Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The MySpace problem

Is functionality enough? ...

"When it comes to some of the web’s most popular sites - is their success because of or in spite of ‘ugly’ design?

In his 2004 AIGA magazine piece It’s Good to Be Bad, David Volgler observed a troubling trend in web design. Pointing to six popular but ugly websites (including the infamous hampster dance site) Volgler said he’s “haunted by a troubling question: does a website have to be well-designed to be popular?” The six sites that Volgler mentions are all, by any reasonable aesthetic judgment, ugly. Even worse, they’re annoying. But does ugly and annoying mean poorly-designed?

Robert Scoble recently raised a similar point concerning Craigslist, MySpace, and Google. He suggested that in some cases ugly sites are more appealing than pretty ones because they are more authentic, less commercial, and look like they were done for love instead of money. Here Scoble questions a major tenet of design by suggesting that ugly is not only not bad design, but good design.

Discussions like these raise the hackles of many web designers. Andy Rutledge, in Hungry, Want another Bullshit Sandwich? responds with an argument that echoes the feelings of many designers: sites like these succeed for one reason: they executed before anyone else. He suggests that Google’s simplicity trumps their poor design, which is “unremarkable and poorly laid out”.

Jason Santa Maria, in Pretty Ugly, focuses on design as communication, something we can all agree with. However, he also suggests that good visuals aren’t everything, saying, “The plain fact is that some people are content with something that just works."   continued ...   (Via Vitamin Features by Joshua Porter)

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