If you’ve been around the web a bit, have you noticed anything strange? Many of today’s websites look very similar. The problem isn’t with the colours or structures, but with the use of similar components, design strategies and more.
What’s led us to this type of sameness with website design? Let’s take a look.
Education (or the Lack Of)
Once upon a time, designers attended design schools, where they received a formal education in all things to do with design. In these schools, creativity was also encouraged and fostered, which helped lead to new and inspired design trends.
Now, about two-thirds of designers have received their training through online courses, they are self-taught, have attended workshops, been in a mentor or a certificate program.
The reasons for this change in education are many, but one major factor has been the cost of formal education. Another factor has been the increase of courses and materials online which teach how to code and design.
In addition, most companies don’t hire designers; instead, they rely on freelancers or website design agencies to have their website built and maintained.
Of course, informal education and online courses can inspire creativity; however, these tend to focus on the essentials of design. Students are not always encouraged to be creative when focusing on best practices and essentials.
The Problem with Design Blogs
What about all the design blogs, do they cause some of the stagnation in design we’re currently seeing? The short answer is yes. We don’t mean to belittle design blogs, but there is an issue. The fact is that many of them push the same trends and methods, rather than teaching about web designs, featuring new trends, and more.
If you do a search of the top results of web design trends for 2020, you’ll find the list is very similar across design websites:
- Accessibility (which seems to have become a staple—we’re not saying that’s bad!)
- The use of geometric shapes
- Inclusivity in design (this is also a good thing)
- Minimalist navigation
- And more
Web designers should search for and focus on those sites that promote creativity and teach new methods. Look for website design sites that recommend unique, beautiful designs instead of pushing the same ideas as all the other design blogs.
Here, some of the issues come with sites such as Dribble and Behance. Take a look at the sites and you’ll see they bear a strong resemblance to one another. Each site offers design templates, which are often mistaken for designs. Templates offer a cookie cutter approach to web design, and don’t allow for creativity. This is a problem.
Templates are often chosen as a way to save money and quickly get a site up and running. That’s OK, but the problem then becomes that many sites begin to resemble others on the web.
Instead, experts recommend using demos, templates, and UI kits as the foundation for your website. However, it will still be necessary to take the time and make the effort to develop something unique and beautiful to inspire site visitors.
User Data is the Same
Data is huge when you’re a web designer. This information is used to determine the target audience, industry trends, review the competition and more to come up with unique, creative ideas for a website. Many designers even rely on data sources such as Think with Google and the Nielsen Norman Group on what website users want and need online.
The problem here is that the data on users is pretty much the same across the board. When it comes time to develop a website, you must take into account the users’ wants, needs, and expectations if the site is going to be a success. If not, the site you create could end up losing visitors, which can lead to loss of business and even reputation.
Of course, the goal is to get users to convert, so sites need to be built to accommodate this goal. However, this is why so many websites end up looking like all the rest on the web. When you only use do what’s expected, and look like everyone else, you’ll lose business.
So, yes, it is important for designers to use data to create a website; however, it’s just as important to add those unique touches of style and branding to make the site stand out from competitors.
Content Management Systems
Content management systems were created to help out bloggers and others to easily create their own sites. Not much coding was required, making it easy to update and manage sites created with these tools.
The problem, however, is that content management systems became highly popular. This is another reason so many sites look the same online. It’s because the same structure and foundation were used to create many of these sites. Here, think of WordPress, Wix, Blogger, Joomla, and others.
While these systems are wonderful tools, again we come to the cookie cutter effect. Designers should be encouraged to use these tools, but then make each site distinctive through the use of creative design elements.
Clients Want More of the Same
When it comes to business, what works to convert site visitors into paying customers is what clients want. If a current website is working, then why make changes? Or why go with a change in design when updating the site? Businesses choose to go with what works, rather than with something that’s creative.
In addition, business clients understand that innovative design costs more and takes longer to develop. It can be challenging to persuade a client to try something new or innovative.
In this case, a designer may need to ask their client to trust them. It’s not easy but pushing boundaries can help their business stand out from the crowd.
Summing It Up
We have to accept the fact that there will be some sameness with sites across the Internet. The formula works and this is what clients want. However, designers also need to avoid cookie cutter design, and add those special touches that make each site unique. And we encourage every website designer to keep experimenting and adding those personal touches that make their websites stand out from the crowd.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.