After browsing the Internet for a couple minutes, one almost always have to come up with conclusion that all of the websites are divided into just a few categories. These categories differ only in details such as size of individual elements like footer or sections, position of navigation, if they use ghost buttons or if fullscreen photo is shown on the background.
One of the best ways to recognize this is to visit any of web galleries showing the most interesting designs or to go through web design related magazines (.net and web designer for example). Doing this, it will hit you like a sledge hammer. Gallery containing twenty examples of websites can be divided into two or three groups in a second by looking at navigation and footer. The rest of parts is almost always the same, only pictures are switched. On sites such as these, where you want to find inspiration, you would probably expect more creativity.
If you add icons to your consideration, you are right in the dead end. Burger icon, social media icons and some type of arrows are everywhere (except the websites that remember dot com bubble). Here, when we are talking about icons, I want to point to something important. Icons are here with us in this or that form from times when we lived in caves and computers were something in very distant future. In those times people used primitive drawing of animals, people and other things to tell stories and mark places. These drawings were first examples of “icons” – symbols recognized by majority used to communicate with other members of the tribe. This is also the reason why we use icons across various places, industries, etc. today. Icons are not only nice small pictures used as decoration. They are instruments invented by people to make communication easier. Thanks to them [icons] you don’t have to explain something in paragraphs full of unnecessary words, you will use proper icon instead. So icons should be placed on the better side of this “unification” of design.
Another example of this “unification” of design are job boards. When you take a look at them, situation is often even worse. Job offerings containing phrases like “copy this website”, “clone this web”, “similar to this website” are very easy to find. People looking for freelancers to design and / or build a websites are often not interested in getting something original. They just want to be a cheap copy of someone else. This may be due to mindset of comparing to others or some kind of stupidity. Many people think that by hiring you to build a website that is a 1:1 clone of famous and successful site, their website will automatically be successful too. That is complete nonsense.
I understand that, when working for client, web designer or developer has only so many options and space to try to explain and convince the client to go with brand new well-suiting design. What is more important to point out here, is that copying existing design for client may not be the best thing to do. The reason is simple. Your client probably target different market segment or his customers might be different age group or nationality. In case you are in this situation, with this type of client, you should explain to him these facts first before you start doing anything. If you skip this part and the design will not “work” (whatever that means for client), you are the first one in the line to blame. So highlighting these facts can help you avoid uncomfortable situation in the future.
What am I suggesting here is to take a step back, examine the current state of web and ask yourself: “Is this really what I want the web to look like?” There are only two groups of people who can change the situation. These groups are clients and web professionals (web designers and developers). In other words, front-end plus back-end and the rest of the world. Since clients are often behaving like kids in the sweet shop, it is upon to web professionals to stay rational and logic.
Trends come and go. Some of them stay longer while others will spark only for a moment. No matter that, design of the web is becoming more and more unified. Whole web is dividing itself into couple of categories. Sooner or later, if this will continue, there will be only few truly creative pieces. The rest will be just a drop in the ocean. Web will not change itself from day to day. It is upon us to think about it and decide if we want to stay in this direction or if we should rather pivot. Don’t be another sheep in the herd. Use your creativity to deliver exceptional solutions to client’s problems.
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