The Magazine "Before and After" speculated in its January 2003 issue as to why design has deteriorated over the last few years. A part of the blame, they clearly thought, was the web. This got me thinking about why design in that particular medium was given such short shrift.
Because it seems so effortless, no effort is made.
Because there is no ridiculous cost associated with last-minute changes, as there is in the print world, managers think that they will fix a problem later-and rarely do. Anyone involved in the process can ask for a change, and there is every political incentive to let them go ahead, and no financial incentive to excluding the ideas of every bystander. It is design by a committee with no mandate, and no actual production schedule to meet.
What I find more surprising is that even though there is no cost for white space on the web, as there is in print, the perception that the white space must be filled is common. I have had folks talk about "wasted space" in my own work. I've seen efforts to fill every nook and cranny with information-even when the information bears no reference to the topic at hand. If the information won't fill the page (or the monitor), then by god, add something else! In that kind of clutter, any message simply vanishes under the burden of noise. There is no story, no persuasion, only information presented at random.
At the same time there is a tendency, since the page really is "free", not to apply any editing. Why bother writing clearly when you can just write a lot instead? If you are worried that some small portion of your audience might miss a point, repeat it, over and over, in as many ways as possible-all at no cost. It is a rare designer, in any medium, who can overcome really bad writing.
Finally, the web document seems to bring out every hidden constituency in an organization. Each one of them has concerns that must be addressed. The perceived low-cost nature of the product means a level of over-qualification for every item. The result:
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Dale Austin 2003
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