Website design, what with its ebbs and flows, is a funny subject. It’s also a great example to use for the argument I will now lay bare – that we dictate direction on the web, and are far from passive observers enjoying the ride. Some would say that it is the online world that is an ongoing development of what we like to see; I would posit that development is not so purely based off our use of the Internet as a cursory glance would suggest.
The Internet as a Driving Force
As a result of the Internet being an all-consuming, driving force in modern society, it is very, very easy to assume that rather than something we as a race direct, it has now become (indeed, perhaps always was) beyond our discipline. That the Internet as a thing in its own right controls much of what happens in the physical world and bears no concern for the happenings we induce and receive. But this is a false assumption.
Design Trends in the Physical World
The trends we see in web design flow marvellously on from the opinions we form in our day-to-day lives outside the Internet. The most obvious example is this: our consistently increasing preference for the visually simplistic (i.e. image loaded) over the complicated (i.e. text-based designs) can be seen in a variety of mediums – from posters advertising a local festival to pamphlets showing you the shiny white teeth of a dentist’s clientele. This has now fully caught on online, and is such a great example because there is an overload of information on how to design a simple (and therefore effective) website layout.
Technology Has Facilitated This Following
Whilst one could argue that it is the improved ability of services online that allow web developers to implement design elements nurtured offline, and thus the Internet is the driving force, the simple fact is this: no services used in web development to date are available through an automated building of software. In other words, any online service (such as WordPress – a content management system) has been built by – that’s right – us.
And so without needing to use a library-worth of design data, we can see that the aim to argue that the ownership of web design lies with the Internet itself is, and hopefully always will be, a fruitless one. For now, that which inspires, motivates and moves us offline dictates the way we perceive websites online.