The history of webdesign is like the history of the chair. In their keynote presentation at the Webinale 2014, webdesigners Florian Franke and Johannes Ippen explain to us that when it comes to design, both chairs and website are following the same trend: towards simplicity.
In the 12th century, you had simple, understated chairs. Then they got more fancy and complicated with upholstery and ornaments. And then in the 20th century, they got simple again.
The same thing goes for the progression of webdesign since the 90s. Starting out simple, things quickly got complicated with Flash animations and browser pop-ups. And then webdesigners and users decided they wanted things to become simpler again.
What Franke and Ippen are telling us is that when it comes to design, things tend to repeat themselves. But as you can suspect, we haven’t killed off all unnecessary and user-unfriendly aspects of webdesign just yet. Not all websites are fluid, fast and easy to use.
Pop-ups may have been killed off when pop-up blockers became standard in browsers, but today many websites contain „modals„, a window that appears in front of a website’s content to promote different content or functions.
Web history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Quoting Mark Twain to illustrate their point, the two keynote speakers continue by asking the question why are we destined to make the same (or at least similar) mistakes we made years ago. And what can we learn from these phases of web history. By focussing on user-centric design,
According to Franke and Ippen, the key is user-centric design.
That means not only having good visuals an extremely fast loading time, but also giving users the freedom of choice.
Freedom means that you don’t tell your users there’s only one way to use your product. Even something small, like giving the user the option to switch from mobile to desktop view, can be a valuable improvement to the user experience.
Sitting in this Webinale auditorium of web developers, you have the feeling that Franke and Ippen are preaching to the choir. Most developers here already believe in minimal design and fast respone times. It’s the decision-makers behind the world’s website and apps that need to hear their messages.
Feature image: classical carved wooden chair upholstered in leather via Shutterstock / copyright: Dudaeva