It’s a hotly debated issue on several forums and blogs of the sector and that often divides the mass of web designers in two different and opposing factions: I’m talking about the aesthetic aspect of a site and on how it’s appearing in one way rather than in another can enhance or on the contrary limit its potentialities and effectiveness.
A site must only give information and has to do so in the most direct and simplest way possible, as someone says. This is true, but –replies somebody else- it is also important how such information is transmitted and how through shapes and colours, stimulates the curiosity and the interest of the consumer.Who begins as a graphic is more likely to believe also that the web design is first of all communication and as such there are strategies and aesthetics needs that cannot be denied: that particular font is more elegant and capable of capturing the attention in one precise point of the layout, this combination of colours makes more confident the reading, that background image has nothing special, but it’s attractive and makes the page more appealing.
Communication , yes, but in a creative way because showcases on the web know how to sell and attract consensus, as already required by a billboard or by a leaflet. Communicate and if possible surprise, dare, create something new and unique , experiment with styles and colours and create something that is not only simple to use but also –above all, perhaps- beautiful to see.
On the other hand, where the concepts of aesthetics and of the “appearing” are just little concrete theories – the idea that a good graphic isn’t a crucial detail of a functional site is becoming more and more popular, indeed. It’s rumoured that graphics are almost an useless distraction, a disorder that make the pages of a site heavy, not accessible, less usable, slow to upload, …etcetera, etcetera.
The general comment, lavished almost as an alibi? “Maybe the sites I do aren’t really that appealing , but at least they’re usable!”, as if one thing could exclude somehow the other.
The reality is that an effective site is yes a usable site and easy to consult, but not only. A white page with textual content, without images and with an elementary browser, is certainly easy to use and to read, but what would the web be if every site was a white screen containing text and nothing else? What would a commercial spot be without the beauty of images at high emotional impact , or without an appropriate background noise? And we should also ask ourselves: but what do we really remember, for example, of these ads, what stroked us, the subject –even if it was a detergent or a car doesn’t care- or the sounds, the words and the colours with which it was advertised?
We already know the answer.
Creative yes, but do not overdo
Once accepted the idea that also in the web design – like in whatever form of advertising communication- a good dose of creativity can really make the difference between a good product and a great product, better put the dots on the i.
So; creative yes, but within limits. A good graphic can –and must- be appealing under the aesthetic profile and simple for what concerns the functionalities : each section has to be clear and easy to individuate and consult; the contents and their representations must never be ambiguous or distract the user with contradictious messages or poorly understood; the colour palette must be pleasant and ensure that the text is readable… in short, there’re many details to keep in mind that graphic isn’t only “beautiful” but also useful for the purpose.
Moreover, if the design of a site with a painstaking graphic doesn’t imply limits or doesn’t lack in usability, it’s true also the contrary: designing a creative and original site sometimes can turn out to be a double-edged sword, if the visual and superficial impact of the layout have the better on the simplicity and effectiveness of the same.
But let’s see some examples.
1- There: the floating studio
3- Grip limited
The last example that I’m about to cite regards the site of Grip Limited: too many different fonts, too many words, which one are linkable and which aren’t? Personally I would leave the drag & drop effects only to cases where they’re really useful, as I found the sliding columns and the movable background really irritating.
Is it better a simple site, probably bare in terms of aesthetic, but easy to use? Or is it better to surprise with amazing fantascientific effects or particular graphic effects? The solution, as always, stays in the middle. Personally I believe that an appealing graphic can really make the difference in a web project., but simplicity and sobriety must always be preferred . In the examples cited we saw originality at all cost can convert a site in a small “virtual trap” hard to use … beautiful yes, but at the end are these “creative experiments” really effective? What do you think?