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Web Design: A good rant

A really interesting talk by Matthew Butterick about the state of Web Design.

It’s now or nev­er for the web. The web is a medi­um for cre­ators, in­clud­ing de­sign­ers. But af­ter 20 years, the web still has no cul­ture of de­sign ex­cel­lence. Why is that? Because de­sign ex­cel­lence is in­hib­it­ed by two struc­tur­al flaws in the web. First flaw: the web is good at mak­ing in­for­ma­tion free, but ter­ri­ble at mak­ing it ex­pen­sive. So the web has had to rely large­ly on an ad­ver­tis­ing econ­o­my, which is weak­en­ing un­der the strain. Second flaw: the process of adopt­ing and en­forc­ing web stan­dards, as led by the W3C, is hope­less­ly bro­ken. Evidence of both these flaws can be seen in a) the low de­sign qual­i­ty across the web, and b) the speed with which pub­lish­ers, de­vel­op­ers, and read­ers are mi­grat­ing away from the web, and to­ward app plat­forms and me­dia plat­forms. This ev­i­dence strong­ly sug­gests that the web is on its way to be­com­ing a sec­ond-class plat­form. To ad­dress these flaws, I pro­pose that the W3C be dis­band­ed, and that the lead­er­ship of the web be re­or­ga­nized around open-source soft­ware prin­ci­ples. I also en­cour­age de­sign­ers to ad­vo­cate for a bet­ter web, lest they find them­selves confined to a shrink­ing ter­ri­to­ry of possibilities.

I really sympathise with his views on this. The design of most major websites is crap. Unfortunately, he's correct in his assertion that this is largely to do with the fact that advertising drives most of the web. It's going to take a lot of work to find ways around this.

As I'm currently working on plans for my new idea for a useful site, so this kind of thing is something that I'm doing a lot of thinking about lately. It's so easy to just copy the base format that most sites use without thinking about whether that design is the best for your current situation.