Which were known for their painfully long loading times. Part of the reason for this was the complexity in which Myspace users could customize their page. Facebook was relatively intuitive in comparison(Unlike Myspace, people over 17 years old could understand it), allowing users to network with their friends and share their latest news. Users appreciated the simplicity in being able to find information quickly and not having to wait or be confused. Showing you can have a million dollar website AND be cool, without being overly flashy in your visuals.
So here are some reasons YOU should consider a simple and clean design for your next web design project :
The truth is, web viewers are lazy, we are guilty of that at one time or other. In the constant rat race of life, the Internet allows us to find information quickly and move onto the next site if we don’t get what we want. The reality is most web viewers speed read, as the average time spent on a business website at 30 seconds is not a uncommon number. Speed reading is often conducted in making a “S” pattern with ones eyes when glancing at the screen. Therefore it makes sense to visually make sure there is ample space between text. And that the key points can be picked out during that speed reading process.
Earlier this year(2010), Matt Cutts, director at Google confirmed that website load times as one of many (200+) factors were added to SEO results.(Search Engine Optimization Rankings) Now does this mean you need to cut out every graphic image from your site to make it load faster than the speed of light? No, as the basic principals of SEO still exist with Keyword density and Outside Links being the predominate fundamentals. And load times are one of many aspects added to its detailed criteria. So it’s just one more reason to not over burden your web design.
Before mid-2008, Macromedia Flash designs were a nightmare from an search engine optimization perspective. However, preceding the summer of 2008 Google and Macromedia announced a partnership to improve search engine optimization with Flash sites. While Flash sites optimize better these days, optimization is still not great. The reason being is Google doesn’t read graphics very well. (Or at all – As it reverse engineers the graphics to read text. Using OCR – Optical Character recognition technology which works with varying success.) Even though some text may in fact look like regular text, it would technically be a graphic in Google’s eyes. Since that graphic is made so it can be animated and flashy. This doesn’t doesn’t only apply to Flash sites, but also static HTML websites as well. As when a web designer is focusing on a flashy approach, graphics maybe used when text maybe more effective. Text is the high octane fuel for search engines!
How do you want to present yourself professionally? Do you want to convey trust, professionalism and credibility to your potential clients? Often a simple web design projects a quiet, conservative, reserved and respectable image for your company. Being, simple and to the point by saying a great deal, with as little as possible. Being too flashy and over the top is like trusting the salesman in the brightly checkered suit. Would you trust the smart, conservative, sober professional? Or the backslapping, oh too positive to be real salesman who seems to think his finger is a gun.
So in short, the key is to be simple but NOT BASIC. As web users of today prime concern is to get the information quickly and efficiently without having to do a whole lot of searching and navigating. Often we seek to stand out from the crowd by being over the top and too flashy. However, specific customers at your target market are often best captured with quiet, composed and clean web designs. As its a true sign of expertise to be able to communicate your message effectively with less. So don’t be that guy/gal standing out at the party for all the wrong reasons with leather pants in a fishnet top. Get with the times and make sure your website is clean, clear, simple, professional and to the point in its web design.