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Why Do All Websites Look the Same?
Then this reply to comments from the same author:
Balancing Creativity and Usability
And my comment to the second article in full here:
I’ll add to the comment from Marvin Russell below (or will it be above?), that the reason many websites look very similar is exactly the same reason most car dashboards look very similar, why most fridges look very similar, why most [insert just about any tool you can think of] look very similar.
A website is a tool, plain & simple. There are some that are created for art, and hopefully that does continue — the same as some “painters” make art, while other “painters” paint kitchens and living rooms (there are far more of the latter for a reason). By and large, most websites are created to enable a user to complete a task of one kind or another. And as such, with over two decades of online user & usability research, we are now able to determine in many instances the type of interfaces that provide the optimal user experience for a user trying to complete a task, or in more laymans terms, the type of interface that makes it easier for someone to do something.
This isn’t a bad thing, indeed I would argue the exact opposite. Having been a web designer, developer and/or project manager for the past two decades, I was right there as we “experimented” in the early days, and the HUGE amont of work & money that was spent by organisations creating highly creative, visually “pretty” websites that achieved very little for them from a business perspective, and frustrated their potential customers to an exorbitant level.
Nowadays, we are armed with information that enables us to create online interfaces that make it much easier for a user to find the information they are looking for, to complete the task they want to complete.
It’s great that you had your students throw out the usability rule book as an experiment, and asked them to create what in reality is “art”. Having very good creative skills can only contribute to your ability as a web interface designer, it can help to add those small details that can make one website stand out over another, even while adhering to effective usability guidelines. However when creating web interfaces that need to achieve a business and/or information goal, they will also need to marry their creativity with what we know about usability, which is far more than we knew twenty years ago. Thankfully.
Enjoyed the read and the comments, thanks for the link.
Point taken on a website just being a tool (with a specific target/purpose in mind), but I do enjoy seeing the edges “pushed” a bit so interface design does evolve and hopefully improve the user experience.