Designers found designing only for themselves
This June, cutting edge web design firm Razorfish found themselves being sued by a client who regarded the website they had designed for them "flawed by grave technical and navigational problems." This included an inability of the website to be viewed by less sophisticated browsers and the production of an interface that was regarded as 'unusable'. As a result the client was forced to re-design the website from scratch in-house.
Kioken, a similarly cutting edge design firm, responsible for websites such as badboyonline.com and barneys are equally hard line about their preference for design dominated websites - "We had to fire Sony the other week," says Gene Na, a founder of Web design firm Kioken. "They weren't listening to us, so we let them go."
Despite the lessons of boo.com, Kioken still push over-complicated interfaces and file sizes on users, with websites such as barneys that are intended only for those with very fast connections and the latest browsers and plug-ins.
'Usability' is not a word high on the list of many such webdesign firms, and in many cases the final websites work more like personal web experiments aimed at other designers- with minimal content or customer interaction, than any kind of website intended to be used by the majority of users.
With articles such as ' A Cancer on the Web called Flash' Flash community websites such as flazoom.com worry that this misuse of the technology by designers is in danger of defeating all the advantages of the technology when it first emerged - its fast downloading animations, and small file sizes. Instead designers are exploiting the ease with which long animated sequences can be created and producing large unwieldy websites, with the result that many dotcom managers are putting blanket bans on all use of flash in any form. It should perhaps be no suprise that many problems begin only after such total flash websites are created when a client realises search engines cannot index their website, pages cannot be bookmarked, and managing the updating of the website requires going back to the design company for new flash files.
As more and more designers railroad their clients with bleeding edge interfaces and overuse of animation, the ubiquitous spinning logo has also made its return in the form of 200k+ intro screen animations, with 'skip intro' buttons now becoming the first point of interaction for many website visitors. Despite the fact that bandwidth has not increased in any significant way and the majority of users will still be browsing using modems for the next 4 years, many webdesigners seem to be more worried at impressing their peers in the design community than designing a usable website intended to benefit their clients. And the danger is that if high bandwidth does in fact reach the majority of users, bleeding edge web designers will still be pushing even more unwieldy websites.
The online advertising community is also showing signs of the over designing bug. Online advertisers such as kmgi.com make no excuse for the fact that they are aiming to get web advertising as close to television advertising as possible, in full screen linear sequences devoid of customer interaction or content. With this they even refuse to deal with html, the backbone of the web for content delivery, and instead advocate every form of rich media technology available from large animated flash files to streaming video.
Good creative design is more important that ever in the expanding commercial environment of the internet. However this does not have to mean webdesigners loose sight of who they are designing for and which solution works to a clients best advantage. If webdesigners continue to take the lazy route and design only for themselves and their peers, perhaps it will only add fuel to the argument that a 'cutting edge' designer does not neccesarily make a 'good' designer.