Creative sites? Yes, but maybe unusable

It’s a hotly debated issue on several forums and blogs of the sector and that often divides the mass of web designers in two different and opposing factions: I’m talking about the aesthetic aspect of a site and on how it’s appearing in one way rather than in another can enhance or on the contrary limit its potentialities and effectiveness.

A site must only give information and has to do so in the most direct and simplest way possible, as someone says. This is true, but –replies somebody else- it is also important how such information is transmitted  and how through shapes and colours, stimulates the curiosity and the interest of the consumer.

Who begins as a graphic is more likely to believe also that the web design is first of all communication and as such there are strategies and aesthetics needs that cannot be denied: that particular font is more elegant and capable of capturing the attention in one precise point of the layout, this combination of colours makes more confident the reading, that background image has nothing special, but it’s attractive and makes the page more appealing.

Communication , yes, but in a creative way because showcases on the web know how to sell and attract consensus,  as already required by a billboard or by a leaflet. Communicate and if possible surprise, dare, create something new and unique , experiment with styles and colours and create something that is not only simple to use but also –above all, perhaps- beautiful to see.

On the other hand, where the concepts of aesthetics and of the “appearing”  are just little concrete theories – the idea that a good graphic isn’t a crucial detail of a functional site is becoming more and more popular, indeed.  It’s rumoured that graphics are almost an useless distraction, a disorder that make the pages of a site heavy,  not accessible,  less usable, slow to upload, …etcetera, etcetera.

The general comment, lavished almost as an alibi? “Maybe the sites I do aren’t really that  appealing , but at least they’re usable!”, as if one thing could exclude somehow the other.

The reality is that an effective site is yes a usable site and easy to consult, but not only. A white page with textual content, without images and with an elementary browser, is certainly easy to use and to read, but what would the web be if every site was a white screen containing text and nothing else? What would a commercial spot be without the beauty of images at high emotional impact , or without an appropriate background noise? And we should also ask ourselves: but what do we really remember, for example, of these ads, what stroked us, the subject –even if it was a detergent or a car doesn’t care- or the sounds, the words and the colours with which it was advertised?

We already know the answer.

Creative yes, but do not overdo

Once accepted the idea that also in the web design – like in whatever form of  advertising communication- a good dose of creativity can really make the difference between a good product and a great product, better put the dots on the i.

So; creative yes, but within limits. A good graphic can –and must- be appealing under the aesthetic profile and  simple for what concerns the functionalities : each section has to be clear and easy to individuate and consult; the contents and their representations must never be ambiguous or distract the user with contradictious messages or poorly understood; the colour palette must be pleasant and ensure that the text is readable… in short, there’re many details to keep in mind that graphic isn’t only “beautiful” but also useful for the purpose.

Moreover, if the design of a site with a painstaking graphic doesn’t imply limits or doesn’t lack in usability, it’s true also the contrary: designing a creative and original site sometimes can turn out to be a double-edged sword, if the visual and superficial impact of the layout have the better on the simplicity and effectiveness of the same.

But let’s see some examples.

1- There: the floating studio

The site of the agencyThere is certainly very original: with a particular javascript effect. In fact, the many spheres that contain some links (like the images on flickr) and some information can be moved on the screen with a curious rebound effect; besides this, clicking with the mouse on the background, you’ll see a multitude of coloured balls of different sizes.

Immagine 2- Altra visione della home page di There

Even if the trick in Javascript may be very interesting (jumping, I could say),  its utility is practically zero. The homepage appears confusing in which the information is at the rock bottom and scattered randomly in the background and the movement of the spinning balls is quit irritating.

2- Ka_len_diar

Also in the case of the site Ka_len_diar the (ab)use of a particular Javascript effect that “moves” literally the site at the slightest movement of the mouse, combined with a very refined graphic background, makes the site really little usable and hard to swallow. The result is that the site is original and innovative, but also hard to consult and practically incomprehensive.

3- Grip limited

The last example that I’m about to cite regards the site of  Grip Limited: too many different fonts, too many words, which one are linkable and which aren’t? Personally I would leave the drag & drop effects only to cases where they’re really useful, as I found the sliding columns and the movable background really irritating.

Conclusions

Is it better a simple site, probably bare in terms of aesthetic, but easy to use? Or is it better to surprise with amazing fantascientific effects or particular graphic effects? The solution, as always, stays in the middle. Personally I believe that an appealing graphic can really make the difference in a web project., but simplicity and sobriety must always be preferred . In the examples cited we saw originality at all cost  can convert a site in a small “virtual trap” hard to use … beautiful yes,  but at the end are these “creative experiments” really effective? What do you think?

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The Author

Web designer, has been working in the field of graphics and web development for six years and at the moment besides collaborating with a web agency successfully manages her freelance activity under the name of mascara design. Like many freelancers she is used to handling more roles, ranging from paper graphics to the development of html and css codes; nonetheless this passion of hers remains, always and however, web graphics.

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