Same old, same old

Having recently embarked on a project to rebuild our company website I've been giving a lot of thought to not only how we structure the site but also how we can design it to stand out from the crowd. Looking around the web for inspiration I've come across some truly beautiful examples of modern web design (Media Queries is a good place to start).

Attack of the clones
However, after a while, the majority of websites blend together in my head and I've come to the conclusion that actually a very large proportion all look the same (three columns, a big homepage image, a left hand navigation) This is definitely true of a lot of the premium themes which you can purchase for Wordpress etc.

This got me thinking is this is actually a bad or good thing. With the current emphasis on having a responsive website to work on the myriad of devices now available this does definitely mean there are certain compromises and simplifications necessary to the design. As the web has developed the days of just two browsers (good old Netscape Navigator) is long gone and trying to accommodate the eccentricities of each is a big task. The same is also true once the site hits a certain size and needs to sit on a content management system with lots of editors with different levels of editorial rights and the current monopoly in search from Google means that we are all slaves to how they index our websites.

Designing websites is definitely less free form than it was in the days of Flash when you used to have to hunt about to even find where the navigation was! As with all design there comes a point when humans are less involved in the process and instead the machines take over to make things quicker, cheaper and more automated. When these are done so cost effectively and efficiently (such as in the case of frameworks like Bootstrap or platforms like Squarespace) then why spend more time trying to achieve the same results?
This is also a sign of the times with all businesses further monetising their offer. Where a website used to be a nice to have it is now an essential resource for all companies and is designed not just to showcase their products and look pretty but has to prove it's worth by achieving real sales conversions. The fear of being different and standing out is a risky strategy which many web committees (and clients) do not want to chance.

A new chapter begins
for the Fryer family...
My middle son started school last week and my wife and I have been having the struggle every morning to get him into his uniform (he's very young for his year!) This got me thinking further about the merits of uniform to break down social class etc. so that instead of being judged on looks people can be judged on what they say and do. Maybe the fact that most websites conform to a certain style is actually a good evolution...

Are we supposed to invent five wheeled cars as four wheels are too mainstream? If designs are proven to work then why deviate. Most shops on the high street all look similar so that it's easy for customers to find their way around and feel comfortable, and the web shouldn't really be any different.  Books don't wildly alter their layout for each new publication either. Essentially it's all about the content.

It's clear I've got some interesting times ahead on settling on a new design for our website but whilst I work hard on implementing the final product, and spend my time at home empathising with my son's new found love of an imminent weekend, I'll also bear in mind that it is human nature to try to conform.

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