What makes good web design?

I am in crisis today. Some days I am just not sure what constitutes good web design anymore. Help me see the light.

The never-ending process of redesigning the HTML soup that is headscape.co.uk continues. While seeking inspiration for my copy I came across this site:


What surprised me was my confused reaction to the site.

Its cool… oh yes it is

To start with I thought, wow this is cool. It looks great, it is built in web standards and it even caters for users who do not have the flash plug-in installed. A great example on modern web design, using semantic code and degrading nicely.

Oh no it isn’t

However, when I got past the technical and design excellence I started to find some confusing features. For a start, it took me a moment to work out what they did. Despite, the big banner saying, "We do web stuff" I had trouble grasping what the site was about. Was it a games site, a site for kids, what?

I loved the little cool figures and even grasped relatively quickly that they were the main navigation. However, I was then left wondering what each section contained. The white arrows everywhere and the spidery yellow text made it hard to interpret what was going on.

In two minds

I am not writing all of this to slag off the site. Quite the contrary, in many respects I am very jealous of the talent behind it. The reason I am writing is that I really do not know if it is a good piece of web design or not. Obviously, in many respects, it is, but from a usability standpoint, I am not so sure. Is it form over function or am I just turning into a grumpy old man? What do you think? How would you rate this site?

  • i think it looks nice but it has a bad user interface because it doesnt follow kruger’s “don’t make me think!” principle

  • Matthijs

    Some good points you made. Personally I tend to agree with you and ichigo, that usability has been sacrificed for visual stuff. At first it looks very cool, but after browsing a bit it starts to irritate I cannot find everything easily. But, off course the bottom line will be: will potential clients be impressed? If they are, it might not matter whether they understand the navigation or not or if the site is usable or not.

  • I think it’s refreshing to see a different web site approach introducing new elements seem to give it an extra something.
    The fact that we’re discussing it, shows that it does attract attention. Whether or not for the correct reasons, remains very much to personal opinion, but in my view I think it’s great to see a break from the usual elements and structure.
    Perhaps, if they are selling their services, they should allow the user to switch to ‘classic view’ for example, which shows the elements in their ‘standard’ positions, leaving the graphic oriented for more advanced, accustomed users.
    I personally love to see sites exploring new design techniques, although it can be quite a bold step.

  • I like the idea of having a “classic view”. Reckon that would help a lot. I guess web design companies are in a bit of a strange spot in the sense they have to show off. I notice that none of their client work is as extreme.

  • Lowell

    I’m going to have to agree with you, Paul, becasue navigation is very confusing. I was looking through thier portfolio and I found This. It’s quite off subject for this entry but I still think it’s worth noting. Before you go there make sure your window is at 1024×764. At first glance do you think it’s fixed width or fluid? It turns out it’s fixed. Fasinating.

  • Good and bad points are mentioned. However, I would like to have seen a more elusive view.

  • Just a comment, in builiding web design you have to consider the target audience and ofcourse it must be flexible.