Eye candy vs. usefulness ...

2005-17-11 at 11:57 pm. Used tags: , , ,

Yesterday we had an interesting talk at our weekly meetings of a local web community, regarding flash vs. standard html pages. I won't comment the talk here, but rather mention some thoughts that started floating in my head as a result of the talk.

Like, how I treat visually nice software vs. usefull software.

For example ... in the longstanding Qt vs GTK argument, I was always on the Qt side. That's why I was quite suprised when I installed qcad, it also installed Qt libarry as a dependency. Actually I didn't have Qt on my deskop system ... And no, I'm not using gnome either :) I'm an xfce fan. Xfce is GTK2 ... and wow, all the apps I use every day, are GTK2. Ok, Opera is Qt, but I use the statically compiled version. Why is that so?

Frankly I don't care about desktop consistency, unified look and feel, eye candy and all that stuff. I just want my app to do its basic job and do it fast. That means to be efficient and without all the bloat. I've tried to use kmail, it was buggy as hell and imap never really worked right. I tried to use evolution, it ate half the memory in my box, was really slow and I was using maybe 5% of its functionallity. So every time I came back to sylpheed, which I've been using primarily since version 0.3. Back then, it was even less than a megabyte. And so was Opera in its earliest versions ... the only browser that could fit on a floppy :)

How does this apply to the web pages?

Back in the early days of internet, it was mostly hypertext with an occasional picture here and there. It was meant to deliver information in its most efficient form known to man, written word. Now, if you look at the average site which job is to deliver information, for example any news portal, you (well, at least I) have quite a lot of problems locating a piece of news that is not a top story at the moment ... and usually I give up before I can locate it. That's why many web designers roll their eyes when I try to convince them that no design is the best way to offer information. That person that came up with the knob in Opera that turns off all the css stuff must be a real genius.

Also, another thing regarding user interfaces ... recently my job forced me to think about that too ... This day, stuff like Flickr is regarded as top and functional design, yet when I'm confronted with it, I feel like grandma waiting for instructions from her grandson what to click. On the other hand, stuff like wakaba and kareha that runs many *chan sites enables me to take in the whole functionallitty with one glance and immediately understand what this is, what it is for and how to use it. I'm sure many web designers would just turn away because it's so ugly, but as I said, I don't care. It works and it works damn well.

It is not unusuall that I see more and more where some article is linked from sites like slashdot, there soon appears a link to a 'printer friendly' version in the comments. Why? Because, what is understood as 'printer friendly', is actually more 'eyes friendly' too. Huh, what a discovery. One can more easily focus on the reading without all the blinking colorfull junk around it. Afterall, it's the information that matters and not the distracting coloful junk around it.

One comment

Marko Samastur

Where to start? :)

Web might have started as a text medium, but I see no reason why it should stay this way. Pictures are very much a part of our lives and it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t be. But as with everything else in life, it’s good to show restraint even if you don’t subscribe to minimalism as I do.

I believe Flickr has or at least had, when I visited it, a really good design. It never looked pretty, but it has used text (tone of voice and size of text) better than any other site I know to guide you and develop a good community. They also build a very sensible structure that many found easy to use.

But they suffer from features overload and I think that’s what makes them less useful to me today than it used to. More features you add per page and more pages, less easy is to find the one you’re looking for. I doubt it would work better if you stripped CSS off. Try it.

I also don’t believe consistency has anything to do with eye-candy and would prefer more of it, but again not for its own sake. I don’t think your software choices have much to do with flashiness of interface either, since Kmail is not a pretty or even flashy.

In my opinion what you’re looking for is in fact stuff that is uncluttered.

Marko Samastur (URL) - 18-11-’05 09:25


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