In the 1990s we all created ‘cool’ websites with ‘great’ content, right? Weren’t those websites simply awesome? Well, I’m sure we all thought so but, in all likelihood, they were a bit naff by today’s standards. But, the most important thing is; we created simple content in relatively simple layouts (except anything created by some dude throwing every trick imaginable at his website, of course – the show off!).
The thing is; They worked. Easy to consume content in simple layouts. Easy navigation and most people included contact details. It was, (again) by today’s standards, rather primitive, fairly simple but, in most parts, usable.
We were developing websites that had to load on monitors that were typically 800 pixels by 600 pixels. Holy crap. Imagine that today. Most desktops nowadays boast HD screens with 1920 x 1080 pixels and even any laptop worth knowing about is not far behind. A website designed to grace an 800 x 600 monitor would look so lost on almost any of todays screens.
However, designers and developers can’t just think of desktops with hooking great big displays, can we? We have to think of the mobile world and the vast (and ever growing) percentage of Internet users who use nothing more than an iPhone, a Blackberry or any of the growing array of hand held devices and tablets of one make or another and that means thinking streamlined, quick loading and easy to use by finger touch rather than mouse point & click.
Back to simplicity and function over “look how clever we are” and “sorry it’s so confusing but cool isn’t it?” because, while we do have loads of styling options that were simply unachievable a decade (or so) ago, we can’t cram every trick in the book on to a 4.3 inch mobile phone screen.
Not only has the way we design websites gone back (a bit) to function of cleverness, but getting found in search engines has gone back to basics in some respects too. Back in the early days you got your content ranked fairly quickly and easily based on the relevance of the content rather than spamming (keyword stuffing etc). Spamming worked wonders in the early days of Google but the mighty “G” soon slammed doors shut on all that idiosy (thankfully) and, over the years, has made all the ridiculous trickery redundant.
Most recently we’ve had to work with the biggest search engine’s updates (Panda and Penguin) that, essentially, force content writers to focus on uniqueness and relevance else suffer the consequences of a hefty Google slap – no longer a minor slap on the wrist but a boot right up the backside and out of the rankings for any infringements.
I suggested many years ago that increased complexity was unsustainable (I’ll try to find that article and repost it), so, while it is hard work keeping up to speed with all the devices we need to design for and the never ending jumping through hoops with and constantly learning and adapting to new regulations about privacy and (in the EU) Cookie laws (obtaining permission from users – being transparent), in my humble opinion this is all good; Good for users and good for businesses playing by the rules (both written and ethical) and good for the Internet over-all.
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