Blog: Secrets from the Chef

Web 2.0-styled design

Yegor GilyovAuthor: Yegor Gilyov
26 October 2006

I will start with stating that I am not a fan of web 2.0.  I consider this term to be rather ambiguous. No, I am not against social networks, I would vote for AJAX with both hands, and I am writing this article straight to our blog. It makes no sense to me why one would need web 2.0 if not just for fooling venture capitalists. However, regardless whether we like it or not, this term enters our life and our clients start asking us about “web 2.0-styled” design.

And what is “web 2.0-styled” design? Letters pictured with reflections? Rounded corners? Let’s drop these cliche’s for being infinitesimal and consider some examples. I took some liberty to compile a short list of the most vibrant, as I see them, representatives of the new wave in web design.

As I was working on the list I managed to formulate my first finding: the most popular resources are not necessarily the best examples of sophisticated visual design. I came across such “gems” as flickr but there are much more sites with C-rated design. Please note that I am not talking here about the rigidly looking but still neat and convenient interfaces of Google’s projects. Still I get tears in my eyes by just looking at new Yahoo. But where Yahoo benefits from scrutinized logic of the interface other projects like, for instance, LiveJournal lack both beauty and usability. And there are plenty of such sites, including very popular resources.

But let’s stop considering the downsides. Let’s look at the bright side. Here is the list of five thoroughly selected examples of new style design:






As you can see, it is rather hard to locate common attributes in the visual style of these sites. How flickr is like Skype? What digg and Blogger have in common in terms of design? A fresh look at these remarkable resources reveals complete failure of generalizations like “six items of web 2.0 design”.

Let’s try to formulate the attributes of this era in more general terms:

1. Interaction-oriented design. The interaction of a user with a “common” site is merely limited to hopping from page to page. The user’s interaction with an online shop is more complex, especially in closing a deal. However, if merchandise appears to be attractive, the user gets ready to overcome some difficulties in order to obtain it. Therefore, in web 1.x the main task of a web designer was serving contents rather than managing interactions. In web 2.0 everything is different: without interactions no contents will appear since it is generated by the users themselves. The revealed necessity to simplify the user-to-site interaction is successfully addressed with AJAX, a rather conveniently emerged technology.

2. Only for web. A web 2.0 project, as a rule, lives only online and demonstrates itself only on computer screens. Office door posters, ads in the press, memorabilia with logos — who needs it anymore? It does not mean that a web 2.0 project’s logo must contain flares, reflections and other complex visual effects but it may as well have them.

3. Down with pathos. Web 2.0 site is not a branch of an office with marble floors and golden chandeliers. Such project may not have a regular office space with all services offered a few clicks away. Often — absolutely for free. Therefore a web 2.0 site can afford a luxury of being “not so serious” about design. I think this is one of the reasons of an unprecedented hype exuded by techno-maniacs in mass promotion of web 2.0.  However, to have a brilliantly frivolous appeal, the visual design of a site requires quite a serious approach. Unfortunately, many people do not get it, hence the magnitude of crippled design that I referred to in the very beginning.

Web 2.0 is like a big elephant. Some fumble with its legs or tail and say: web 2.0 is like round columns, or web 2.0 is like a rope… Three attributed described above is an attempt to step away and look at the whole picture from the perspective of the visual design and without reasserting such details as rounded corners, shades, reflections, etc. As you can see, the picture before us is truly exciting: participation in web 2.0 projects gives us, designers, the possibility to make web more convenient, more humane, and true to life. This is not just a good opportunity — it is a challenge to our abilities accepted with enthusiasm.

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I think Web 2.0 is more like a type of music. Its an overall style and functionality of the website that seems to be cropping up everywhere. I think of it as the grunge era in the early 90′s.

Nice site by the way ;-)

Reply Vince, 2 November 2006

I would say that you could condense this to: “Concentrate furiously on the things that matter. Cut away all of the other fat”

Reply simon, 2 November 2006

Should we just forget the <a> tag when designing web too sites ?

Reply guido, 3 November 2006

guido, what is the problem with the <a> tag?

Reply yegor, 3 November 2006

I saw an article that pointed out rounded sans-serif fonts were a major trend… but of course Flickr and Digg break it.

Anyway, I think Web 2.0 much more about how people interact with people through the web, and that has very little to do with graphical flair.

Reply Adam, 15 November 2006

Very interesting article and comments… Thanks for the new input for my grey matter. (^_^) New sites nowadays express the site developers and users’ creativity and boldness in both front-end and back-end.

Reply Sorren, 15 November 2006

Web 2.0 could represent two aspects: (1)User interaction greatly improving, and (2)the trendy reflections and gradient heavy themes popping up everywhere.

I think that the improved user experience has lasting value and will change designer’s approach to website design forever. The current style of reflections and heavy rounded edge usage is how it’s packaged these days. The style will change, but the fundamentals have been greatly improved.

Web 2.0 seems like someone gave the name to a time in which overall website design has improved. People mistake Web 2.0 as an improvement of every aspect, which is not the case. Many things have been improved, and there is still much more to be done. Designers should apply these (2.0)trends to their own designs, not use them as the basis (that’s when we get these web 2.0 feces spread everywhere).

Reply Michael, 21 December 2006

I think web 2.0 is all about functionality of the website, the interactiveness of it and purpose. Its not just all about design but the structure of it. :)

Reply Lord Sid, 24 March 2007

Web 2.0 is a way for clients to describe to me what they want. Which makes it easier for me to guess how they want their site to look.


Reply Erick Brian, 12 May 2007

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