9 Ways to Stop Designing the Same Old Stuff
Last decade we reached peak homogeneity. Let’s mark the new one with an explosion of uniqueness.
More than a year ago, in Boris Müller’s now-famous “Why Do All Websites Look the Same?”, he stated that today’s internet had become bland. That all interfaces are starting to look the same. Web design seems to be driven by technical and ideological constraints rather than creativity and ideas. He wasn’t wrong. Many others have noticed the same patterns.
It’s 2020 and uniqueness in interface design has only gotten worse. Through the maturation of UX design; the proliferation of templates, UI kits, and frameworks; and the stranglehold of data on design decisions, unique expression in websites and apps has been squeezed out in favor of the affordances offered by sticking with what’s expected.
This isn’t entirely bad. Design has become homogenized because those patterns have been proven to work. If design achieves its purpose, it’s good design.
But I can’t help but think that effective design and unique expression aren’t mutually exclusive. Innovation doesn’t have to be at odds with affordances. There must be ways to rise above the sea of sameness without compromising design performance.
How did we get to this place of interface blandness? And how can we break out of it? Let’s dive in.
Why do all websites and apps look the same?
To understand how to overcome this challenge, we must first appreciate how we got here.
Ten or 15 years ago, the web was still the Wild West. Mostly lawless, very experimental. We made sites in Flash with mystery navigations, sound effects, and gratuitous animations simply because we could. The technology was exciting and ripe for experimentation.
But then everyone got more serious. Websites went from being impressive extras to the necessary core of many businesses. And with that importance came a new level of expectation. Looking cool became far secondary to converting well.
The art of design got overwhelmed by data and the practicality of designing quickly at scale.