Well here we are again Timmy. Another year is in the books and we’re looking forward to seein’ all the hip things that the pundits have declared will drive web design and development in 2023. If you’ve read any of my other ramblings, you’ll likely recall that I don’t always agree with the gurus who make this stuff up.
And we may look at some things that just need to die this year – just for grins and giggles.
Thinking about users for a change
One of the first things one of The Oracles on High proclaimed is that “2023 will be the year of user engagement.” Wait. Have I been asleep for the last 23 years? I could be wrong, but I thought that was what we were tryin’ to do all along. What’s the point of any of this if we’re not gonna make our visitors feel like they belong? Maybe we’ll just we’ll give ‘em more things to click. Faux engagement. That’s got legs. Let’s just not get carried away here. File this one under “The Ultimate GGO for 2023.”
Several of those “in-the-know” are talking about retro stuff. Like Y2K retro. Seems like only yesterday we were stocking up on dried bananas, bullets and toilet paper as impending doom was nigh upon us. Tempest in a teapot and chaos did not ensue. Another tangent. Sorry.
Anyway, they’re talking about bringing back things like pixelated fonts, flashy cursors and something called “ironic flavor.” I don’t even know what that is, let alone how to achieve it. Maybe I need to get out more. Or not. But pixelated fonts? No. And flashy cursors? Too many Labradors Timmy. Let’s not create distractions. So much of this seems contrary to what the people with people with PhDs in UX/UI tell us not to do. I’m so confused.
Yet another talking head has suggested using some kinda AI to select colors for us. Oh Timmy. Clearly, they do NOT know how I feel about AI in general. Yeah, not so much. Color selection is one of the key aspects in web design. Why would I trust an AI with such a task? I wouldn’t. There are lots of resources out there to assist us when we struggle to come up with the right palette. And they’ve been created by actual graphic designers – not somebody’s vision of one.
As I mentioned in Top Ten, I tried writin’ a blog with an AI and it sucked. For me, color selection is a whole lot trickier and I’ve zero confidence that an AI can do it better than a human.
While we’re on the subject of color, seems some of ‘em are on about “dopamine colors.” I wonder if they said that out loud before they typed it? Something bright and bold that will instantly create a dopamine rush and we’ll all get happy. If only it were so simple.
All the pretty colors
But yet the guru who wanted me to use an AI to create my palette boldly proclaimed that “warm and cool colors will likely take over the internet.” Y’all need to get together and talk about this stuff. Life inside my head is hard enough without you guys contributing to the chaos. I have enough trouble sleepin’ as it is. Just stop.
And sadly, no matter what the voices say, there’s often that durn branding document that tells us what colors we must use. Once again, Timmy, life is simpler with fewer choices. And as I’ve recently discovered, colors I often think are great get trashed at the 11th hour because somebody formed a committee that figured beige was better. So after all the thought and care we put into our color selection, always beware that there might well be someone gonna bring the hammer down. Don’t take it personally.
Then there’s this trendy thing called “digital maximalism” which is clearly the opposite of the trendy “ultra-minimalism” that I discussed in my Top Ten way back. Again, y’all need to get together, talk and form some kinda consensus before you go railin’ on about this stuff.
While I’m still not even close to being sold on the ultra-minimalism, I do like to keep things simple. And for that reason, I kinda got a bone to pick with the person that wrote about this digital maximalism stuff. In tryin’ to sell their idea, they made some bold claims – notably that “we’re” done with “the less is more approach” and “we’re” sick and tired of oversimplification. No “we’re” not. They go on to talk about how keeping it simple is draconian and stifles creativity. Again, no. Keeping things simple is often harder. So just pffffbt.
More is more?
But what is digital maximalism? Pretty much brutalism on steroids. Bold colors. Brash graphics. Elimination of white space. Overlapping elements. Okay, remember when I wrote about piling stuff on top of stuff in A Day in the Life? Still true. Cramming round pegs into square holes. Embracing chaos. Distractions. Shiny things everywhere. No. We’re still Labradors. Don’t throw us into a field of butterflies.
The people with PhDs in UX/UI are probably laughing. Just my opinion, but this might be the silliest trend I’ve read about. Unless the average age of your audience is like 12. And perhaps the ultimate contradiction – proponents of digital maximalism implore us to stick to the basics – ensuring excellent readability – like we’ll even find the content among the chaos they want us to create.
Another “trend” that the pundits are pushing – and one which all seem to agree on – is that sites should be lightweight, efficient and lightning fast. Not even I can find fault with this concept. But again Timmy – this seems more of a GGO than a “trend.” Maybe they just needed to get to 1500 words or something to get paid.
And let me just say that I am so disappointed in Forbes. They got a Top 10 on The Google with a head of “2023 Web Design Trends” and their page is little more than ads for the top web hosts and website builders who have likely purchased an opinion. Yet we here at <engine/> didn’t even get honorable mention. Shame, shame Forbes. It seems you’re only in it for the money.
2023 death watch
So what about the things that need to die?
Tables. Granted, they aren’t really a “trend” but way too many people are still using them. Largely because so many content management systems and website builders incorporate handy little widgets to build them. I used to love tables myself. But that was nearly 25 years ago when there were no mobile devices. Nowadays, tables are a responsive nightmare. They’ve been supplanted by grids and flexboxes, both of which have their merits and are a whole lot easier to manage as things get small.
What else? Browsers that don’t conform to standards that everyone else is using. Like that Edge thing. Fortunately, most people only use it long enough to download a real browser. Kidding Bill. As developers, we shouldn’t have to wonder how something will play on a platform that only 4.443367% of the known universe is using. Life’s too short Timmy. And for those of you that don’t like The Google and all its spyin’ – there are alternatives that understand the rules and respect your privacy.
And the other day I had the misfortune of updating a site built with WebFlux or something like it. As it took its sweet time booting, it flashed a message about “Optimizing for IE6.” I can only hope this was some programmer’s idea of a joke. If you’re still using a browser from 2001, I feel bad for you, but don’t expect me to code for it.
Where does all of this leave us? Here again, I’m a little more confused regarding the web trends for 2023 after writing this than I was before I started in on it. So many contradictions. So many GGOs. So many concepts that I just don’t get. I suspect people prognosticate on things like this primarily to befuddle me, although it is a source of considerable amusement…
I think the bottom line is that the web trends we’ll employ in 2023 are the same ones we’ve used as long as I’ve been doing this – the ones our clients like.