The myth of the Web 2.0 aesthetic and thinking outside the trend box05/16/2011
I’ve heard the term Web 2.0 used to describe a certain look of a Web site and specific design elements it incorporates. But what does Web 2.0 have to do with aesthetics? What exactly does a Web 2.0 site look like? Trying to define that Web 2.0 look is not as easy as one might think and might not even be possible.
Darcy DiNucci coined the term in 1999 in her article titled “Fragmented Future” and the term rose in popularity when O’Reilly Media hosted the first Web 2.0 conference defining it simply as "Web as Platform.'
The general consensus defines Web 2.0 as user-centered design Web applications and Web sites that facilitate information sharing and participation, essentially, social-media Web sites, blogs, Wikis, mash-ups, etc. The name suggests that the Internet has versions, but we all know that the Internet is open and fluid and put simply, there are no versions of the Internet.
Tim Berners-Lee who is credited for inventing the Internet criticizes the phrase Web 2.0 as simple jargon and a buzzword, stating "Nobody really knows what it means...If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and Wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along."
I set out to attempt to define Web 2.0 aesthetic but the idea of Web 2.0 is so abstract and, some suggest, does not even exist.
Some aspects of the prevailing tide of the Web 2.0 aesthetic include rounded corners, gradients, drop shadows, rich textures, reflections, and shiny buttons. It is easy to fall into the trap of trends thinking that in order to be hip, your site must have all these things in an obvious manner, in abundance, for the sake of following trends. What happens two years down the road? Your site looks dated and stale. A classic look will always be timeless and to achieve that, you need not avoid these trends but rather, use them in very subtle ways, or take them further and create your own look. You know the fashion rule: before you leave the house, remove one accessory after having gotten ready to go out (otherwise known as the less is more rule)? This applies in Web design as well. Sometimes we have a tendency to over accessorize.
A major pitfall of following trends is that you run the risk of not just this or that Web site looking dated but your design work as a whole. Holistically, you fall into a comfortable rut and stay there. On the one hand, following trends can compel designers to improve on a current trend, pushing it, and making it better. Sometimes our best designs come from strict parameters that force us to come up with a better way to do the same thing, though this approach can scare designers from ever pushing or trying something different than the status quo.
The most important thing to remember about Web design is to take into consideration each design element in its effectiveness and importance in the overall Web site design. Some styles and tools just will not work for some projects while being absolutely perfect for another.
Design is a relationship between users with problems to solve, clients with solutions to offer and designers to present the solution through the Web site. The ultimate goal is to design things that will be used. A clever idea or a pretty Web site means nothing to the end-user if it is ineffectual. Every design element, whether tested and true or a radical new idea must be implemented with the end-user demographic in mind.
Trends always fade but good design is constant, and the rules of design are sometimes made to be [skillfully] broken.