The Skyblu Blog
Caffeine-fuelled insights into the online world
Simplicity in Web Design
23 September 2012 by Mat Durham
The web has gone through countless design trends over the years, fuelled by its constant increase in popularity and importance.
As the web evolves, so do the requirements of its users, and as such a website’s design adapts and changes to suit the needs of its visitors. But how far is too far when it comes to the evolution of web design?
It’s practically the norm for websites to include high definition videos now, as well as high resolution imagery, and as computer monitor sizes have increased so too has the size and quality of the imagery used in web design as well. All of this means that the files used are getting much larger, and websites are getting more and more demanding on internet connection speeds.
Since 2003, the average size of web pages has gone up from just under 100 kilobytes per page to almost 700 kilobytes, and the average number of “objects per page” (such as images, videos and so on) has risen in a similar fashion, from just over 200 objects per page in 2003 to almost 900 per page today.
With broadband speeds and computer hardware improving rapidly, web design advances in leaps and bounds in terms of what can actually be delivered to the end user, but this shouldn’t be taken for granted. In order to always ensure a smooth and easy experience for the user, simplicity in design is of utmost importance.
We’re not saying all designs should be minimalist with plain white backgrounds, of course. On the whole, web designers have an artistic and experimental nature. We love to try out new styles of design, or do something different and eye catching. But in the case of a professional website, or one that delivers important and useful content or is used by vast numbers of people on a regular basis, function should always be considered before form.
Take a look at Youtube as an example. In the years since its creation, it’s become a staple of the internet. Not only does it have an enormous userbase, but it stores incomprehensibly vast amounts of video data which it delivers to millions of people per day. In part, its success is due to its sheer ease of use. The video fills the top third of the screen in most cases. Related videos are grouped to the right of the screen, and comments are simply tucked away beneath the video. The search bar and navigation menu are above the video, and the site has no background imagery (except for optional ones on user profile pages).
All of these basic design elements ensure that users can easily find and view the content they came to see with a minimal amount of clicks, and aren’t forced to browse through additional pages to reach it. With no clutter, the videos are free to stream unhindered by large, high resolution backgrounds taking up bandwidth. Perhaps if youtube hadn’t considered these seemingly small factors, it wouldn’t have become quite the success that it is today.
While heavily designed websites can be beautiful to behold, it’s always worth considering if the design is taking focus away from the content. In most cases, the content is what visitors come for, rather than just to look at the site itself.