The End Of WEb Design Revisited

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From: Tom Whore (
Date: Wed Jul 26 2000 - 15:38:09 PDT

August Bourr's Idiotbox, July 23, 2000: End of Web Design

Websites must adhere to distinct rules I decide on to make them exactly
the same in all ways:
visual design
terminology and labeling
interaction design and workflow
information architecture
anything else I think of when the complaining designers flame me for this

These changes are driven by four different trends that all lead me [and
only me] to one conclusion:

1. August's Law of the Internet Useless Experience Users spend most of
their time on other people's ugly sites. This means that users prefer your
site to work just like those stupid, ugly, brainless hampster-dance sites
that are so popular. This Law is not even a future trend since it has been
ruling the Web for several years. It has long been true that websites do
more business the more they conform to what I think their design should
be. I've worked hard to make sure of it. Think Wahoo and Amazonian. Think
"shopping carts" and the stupid little icons. Think blue text links.

2. Mobile Internet Stuff
Computers that you can lug around with you usually have pretty small
screens, because big ones are really frickin' heavy. They also tend to
have black and white screens [except for laptops and Game Boys and other
rare devices] because hardware companies are cheap-ass bastards who won't
design either a longer-lasting battery or a less power-draining
monitor.Mobile bandwidth will be much more restricted than wired
bandwidth, mainly because you don't carry a whole freakin' house full of
stuff with your cell phone or laptop. Even though I don't believe in
innovation and therefore the current generation of 'Net capable cell
phones, I am convinced that mobile Internet will be big despite my best
efforts. Maybe it won't be so bad when we get better devices - but even
these next-generation mobiles will suck. This drives a focus on content
and solutions: don't spend screen space on navigation features, except for
the most necessary ones, because we should cater to the minority now
instead of waiting until they become the majority, so we can look like we
supported them all along when they finally get power. With less space for
navigation, it becomes more important to stick to the standard conventions
I will eventually force on you for where to go and how to explain the
options [not that designers will really have any].

3. Network Computing The network is a useless experience that will one day
become a big homogenous soup of boring, ugly sites, turning the 'Net into
a database as boring as the ones high school students make on Filemaker
Pro. How can this happen if the rules change every time you use a
different device? I mean, why should one piece of hardware act in any way
different from another? We might as well simplify matters entirely and
accept Microsloth as lord and master of computing. When you deliver a
service over multiple devices, users should be able to recognize that it
is the same service. Many of the same features should be delivered on each
platform, even though some of those features may be totally pointless for
some users on some devices, or are nearly impossible to implement
properly. This will force everyone to use the standards system I have
created called "Newspeak".

4. Stolen Content and Services The days of the unified website are long
gone. Websites have long been about creating an audience-specific
experience, so that people looking for specific information for specific
reasons could easily immerse themselves to get what they need. This is in
contrast to the early years of the Web when nothing on any one server had
any relationship with anything else on that server, so as to create a
disorganized mess. The Web was a complex mish mash of nothing in
particular. Since approximately 1998, it has become more common for
websites to rely on ripped-off content that flows both in and out of the
site as other people appropriate it for their own needs. Since obviously
no other kind of content exists, it becomes necessary to restrict the
content design to a few mechanisms that will work everywhere, such as
headlines, bulleted lists, and highlighted keywords. After all, the web
and print are more or less the same thing. Similarly, when a website
steals many of its features and content, it typically becomes necessary to
be lazy and expend as little effort as possible on organzing the stolen
content to fit within the site. As long as everything is about the same,
it works. Anything too special and you have a conflict. Don't be special,
don't be different, otherwise corporations can't steal from you as easily.
Application service providers also make it harder for websites to retain
overly distinctive design. It is getting to be common for some websites to
steal bandwidth by hosting their stolen content on other sites that supply
stuff the lazy webmaster should manage himself. Users should never notice
that they are leaving a big corporate site to go to some stolen stuff on
an independant site so that corporations can remain strong and lazy
webmasters can save face. Currently, ASPs let you adjust their site a
little bit to reflect your own, but they usually make it difficult for you
to completely redesign their site to suit your corporate needs, which
honestly annoys the hell out of me. Why is there free stuff more important
than your stolen stuff you make people pay for? These ASP's should have
simple designs that you can alter to make them the same as what your
company pages look like.

The Needs Of Experienced Users Should Be Ingored The last five years, the
Web has forced a severe focus on novice users [drooling idots/AOL users,
mostly]. Basically, all Web users are novices all the time, since you very
rarely use any individual website long enough to become an expert user.
After all, what's the point of coming back to a site you enjoy? Even if
you did, users are usually to stupid to remember how a site worked. Most
of your users will be new ones, since nobody ever comes back to a site [or
rarely does]. So what you need to do is talk to them like they are five
years old, and patronize them. Your site must have zero learning time or
it will die. Once Upon A Forest is a perfect example of a dying site. The
way to resolve the tension between experienced users' needs for advanced
features and first-time visitors' [idots'] need for extreme simplicity is
to remove the expert features completly, or just into the browser or other
client software. Two simple examples of stuff new visitors will never
comprehend are: the "Back" button and bookmarks. Both work well because
they have been dumbed down and removed from the domain of the site and
thus work the same everywhere (except for those sites that are stupid
enough to ignore me, and break the standards that I made up and are in no
way official). Since expert features are either pointless, standardized
across all sites [there is no room for innovation in this category] or
supported by the client software then it will be available to experienced
users without having to be visually apparent in the site design. Thus, it
will not cause learning difficulties for novice users, who would have
ignored it anyway. On the contrary, a first-time visitor to a site will be
able to use expert features without having to learn the site because they
have been dumbed down and frozen in time. After all, site design will
always exist in a vacuum.

What Remains in Web Design Nothing that you would ever need a professional
designer for. All that's left is to decide how deeply you want to go into
providing all the options of a specific function [like adding an "advanced
search" option to a search engine]. Hell, most of that stuff isn't really
much of a true design decision anyway. Most important, since the only type
of site that exists provides a service of some kind, the design needs to
be based on an analysis of its specific users and their needs. This only
works, properly, however, when you use the standardized user interface
elements in simple ways. The better sites will support the way drooling
idiots want to approach the problems. Content design will also remain.
Each product description is different. Each opinion piece is different.
Oops, hold on. That's not really a design issue, is it? No. Scratch that.
Information architecture will partly become standardized. An example that
has already happened is the "About the company" area of most corporate
websites. All users expect this area to contain subsites about the
management, the company history, financial information and investor
information, PR and press releases, and employment opportunities. But the
way these subsites are structured might differ depending on the
characteristics of the specific company. Similarly, there would be many
other areas that were related to individual products or services and that
would be structured differently on different sites. Although since all
sites are run by corporations [or should be - and will be when "Newspeak"
becomes enforced] there will be standards set up for this as well, which
will furthur limit the design options.

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