I-RECALL: Perspective - Online design is so bad that it's putting people off the web

We've had plenty of opportunities recently to assess the creative

merit of last year's dotcom boom. Interactive design awards are

everywhere.



The Cyber Lions are looming, and we've already had the Design Week

Awards and D&AD.



I sat as an interactive jury member for the latter two events, and in

the course of my stints of duty I must have looked at more than 1,000

pieces of digital media, mainly websites but also online banners,

CD-Roms and interactiveTV. Apart from the inevitable side effect of

chronic web fatigue, the experience has left me gloomy about the state

of web design.



In the past, when I've written about the poor standard of web design,

I've been accused of being "print-centric". I'm not. I'm a big fan of

the internet and for the past five or six years my company has been

designing and building sites. I think it's one of the great inventions

of the modern era: airline tickets, DVDs, pet food and dodgy MP3 files

all at the flick of a wrist. Who could ask for more? But why is the

online experience frequently so dismal?



Digital empowerment has a lot to answer for. I like the fact that Boy

Scout Troops can make their own online newsletters: this is a good

thing.



However, digital empowerment is not always good for design standards.

Remember the early days of Mac design: uniformity and crap typography

everywhere? Well, that's being re-enacted on the web. Too many sites

look as if they've been designed with all the care of an explosion in a

type foundry.



Some recent research by Forrester tends to confirm this. In a press

release entitled The Death of the Web, consumer disenchantment with the

web is attributed to the preponderance of web pages looking like pages

on paper and the failure of the web to provide a sufficiently dynamic

alternative to traditional media.



Of course, web designers are faced with huge problems. It's not an easy

medium for graphic designers (usually trained as print designers) to

master. It's hard to control (graphic designers are all control freaks)

and it's ring-fenced with technological restrictions (how do you enforce

a corporate colour across a million PC screens when every screen is

calibrated differently?).



But the problem is deeper than the inability of web designers to make

convincing websites. Over the past few years, designers have strived to

master the complexities of web design only to discover that the future

is about more than making scrolling text look sexy on a web page. The

future, as all the web agencies currently shedding staff are

discovering, is about integration. The integration of offline and online

- the ability to create convincing communication across all media.



That's the real challenge.



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