Attack of the clones - common designs and common websites
19th November 2014

clonesI have watched the evolution of website design for over 15 years from simple text and link based sites to Flash based monsters to the light airy Html 5 ones of today. I am thrilled with the technology development and the way site scripting has evolved. jQuery and HTML 5 have taken our old friend DHTML to new heights. However what's disappointing is the design styles that have evolved.

No need for design innovation anymore - it's all canned

In the bad old days every designers had to find their own voice and interpret it into a website design. They did not have the host of one size fits all website frameworks like Bootstrap or ready to use template libraries like Themeforest. Today's sites are more likely to be designed from a framework skeleton or theme than the designer's creative inputs. In fact now you might not have to design at all. The other day I saw an ad for a site which uses AI (they use the term very loosely) to develop a website for you. You provide the content and the AI decides the theme, layout and placement of everything. They claim the results are stunning but I wonder how much might be lost in translation.

Although development time has reduced drastically, website design uniqueness is lost.

Web designers are working faster than ever before. Put together a few components and presto...the site is ready! I rarely come across a site today that does not look like its come out of a template library. Yes, there is customization, but it cannot hide the ugly fact that it's a bastard child of some theme library and some java script based framework.

Gone are the days of carefully crafted websites with painfully thought out placements.

I remember the days designers agonized over the placement of every element on the page. Each site we produced was (and still is) quite unique. But designers have become quite lazy (or have they become more pragmatic?) with their structures and placements. I remember loud arguments and objects being thrown as we discussed design choices. There was passion and conviction. It seems to be missing these days. Maybe its a millennial thing to find the path of least resistance.

The pressure for innovation usually come from the client but it's not focused or even sensible.

Clients now look at designs submitted and know something is off but they cannot put their finger on it. They do not know that the designer might be 'inspired' by a theme or template. They do their best to pressurize the designer to add some innovative touches but it rarely works out well. Clients also get taken in by the 'everyone's doing it so we have to' school of thought. Wisdom of crowds can be immensely powerful.

I might be nostalgic and complain but the truth is these days are much better for both designers and clients

In spite of my cribbing, overall things have improved drastically for both designers and clients. What we have lost in creativity, we have gained in functionality, efficiency, mobile friendliness and UI improvements. We can now do things which were unthinkable years ago. Open source has really come into its own for which I am very happy. There are still bright sparks of creativity all over, but sadly, the brilliance of the previous years is fading in the face of evolving technology. I guess progress always comes at a cost.



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