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The Lesson of Vitaphone Cartoons as regards Web Design

And, What affect it had on judging Standards Reboot Spring Designs

I like watching cartoons.

I was graciously asked by David Blanchet to judge Standards Reboot Spring 2007. I accepted.

Sites were to be judged on visual æsthetics, code semantics and over all strategy (or, integration of the æsthetic and code). Design æsthetics isn't difficult except for me.

That’s where cartoon watching illustrates things.

I can find few present-day cartoons that I want to watch.

I watched Vitaphone productions when young. They are black and white. (And, those 1930's cartoons used bass-clarinets in the background music ensemble.) Porky in Wackyland is an illustrious example. It was directed by Bob Clampett. The gags were original for me. I had never seen them. I may not have understood the characters but they were hilarious none the less. It's not that I do not try to watch present day cartoons. It's that I have seen the gags before, I have seen the animation style before. It's those that have twisted the gags into something new. Not different but new variations on a theme. Did you ever watch Ren and Stimpy’s “Marooned”? It is an æsthetic variation on a theme. Similar gags but differently designed.

Web design follows style trends. Who was the first person to use repeating wallpaper as background? I’d wager that Everyone has made at least one site with repeating brothel wallpaper. Large Footers was a style by them what invented it. It became a trend by those what copied it. Exactly. Fine print + links + Flickr. [Elementary aside: Perhaps, the forthcoming version of The Elementary Standards should have a large footer with transparent overlay.]

Web Standards Reboot Spring 2007 had various and numerous trends in design. Large footers. Large sidebars. Something for Everyone that Everyone has seen. Design is difficult. I applaud Everyone who used a repeating Victorian wallpaper but it’s not new. Or, large footers. It would have been better if the footers had contained something completely different. How about mastheads? Or, large sidebars. How soon before the Hicks-styled very large sidebar becomes en vogue?

The visual æsthetics may have been lacking in some sites but most sites seemed to not understand that “design is in the details”. Most sites were unfinished. Something as simple as a triad color on the a:hover would have sufficed. Word Press templates were plentiful: 32 sites or, 1/3 were avowed Word Press powered; others seemed Word-Pressy but there was no notation in the code to verify. Minor embellishments would have benefited those sites even if the template structure remains limited for design.

That was my difficulty with visual æsthetics. Originality withstanding. Most sites were not simple variations on a theme but copy-and-paste. Like most present-day cartoons. And, like present-cartoons, there are those who have not seen those designs and will find them innovative whereas the original design that underwent copy-and-paste will have gone unremembered or remain unknown. The code was fine; it worked.

Three sites I liked for their designs because they were different from what one expects with CSS: KEEN - Multidisciplinair Ontwerpbureau, Noel Hurtley and matt northam | scpgt | because vowels are so last century. It does not matter if anyone else agrees. I liked them for their difference.

A few of the designs were perfect for their audience. Nothing fancy. User friendly.

A few of the designs were far too “inspired” (or, pinched) from more well-known designs.

How difficult is web design? I've worked with graphic designers who, when asked about contrasting colors for link rollovers or hovers, went blank. Or, when asked about hover:div, replied that it would ruin their design. Graphic design may be difficult; web design more so.

Nevertheless.

For me to judge visual æsthetics is like watching present-day cartoons. It may be a different graphic style but the gags, .e.g., element structure and content, are the same. I prefer Vitaphones.

Fortuitously, Be a Creative Sponge by Jon Hicks [June 10, 2007] offers assistance with designing designs. I'll add one comment. Do not review websites for design but do review them for their use of HTML, CSS and scripts. Poor designs seem to be constructed with poor coding; great designs seem to use precise and semantic HTML code.

[Standards Reboot Spring 2007 as Standards Indicator addresses HTML, CSS and validation.]


Sean Fraser posted this on June 10, 2007 12:48 PM.

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Comments

Noel Hurtley wrote this at June 18, 2007 01:42 AM

Thanks for mentioning my website!

I've relaunched it since the reboot, but I'm glad at least someone noticed the design.


Comment Author Gravatar
Sean Fraser wrote this at June 18, 2007 08:40 PM

My pleasure.


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The Elementary Standards: A Compendium of Web Standards, CSS, Linguistics and Search Engine Optimization methodology Copyright ©2005-2007 Sean Fraser. All work is published under a Creative Commons License. All Rights Reserved.

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