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Design is Fashion

Posted on July 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The web is always changing its style. Take a look at any of these design showcase sites like Web Creme or The Best Designs and you’ll see certain styles consistent with the flavor of the month. Go back about 30 pages or so and you’ll see that different trends are in vogue at that time. I’ll wager that you see at least one of those wraparound ribbons. I never used that on any of my sites, mostly because I knew it was a fad. You can pretty much tell its all over for a look when some mook makes a generator page for it. Now, it’s mainstream and it’s not something designers want to be a part of anymore. Fashion is fickle and designers are chic. It’s a designer’s job to stay ahead of the status quo.

What’s all the rage as of this posting are vertical scrolling (or VS) sites and  vertical parallax scrolling (or VPS) sites. This is the style where a small amount of information is stretched far below the fold telling the story as you scroll. This usage of vertical space allows for huge point sizes, even huger images and scrolling JavaScript trickery for flair. I’m always a little apprehensive to share a link of examples on my blog, for the very reason that design is fashion. I may pick out a site to demonstrate this look and a month or so later, the site has completely changed its wardrobe . I’ve decided to link to the above blog post on VPS, as it is a blog post and by nature, archival. At least their images are intact even if the sites change their clothes.

I’ve recently made a quick VS site to get drafted on Dribbble. They are definitely fun to do and there is a lot of opportunity to be creative with it, but from what I’ve seen with this kind of design, it has fad potential. These sites usually end up being one page wonders or what some call vanity sites. This is all well and good, to showcase that a technique is possible, but usually these vanity sites are not scalable to anything more than a single page. Also, I think that a lot of these VPS sites that I’ve seen feel visually cluttered and confusing. Their oversized fonts and graphics contribute to clutter. The usage of space to the ends of the browser can sometimes feel claustrophobic. Those asynchronous scrolling backgrounds can give you vertigo. They can have a neat effect and a look, but usability suffers.

In terms of my personal style, for web design and clothing alike, is classic jeans and a T shirt. Which, as James Dean would tell you is a timeless look. This is not to be confused with a stubbornness against change. I’m all for strides in design and technologies to make the internet more usable. Advances in responsive web design (RWD) and asynchronous web to make the web feel more like a desktop, is rather where I would focus my energies than to chase the fashion dragon.

Fashion is great and there is a place for it in the world of clothing and on the web, but I think it is important to plan out your site according to its intended usage, not to try to make it look like what everybody else is doing at the time. If you have a limited, savvy audience and go in with the intention of wow factor only, that’s the time to make a vanity site. Otherwise, I find it always to be better to stick to the fundamentals to appeal to the masses and to incrementally add flair to your personal design style after it weathers the test of time.


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