Breaking Expectations on the Web

I can’t stand Snap.

Snap Preview Anywhere is a little pop-up that webmasters can install on their site to provide a preview window to outgoing links. In writing it sounds useful, right? In actual use it does nothing but disrupt the flow of web surfing and tell you if the linked site’s layout might look good in a small box. It assumes that if the site looks good in a small box it may convince me to see if it has compelling content, or if it looks like ass in a small box I may be swayed from checking out its content – even if it’s breaking news about the fountain of youth or evidence that actually proves the existence of a God.

Martin Luther King had a dream that his children be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Can’t we apply this idea to websites too?

Lightbox is also like that, although it does it in a much more sophisticated way. Instead of loading a large image in a pop-up browser window or new window, it drops down an elegantly designed interface and loads the image or images right in the same browser window. But you can’t close it until the image actually loads. And while it’s loading you can’t keep reading the website you’re on. But I expected a reaction when I clicked on the image, albeit maybe not like this at first.

I think right now web-design is going through puberty. It’s got pimples, it’s voice is cracking, but sometimes you see signs of a future adult in the making. It’s trying new things out, figuring out what kind of person it really is. So it does stupid things like putting light grey text on a white background. It think its cool, but doesn’t realize it makes things harder to read.

As Javascript and CSS gain more prominence in web design and development, look for designers to really flex their muscles to create some killer new ways to interact with the web. Flickr already does this with it’s awesome ability to rename and markup photos. Netflix now allows you to add movies to your queue without leaving the page you’re on. The difference is that these are expected behaviors for these sites AND they’re useful. Flickr doesn’t invoke a slideshow unless I ask it to. Netflix doesn’t show an add-to-queue process unless I ask it to.

The purpose of design is to convey information. Some situations may require a complex design, but most do not. The best designs are never noticed because they don’t get in the way of content.