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A few short years ago being a designer was a lot of fun. Clients wanted smart animations and “flash intros”, they wanted everything to look impressive and didn’t care about usability.

Of course, this was completely the wrong approach for the user, but it was great for the designer. I was good at making people go “Wooo”, and the Wooo Factor inspired me and pushed me to be more and more creative with each new project.

Contemplating the death of Wooo

The Wooo Factor has been replaced by smart, sensible and usable websites. Usability has killed off needless eye candy and has replaced it with WIA compliancy and validated XHTML.  Sites are white and minimal, with enormous button graphics aimed at achieving the sole purpose of the site, to get people to sign up, to download, to join, to buy, to request more. I’m not against any of this in theory but it all seems so bland sometimes.

CSS became the final nail in the coffin of fun.  It can be  frustrating and tedious – especially with all the hacks and inconsistencies of the language, it make it a soul destroying task.  I have spent entire days trying to remove small gaps, and keep the small gap the same amongst umpteen browsers.  Of course this has always been the case, it is just more pronounced when coding with CSS – and just seems to take longer even with years of experience. A lot longer.

As code becomes more refined and pure, so the desire for unnecessary graphical objects is reduced until all graphical elements require justification in terms of usability and accessibility. The irony is that we actually needed this stream-lined approach in the days of ‘snail-band‘ dial-up, but  instead we forced people to download all manner of pointless Flash graphics and wait for ages.

So the web matured as we all predicted it would and at last content is rightfully crowned as king.   I have to mature with it and accept that the Wooo is largely gone from average main-stream business to consumer, business to business websites.

None of this means that the need for good design has lessened, but it has changed and the change is good.   I just have to learn to enjoy it all in a way that doesn’t make anyone go “woo”.