Do you innovate or opt for the safe route in web design?

posted by Veerle Pieters
04 December 2008

You sometimes hear that there isn't a lot of innovation in web design if you compare it to what has been accomplished in the print world. The thing is that print has been around for ages and is fully matured, but the web is just out of its nappies and just starting to grow up.

On trying to be innovative

Designing innovative websites isn't easy, no matter how good you are as a designer. Creating or trying for that matter is a process of trial and error. We already talked about the launch of this site in this previous article, but in case you didn't read it, the main purpose was to launch something different, and hopefully be innovative along the way. The site has been online now for over a month, and we like to believe it succeeded in reaching our goals. Requests are way up and many people take the effort to complete the contact form to tell us it really is very nice. Many of the galleries and inspiration sites picked us up. Not that our intention from the start was to be featured on those, but we like to believe it is some sort of indication that it is being liked.

A few examples of galleries that showcased our site

Everybody is a critic

It's true that it is a nice ego strike if your work is being liked, but when something is good the doors of a complete other face of the Internet shows its nasty side. If you start reading some of the comments in these galleries, you'll meet the nasty and anonymous side of the Internet. To me it isn't a surprise anymore since I've been around for while. I guess jealousy brings out the best in some people. The only way to deal with this is to develop elephant skin, or ignore them. The energy that those people put into writing this would be better suited in creating a design that is something better instead imho.

A few days ago, Drew McLellan launched another year of '24 Ways To Impress Your Friends', great articles for us web designers. The site got a very exciting fresh design by Tim van Damme of Made by Elephant. It didn't took that long before I start seeing a similar pattern appear of people venting the nastiness. Comments started to appear like:

wtf have done to their website this year? mental note to not hire "made by elephant" looks awful.

The new 24ways website

What is up with the design of 24ways this year! ack!

Sorry to bitch, but this years @24ways design is not cool. Also, it has severe cross browser issues. Content is good though.

Something new takes time to get used to

I'm always surprised by the speed that people judge a site. They've seen it for a few seconds, and already an opinion has been formed. When I look at a design of a site, I don't immediately vent an opinion, but I take it all in slowly and start to think of what could have been on the mind of the designer. You have to use it a few times first and when that phase is out of the way, you truly can start forming an opinion. The above kind of remarks take the web nowhere, and it only scares newcomers of what kind of feedback to expect when they try something out. I've talked about it on the blog. Critiquing isn't easy, in fact it is hard and takes time to do it in a way that the creator can learn from it.

Pushing the envelope

The funny part is that it is probably the same people who are saying that there isn't any innovation in web design. When somebody uses experimentation, originality, and progressive web design, they bitch about it. You can't have it both ways people. We should be glad there still are people willing to try, because the truth is that the vast majority of web design is boring. When some rare innovations like 24 ways come along, we should be glad and take notice and be inspired. Who cares that it doesn't work in all browsers at launch. My hat is off to Drew and Tim for daring to be innovative.

Call to action

Let us grow up to reach the maturity of the print world and learn from it, but we will make mistakes along the way by trying. Experimentation and innovation is all about, trying something new, being different and imaginative. Don't let the criticasters scare you. In fact, ignore them all together unless what they are saying has value. Don't be afraid to go flat on your face by trying. For example I already know when I will redesign my blog, that there will be comments of people saying "pfftt, the previous design was way better". These thoughts will not stop me from trying to be creative. Remember, if nobody tries anymore the web is at standstill and that's not what I want. Like I said before my hat is off to those who try. Go explore and be creative and to hell with those criticasters :)

Some tips that I use
  • Think outside of the browser canvas
  • Don't get stuck by asking yourself 'is this possible with CSS?'
  • Dare to experiment with non-traditional grids and typography
  • Don't be afraid to try to reflect your personality in your design
  • Get inspired by offline things and print design

On a side note my article is up at, it is about creating Geometric Background Patterns.


  1. 1 Aaron Bassett Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.32 pm

    I’m always surprised by the speed that people judge a site. They’ve seen it for a few seconds, and already an opinion has been formed.

    But isn’t that the way we are always told Joe Bloggs user will approach the site? That we only have a few moments in which to make a favorable impression?
    I understand your point that designers and people in the industry should take the time to think about the decisions that went into a site, but the majority of the time you are not designing for that market, you are designing for the public at large and they are not going to give your new innovative design a second thought. They will decide either “I like it” or “I don’t” and that will be the end of it.

    That is why I agree with you in kind. Yes it’s great when we see sites like 24ways innovating as they have a very tightly defined market who will (should) appreciate it. But we can not make general sweeping statements about all design in the industry.

    Most of us are still designing for clients who’s target audience is everyone from myspace teens to your granny, and they don’t want innovation, they want the same standard elements (old tripe) they are used to presented in a consistent (boring) way.

  2. 2 Andrew Ingram Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.34 pm

    But there’s also the issue that not all progressive and experimental designs succeed and you have a certain obligation to your client in business situations to draw the line somewhere between progression and being safe.

    I have no issue with people experimenting wildly on their personal sites, but I actually found it challenging to read the content on the new 24ways because the visual decoration around the edges is so overwhelming. For me 24ways has always been about showcasing innovation through its content and having a fairly safe design. I don’t resent the owners for having different aims but it does mean I am now less interested in what the site offers.

    Interestingly though, I find this new duoh design quite easy to read and find it refreshing.

  3. 3 Keith Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.39 pm

    In the main I agree with you here, we should be trying to innovate.  I’ll caveat that a bit though by mentioning my main problem with 24ways… I found it really hard for on-screen reading.  Which, in my mind, is pretty much the goal of the site right? To provide easily digestible tips, tricks and articles.

    I think smart, careful, and purposeful innovation is what we should be doing. 

    Again, I agree with you for the most part.  And, yes, criticism that doesn’t offer specifics is worthless.  Simply saying “I don’t like it” for example, is something we always tell our clients not to do.  It’s something we should be careful not to do when offering our own criticism.

  4. 4 Sam Hardacre Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.39 pm

    Great piece! I’ll admit, when I first saw the site, I wasn’t to keen on the design. However, after taking some time to explore what’s been done I began to see all the nuances of the design at work. After 5 minutes looking around the new areas and archives from previous years, I had changed my mind and now think the site as a whole is a great achievement
    : )

  5. 5 Alex Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.41 pm

    Thanks Veerle, appreciate your positive outlook on trying new things in design. It’s easy for people to criticize much harder to create ;) Great Read.

  6. 6 Luke Dorny Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.42 pm

    Explained very well. Thanks for writing this.
    The thing is, there’s this problem with some web designers and developers and internet folkies, that when they don’t have much to say or are simply speechless, can muster up nothing more to say than “why something sucks”.
    When the desire to resort to inflammatory criticism overtakes our ability to digest design or content (or a technique, for that matter) take a step back.

    My first web-critiques were posted to flickr with some off-handed semi-slamming commentary. I quickly realized that criticism can be productive, or it can be just downright rude. The net is bigger now, but we must all realize that some people’s trash is some people’s treasure. Railing on something to show that you have good taste doesn’t usually bring understanding. Improve upon it. Suggest alternatives, explain your thoughts clearly.

    Rancor is never productive.

    If you’re going to critique, use some class.

  7. 7 Marco Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 06.43 pm

    I’m not sure I agree completely with you. You’re right that one shouldn’t form an opinion about a design in 3 seconds. However, just like with everything else in life there’s the whole ‘first impression’ thing. Sometimes you see something and instantly love it or hate it.

    Of course when looking a bit deeper one may learn to appreciate certain aspects of the design / interaction but a first impression is always fairly sticky.

    I don’t like this design aesthetically and I don’t think I am going to after I’ve visited the site a few more times to read new articles on it. I love innovation but innovation and a visually pleasing design are two terms that aren’t necessarily related in my opinion.

    This all reminds me of the launch of the London 2012 Olympics logo and style guide. People hated it immediately. I did too and I still do, no matter how ‘innovative’ it is and no matter how much it may push the envelope.

    I do love by the way and I think it doesn’t REALLY matter what it looks like because the content rocks.

  8. 8 Chris Coyier Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 07.03 pm

    I enjoyed the line about not being quick to judge.


  9. 9 Shin Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 07.38 pm

    Hi Verlee,

    Nice article.. I went there too. I must say an off-the-wall layout or design, should I say.

    Back years ago (when the web is still 0.something) I read a book by Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think, He speaks about common sense. You know, why a button should look like a button and click-able, et cetera.

    As you and I also others know that if a site in 1, 2, 3 seconds doesn’t clearly show people where they suppose to go or click. Fails.
    And the results, complains. Worse, they leave and never return.

    Time does matter. Thinking requires time :P

    24 Ways, a radical layout? Yes.
    Usability test? No. Thus fail the part “don’t make me think”.

    ~ my two cents ~

  10. 10 David Perel Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 08.17 pm

    Hi Veerle,

    First off I completely agree with what you are saying. I was one of the people who love the design. It is even featured on our online web 2.0 show ‘From-the-Couch’ where it scores well into the 90’s mainly because it is so out of the box. The same goes for your site.

    As long as we are pushing the boundries I am willing to be patient. At OBOX we have tonnes of prototype sites which we know people are not ready for, but by releasing sites like 24ways and your new site people will start becoming accustomed to it. So full marks for trying and pushing the boundries.

    I cannot agree more with you with regards to the web becoming boring. It is so true in so many ways, too often layouts have been replicated on tonnes of different levels. If someone mentions an app site I can close my eyes and tell exactly how it looks.

    Unfortunately there will always be many sheep but few herders. But as long as there are still some herders around the web will move forward. Once people realise the trend, designs such as yours and 24ways will explode onto the scene and become more acceptable. Hopefully by that time you will have moved onto the next innovation…

    Here is looking forward to it…

  11. 11 Veerle Pieters Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 09.18 pm

    @all: True, there is always the first impression, and with innovation you hope it will be a ‘wow’, people being nicely surprised. First impression counts for sure. It can sometimes lead to a simple ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’. Though, I believe there is a difference if you express your opinion, then you actually start judging. I just feel people should think first. Of course some things grow on you and other things will not change the first impression. It is a risk you take as a designer.

    About the ‘experimenting’ part, of course I don’t treat client projects the exact same way in this matter as our own projects (the blog or the Duoh! portfolio site). Still, I always try to be a little creative in a way that it will set the project apart. Everything needs to be seen from the right perspective and like with anything ‘too much’ is never good. You just need to find the right balance. It just is trickier and you have to be more careful in what you do and don’t loose usability out of sight.

    Chris Coyier said:

    I enjoyed the line about not being quick to judge.

    Thanks for Immortalizing it :)

    Shin said:

    Usability test? No. Thus fail the part “don’t make me think”.

    The thing with books like Don’t make me think or advice from Jacob Nielsen from is that it is good advice but it shouldn’t be a religion. I mean take it in account but don’t follow it religiously. If we would do that all sites should just be text and and have red and blue links. There should still be room left to experiment. If you fail, learn from it. The 3 second rule is good in theory but be honest if you would take that in account almost all tools we use daily would fail because you need more time to figure things out even with the best devices. Imho a site that needs a bit more time doesn’t fail. It starts failing when it takes way too long.

  12. 12 lewro Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 09.21 pm

    I have to say I love the new design of duoh site and the first what came to my mind when I saw 24ways site was: that is so cool, how did they do it? I wish there was more sites which surprise me like these two.

    Regarding the critiques…I would say that people who know how hard is to come up with something original, interesting and pretty would hardly leave strong negative comments. I do not mean that only top designers are allowed to say their opinion but being negative is so easy and actually produce something cool is so difficult. Well done to all of you out there who are still trying.

  13. 13 Andrew Ingram Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 11.31 pm

    I just often think that the pursuit of originality isn’t an appropriate aim.

    What I see more in reality is that the pursuit of high quality, results in loads of small touches that contribute to an and result that might be considered original by an outsider.

    I don’t aim to innovate or opt for the safe route. I identify a problem and if the usual solutions don’t work effectively in my situation, ie usability-wise or just doesn’t convey the right feeling, then I’ll come up with a different way of doing it.

    In “A Beautiful Mind” John Nash was so determined to find a truly original idea that he managed to produce nothing for years. Then he finally relaxed and went out to a bar and stumbled across a problem and solution that had huge consequences. Whilst there is obviously a lot of artistic license in the film I think the meaning is clear.

    In web design, just aim to solve the problem. Setting out with the goal of innovation or revolution will just get in the way of actually achieving anything.

  14. 14 Chris Johnson Thu Dec 4, 2008 at 11.32 pm

    I’m conflicted about which side of this argument I sit on.

    On the one hand, design should be a means to an end. Namely, providing information or creating a user/consumer response.

    On the other, we need designers pushing the boundaries to refine and advance our craft. I suppose, 24 Ways and the Duoh sites are examples of pushing the boundaries with less than universal aesthetic appeal. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the authors are happy.

    Let me just throw out some quick critiques of both sites…

    Duoh - Amazing attention to detail. Bold. Different. The flow of the homepage isn’t exactly clear, but it’s not indecipherable either. If you want to contact Duoh or see the work they’ve done, it’s not hard.

    24 Ways - Again, this site is bold and different, but it doesn’t feel as clean as Duoh. It’s easy enough to find and click on the articles (they are the only thing underlined) but the links to past years aren’t really clear. Also, I think the CSS hover effects are a little exhausting. The actual article pages would, in my opinion, benefit from the content being on the left and the sidebar being on the right. The sidebar is definitely distracting.

  15. 15 Paul Annett Fri Dec 5, 2008 at 01.58 am

    I agree completely, but I think there’s a fundamental reason behind some people’s inability to withhold judgement - often they want to be one of the first to comment on something for fear of their voice becoming otherwise lost in the later mêlée. Often, I find myself reading only the first few comments on a blog entry, so I can understand their concern, and I fear that those people are unlikely to exercise restraint next time, either.

  16. 16 Carolyn Wood Fri Dec 5, 2008 at 02.19 am

    I must admit I am completely stumped by anyone complaining about the usability of the new site. Huh?
    Clearly the audience is web-savvy, working professional designers and developers. Even if they are starting out in design, they are web-savvy.
    Anything linkable is in the sort of red color. Everything is clearly marked. The contents are simple. Where oh where would anyone get lost on this site? The navigation is large and right at eye-level when you come to the site.

    Someone is free to say they don’t like a design…any design. But to say isn’t easily usable by its intended audience (or even my 83-year old Mom), absolutely mystifies me.

    Just for the record, I think the design is fresh and different, and that it makes perfect sense for a site created for designers and developers to be fresh and different. What’s more, it’s festive and provides visual interest. I find that absolutely none of this interferes with the usability in the least and is obviously there for the enjoyment of the specific set of visitors expected to read the articles on the site.

    Lovely work, Tim. Thanks for stepping beyond the same old, same old. It’s on the sites that are directed to people who create websites that we have the most freedom to innovate—there and on sites where design itself is the content or “thing for sale.”

  17. 17 gilbert Fri Dec 5, 2008 at 09.14 am

    My comment only applies to certain types of sites but it’s something important that I think a lot of web designers overlook.

    One thing that causes an immediate “yuck” response in most people is large type headings in Helvetica. This is because 95% of site visitors are likely to be using Windows and font rendering on Windows (except in Safari) just doesn’t look as great as it does on a Mac.

    If I look at 24 Ways on my Mac it looks as great as the screenshot you’ve provided above. If I look at it on my pc I see a very different and less polished site.

    Another lesser factor is that colours render so differently on Mac and PC as well. Subtlety in a colour palette on a Mac can just appear dull on a PC.

    So I’m not saying we shouldn’t innovate and I know 24 ways is aimed at designers and therefore a high percentage of mac users, but when we unleash our gorgeous creations on the world we have to remember than most people don’t see them as we do. That means we’ll have to take some flak.

    Regarding those people that just some onto a site and leave comments saying that think it sucks, well there are also a lot of people out there that should just get some manners. They don’t cost anything and they may just save you from making and ass of yourself.

  18. 18 Ben Grace Fri Dec 5, 2008 at 07.32 pm

    Thanks for the post. It’s a good reminder to innovate! I sometimes forget to try new designs and get bogged down in making sure a design is usable and conventional.

  19. 19 prisca Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 12.48 am

    thanks for a great post, Veerle :)
    Innovative design and fresh ideas are what makes the web such an inspirational space. If we cannot find these new angles amongst the rest of the ‘safe’ design out there - and find the right outlet for our own creative outbursts… we would all be miserable - and not be able to keep our client work fresh.

  20. 20 roger wilco Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 07.44 am

    Just because a design is innovative doesn’t mean it’s a good design. I always thought the designer’s mantras was design is much more than a pretty face, no?

    The London 2012 logo is innovative and yet it’s ugly. 24ways might be innovative but it’s hard to read — I’m not kidding when I say that site left me with a headache from eye strain by the end of an article (and I’m in the core demographic of that site). First impressions may not matter when the overall mission of the object you design is an experience over time, but we’ve been taught as web designers time is of the essence and our audience isn’t patient.

    So 24ways is innovative but — for me and many others — it fails the first impression test and the experience-over-time test. At what point is innovative not enough to sustain its success?

  21. 21 Martin Šnajdr Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 11.23 am

    Thank you so much Veerle for this post. I think many webdesigners have this problem, because a customer always wants something like “I saw on another site or maybe something like this or like this…”
    However when the designer finish something innovative the customer generally don’t appreciate it.
    It’s my own experience…

  22. 22 Martijn Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 11.26 am

    I find this discussion very interesting. Not the discussion particularly on this website and in this post but the discussion in general.

    But on the other hand I don’t know if I like this discussion, it gives me a bad feeling.

    What I don’t like about the discussion is this:
    Negative comments are not appreciated. People that don’t agree with all these experimental designs are marked as ignorant, jealous, unknowing, old fashioned.

    In my opinion negative comments without any further explanation are OK. They are as OK as positive comments that just say “Cool design, grz!”.
    Take the Olympic games for example. Do you think that any of the judges will ever come up to an athlete and say that they gave a 3/10 because this or that?

    I really think that ego plays a big role in this. You made an experimental design? Good for you! You want to know peoples opinion? Count the good versus the bad and you’ll know what people in general think. Then you can dig deeper and look for suggestions to improve the site. They found your site a pile of trash? Live with it, make a new one in stead of bitching as hard as some people in the comments did because of the sake of experimental design. Because maybe that’s why they call it “experimental design”.

    And I had this remark too. I am not sure if I would believe a designer that tells me he really dislikes the design of a particular car but won’t make a decision yet just because the car maybe could have the best engineering under the hood.

    Now, I put some effort in writing this maybe negative comment and in the meantime I didn’t design a thing and maybe I could have designed the best website ever ...

  23. 23 Veerle Pieters Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 12.18 pm

    Martijn said:

    In my opinion negative comments without any further explanation are OK. They are as OK as positive comments that just say “Cool design, grz!“.

    The only bit of truth in this is that positive ones don’t learn us a thing as well. They would be ok if they explained what was good. So yes they are equal. If you have something negative to say it is OK to say so. The difference is that you don’t learn anything from it as it is a waste of time and energy. It would be beneficial/educational to everybody if you explained what it is that you don’t like about it. Making it personal and being an ass doesn’t’ teach us anything. This isn’t about ego as you suggest since we as a designer deal with critique and have to compromise everyday. If we wouldn’t be like that you wouldn’t hold this job for very long.

    look for suggestions to improve the site.

    Well that’s the discusion, if you don’t explain what you hate about it we can’t look for these suggestions. You didn’t understand the article, that’s clear.

    I just wanted to write this post to tell newcomers it is ok to experiment and not be afraid of the negativity.

  24. 24 Martijn Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 12.57 pm

    @ Veerle

    I think you didn’t get my point. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough ...

    LAYER 1 (this is the basic layer).
    - Positive comment.
    - Negative comment.
    I want to point out that a negative or positive comment with or without explanation is a good comment. They return a number (example: 10 good / 8 bad).
    Many people emphasize how wrong it is to comment in a negative way without defining why but they help build this number and are as important as any other comment.

    LAYER 2
    - Positive comment with explanation.
    - Negative comment with explanation.
    See them as an extra. A thankful thing. They will help you to switch the balance of the number returned by the first layer. Not all comments will get to this layer and my point is that it is not wrong or bad when they don’t.

    When you have 50 negative comments and 10 comments explain why they don’t like the design, then most of the time these 10 comments will express what the other 40 think.

    So in my previous post I not wanted to point out that negative comments are GOOD but I wanted to point out that they are NOT BAD. And that’s a huge difference in how you see the value of comments. And the fact that everyone bitches on negative comments without explanation while they are NOT BAD.

  25. 25 Veerle Pieters Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 03.28 pm

    Martijn said:

    When you have 50 negative comments and 10 comments explain why they don’t like the design, then most of the time these 10 comments will express what the other 40 think.

    We agree to disagree :) I like what you are saying and in theory it sounds good but reality is that you’ll have a hard time finding people that are in the LAYER 2 group. That’s what I wanted to come out of this post as well, if you do comment take the extra effort to make it worthwhile. If it has been said already refer to that person and say you have the same opinion.

  26. 26 Martijn Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 04.10 pm

    @ Veerle

    Don’t think I try to give you a hard time :) I just don’t like to give up and don’t like to take everything for the truth.

    You will definitely have more experience with comments than me so I guess you’re right :) but ( i said i don’t give up easily) ...
    Everyone complains about it and writes posts about and so on. But why you don’t do something about it? What? Do something about it? Yups!

    Maybe it’s also theoretical but it is sure experimental! Take this for example ... When someone wants to sell a product then they will make some decent copy about the product and make a beautiful picture.
    Writing one post about the problem won’t probably change a thing. You will have to communicate this to your audience if you want to change this. Why don’t you incorporate this in the header of your comments page or near the comment form?

    If you do comment take the extra effort to make it worthwhile. If it has been said already refer to that person and say you have the same opinion.

    You could make this a policy on your website ... Maybe it won’t work but hey it’s experimental :)

  27. 27 Steven Clark Mon Dec 8, 2008 at 10.25 pm

    I confess to not finding 24 ways easy to read, I’m older and my glasses probably need a shine.

    But the true measure of success would be in the stats - are more or less people reading these articles? The business objective of the site is to disemminate best practice information to web professionals.

    Controversy brings eyeballs and can raise awareness, so in that measure the design is meeting an effective business goal as we discuss this. So it’s not cut and dried.

    But I’d disagree with you on the usability front Veerle because while usability may get in the way of good design - good design may well get in the way of the user. Which is more important. I’m not a hardcore Jakob Nielsen fan but the ability of the audience to understand an interface has to be directly related to it’s ability to meet business goals. Unless the goal is to create a mystery meat interface, for example, on purpose. But 24 ways is an information site, therefore usability is probably a higher importance factor than were it a design portfolio (perhaps).

    In recent government work here I quit. A big part of the reason was they had policies in the Information Management department that contrary to web design policies they were not going to underline hyperlinks, for example, and those hyperlinks would be faded back to a blue almost the same as the black. Why? Because the graphic designer believed that underlined links got in the way of the “visual design” aesthetic. To me, usability does matter on information websites in particular.

    But 24 ways has it’s own business case to meet. If a radical design raises discussion and exposure, creates this conversation, and the stats show increases - then it is a success. I’ll leave it up to posterity to judge the winners and losers of innovative design, it’s not my place. Natural selection will prevail.

    (God help us though if this style became a trend… hard to read is “hard to read”).

    Just my 2 cents.

  28. 28 Phil Wilson Tue Dec 9, 2008 at 04.37 pm

    As someone whose vicious, nasty comment was highlighted I’d like to take a few words here:

    The question in your title is obviously supposed to be provocative, but it’s a dangerously false dilemma that some people may take at face value. You do a similar thing later when you say “The funny part is that it is probably the same people who are saying that there isn’t any innovation in web design.” of course, you have no evidence of this, and don’t back it up, meaning you might be as guilty as the people you’re criticising! Maybe you could “take it all in slowly and start to think of what could have been on the mind of the” critics? Are they really just complaining about innovation?

    I do, of course, stand by my initial remarks 100%. I still think the 24ways design is terrible this year. Mystery meat navigation, transparency confusion, giant flashing headers all detract from the excellent content.

    Technically the design has been executed very well indeed and the innovation on show is both obvious and good, but I think the site has suffered for it. If it was a portfolio piece or a piece targeted at one of the design galleries it would be fine, but as somewhere to visit, read content and revisit it is not.

    To make that clearer: innovation in the medium is to be encouraged but not at the sake of the message.

    You’ll also notice that twitter has a “reply” function and a “direct message” function - yet I certainly wasn’t asked to make a >140 character reply on why I don’t like the design. Exactly who is involved in this discussion and should the burden lie solely on one party? Is the comparison of content and opinions in different mediums (twitter reaction vs longer blog post reflections) valid or fair? These are open questions and certainly don’t just apply here!

    I’ll finish by suggesting that “gentle” comments like “I don’t like it” or “I like it”, in amongst a pool of dozens, will be ignored in favour of “this is totally awful” or “this design is amazing! thanks so much!” and the encouragement to get ever louder is as apparent here as it is in wider society.

    Thanks very much for writing this post, I realise my comment doesn’t sound positive but I think it’s important for there to be some balance (I’m also much cheerier in person, honest!). You’ll also be glad to know that my friends and colleagues gave me some pushback too, but after some conversations we came to pretty broad agreement!

  29. 29 Veerle Pieters Tue Dec 9, 2008 at 05.47 pm

    Phil Wilson said:

    The question in your title is obviously supposed to be provocative, but it’s a dangerously false dilemma that some people may take at face value. You do a similar thing later when you say “The funny part is that it is probably the same people who are saying that there isn’t any innovation in web design.“ of course, you have no evidence of this, and don’t back it up, meaning you might be as guilty as the people you’re criticising!

    Hence the probably in what I wrote ;) You may be the exception I guess. When I write something I have thought long and hard about it. I really do have prove, just visit let’s say bestwebgallery or any other for that matter and remember a few names of people who are being an ass, and when you browse the archive of sites you’ll see that they complain it is boring, been done before and so on. Most are even more vicious and mean to be honest.

    Comments like that and yours doesn’t help nobody and that’s the reason of this post. Many new web designers e-mail me that they are scared to stick their head out because of this and that doesn’t help the web in the long run imho. You can express an opinion but do it with class instead. I have been in this comment game long enough to know what I am talking about. I’ve been called a lot of things that I don’t want to repeat here.

    To make that clearer: innovation in the medium is to be encouraged but not at the sake of the message

    24ways is about progressive web design and about pushing boundaries, at least that’s how I feel about it. I find the site usable and refreshing. The design should reflect the progressive articles imho.

  30. 30 Martijn Tue Dec 9, 2008 at 06.38 pm


    Many new web designers e-mail me that they are scared to stick their head out because of this and that doesn’t help the web in the long run imho.

    Bullshit! Honestly I don’t think that anyone scared from such opinions will even be able to come up with an innovative design ...

    Being an innovator means you are a thinker and most of all that you are extremely passionate about what you do. All innovators that I know and that I follow are strong personalities with a vision. Do you think they are scared about what people think? Are you scared about what people think? (that should have been a compliment)

    People should grow some balls. Some designers feel insecure? Then maybe their design is not mature enough to be innovative. You feel scared? Well maybe that’s an indicator that you have to work on your confidence. It is easy to blame the nastiness of the world for it.

  31. 31 Veerle Pieters Tue Dec 9, 2008 at 07.39 pm

    Martijn said:

    Bullshit! Honestly I don’t think that anyone scared from such opinions will even be able to come up with an innovative design ...

    How many new designers do you talk to or show you their work? I get tons of e-mail of people that are insecure of their design work. True, it is not all of great quality but on regular intervals there is a real gem in there and usually the designer is reluctant of posting it. If that happens that’s a shame. When you start out you aren’t that secure in what you do yet, that happens over time. Being rude and vicious doesn’t help in that process even if you grow some balls. What helps is having some class and voicing your opinion in a civilized manner.

    After all your commenting you still are missing the point that it is about the way you approach commenting, and not about the fact that you can’t express an opinion. Like I already said, you can but with class.

  32. 32 Martijn Tue Dec 9, 2008 at 08.54 pm

    Every Saturday I do job interviews with new, fresh graphic designers. It’s something different than reading mails. You get to know a lot more how people are.

    I’ll leave it with “Complaining is easy, act, do something about it”.

  33. 33 Veerle Pieters Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 09.07 am

    Martijn said:

    Every Saturday I do job interviews with new, fresh graphic designers. It’s something different than reading mails. You get to know a lot more how people are.

    Good for you.

    I’ll leave it with “Complaining is easy, act, do something about it”.

    That’s what I do by trying to tell people it is better to be civilized instead of being rude. You are just being an ass here that doesn’t know when to quit. This has gone far enough and I rather invest my time in helping people who really need it instead of wasting it on you.

    PS: Don’t bother in replying since I won’t publish it.

  34. 34 Moumita Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 09.38 am

    Nice article. I completely agree with you on the point on trying to be innovative.

  35. 35 Marc Bijl Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 01.08 am

    Intresting article…

    Innovation, or change in general, is like throwing a bat in a henhouse (aka de knuppel in het hoenderhok gooien ;)

    I’ve seen it in developing application software, business process redesign (BPR), webdesign, as well as closer to home, living together. Oh yeah ;)

    People tend to have a comfort zone where they feel safe. The comfort zone of some people seem to be very small (or even isn’t there at all), while that of others is large (or even knows no bounds).

    It’s all about people, and their emotions. Different people, different emotions. Hence, loads of discussion.

    Here’s a nice article about designing outside the comfort zone.

    Merry Christmas and a succesful New Year!
    For everybody… ;)