Web 2.0 Design is Dead…Just in Time for Templatey Design

3579519738_9c0291e618_oHave you ever gone to a discount store that sold brand name knockoffs? The knockoffs, while inexpensive, were always poor in quality and design and never looked like the originals. The same goes for web design trends. When trends are started, they are started with original and new techniques that blow your mind. However, by the 3,000,000,000 version of the web design, the once highly prized technique now becomes something annoying you see on every site.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 was originally supposed to be about usability, standards and the interaction between the user and the company. Around the same time, new design trends started appearing that got paired along with the term “Web 2.0”. Before I stopped designing, almost every client that came to me asked for “Web 2.0” design. It’s pointless to try to explain this to a non-tech client, so we’ll continue using “Web 2.0” to describe this trend. What are the trademarks of this trend?

  • Gradients
  • Glows
  • Drop-Shadows
  • Bright colors

When used subtly, these techniques are great for bringing pop and modernism into your designs. Unfortunately with tight budgets, clients turned to second rate designers. How many times have you visited a “Web 2.0” site just to be punched in the face with gradients and drop shadows?

When using these elements properly, you should barely be able to tell they’re there, and often you shouldn’t be able to tell at all. Thankfully, “Web 2.0” is finally dying out as designers realize this is an extremely over-used and over-appreciated style. Unfortunately, it’s being replaced by something worse.

The New Junk in Web Design

It used to be a bad thing when your site looked like a template. You were called cheap, unprofessional and told to hire a real web designer. People were smarter back then I think. Nowadays? It’s cool to have your site look like a template. What did I just say??

Take a look at a template site like woothemes or themeforest. Now Google “web design agency” and look through the sites. What do you see? You’ll probably see one of these two things:

  • The design hasn’t been updated since the internet was invented by Al Gore.
  • The design doesn’t look like a design, but a $10 template.

You would think a web design agency would want a site that looks unique and shows off their design style right? I still don’t understand why this trend is the trend today. It’s not original and every site now looks the same. At least with Web 2.0 you got variety, right?

Here are some ways to spot template like sites:

  • Flat colors are now cool
  • So many modules and boxes
  • Overuse of jQuery (Flash is so 1999…but that part it a good thing)
  • The design is bland, sterile and flat, no unique elements, illustrations or photographs
  • The navigation is put into tiny skinny buttons
  • Always a 2 or 3 column layout
  • Looks like it could work for any kind of site
  • All subpage layouts are the same

While you can find all of these examples in every design trend, there is just something that screams to me “template!” even if it really isn’t. Perhaps template design is more of a feeling than an actual design element.

Now, you may argue that templates are becoming so super awesome and up to speed in design, that perhaps the real websites aren’t looking like templates, the templates are looking like real websites. I still find it hard to believe that a $15 template will, can or should look as good as a $2500 design. It just doesn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, I use templates all the time for low budget clients and they work great. However I don’t design my sites to look like templates. That’s the difference.

Other bad trends

What other terrible trends have you noticed in recent designs?