We've had plenty of opportunities recently to assess the creative
merit of last year's dotcom boom. Interactive design awards are
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
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
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
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.