Best and Worst Web Design Techniques from Web Design Ledger

October 31, 2009

Here are a couple of links to excellent surveys of web design trends from Web Design Ledger, those that are effective and those that are over-used and should be retired.

Jacqueline Thomas surveys the Most Used and Abused Web Design Trends of All Time. I certainly agree with her on scrolling marquee text, site visitor counters, auto play music (with no obvious option to turn it off), frames, splash pages in general (and those that make you choose a Flash or HTML based version of the site), Flash intros with no ‘skip it’ option and over-used stock photography.

I will admit that I still like aqua-interface elements and reflective objects on black backgrounds, but perhaps 17 years of working on Macs has prejudiced me for these two.

Mike Smith’s 20 Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Web Design should be required reading for anyone working in this field.  What I found especially telling is his advice on the role of the web designer in relation to their client’s instructions, “they may tell you that they want the big flashy logos, or the overdone textures/gradients, but it is the job of a well skilled web designer to steer their clients in the right direction.”

Graphic designers working in all fields — print, web, film, packaging, advertising, etc. — deal with this issue constantly. When your client has a leak and hires a plumber, he (generally) doesn’t offer advice or tell him how to do his job. But clients with no skills, background or training in art or design regularly interfere with the design experts they hire.


Because every corporate cubicle monkey who can dress themselves without assistance believes they have an indefinable quality they call ‘taste.’ This qualifies them, in their view, to order designers to craft pages that simply don’t work visually and fail to communicate clearly.

“Don’t cut the copy, just reduce the font size.”

“Can you make everything bigger?”

“Just copy what they did on this web site.”

“Use a lot of red. I like red.”

After the project’s completion when they find their goals are not met, it’s simple to blame the designer and forget that they over-ruled the sensible objections raised by their graphics department.

Graphic design is not like fine art which, as Andy Warhol correctly defined is “whatever you can get away with.” There are well understood principles of design, just like there are rules in architecture. That’s because a building or a home, just like a web site or a full page ad, has to function, not merely look pretty (or ugly). You break these rules at the risk of losing your intended audience.


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