December 02, 2009

The MySpace Mentality

Over the past few months, I have been redesigning the website for my high school. I spent hours making sure it was exactly how I wanted it, right down to the last pixel. In my opinion, it came out really well. It was huge improvement over the current website, and probably my favorite design I have ever done.

Proud of my work, I began to show it off to people from my high school. Their reactions varied— some thought it was okay, while others said they hated it. Nobody, however, liked it.

I was outraged— how could they think the current clunky 1990s-style Dreamweaver-made eyesore was better than my clean, usable redesign?

But the more I thought about it, though, the more I realized they were not wrong. I was. I have spent too much time looking at web startups and CSS galleries, and am out of touch with how real people perceive web design.

People in the tech world mock MySpace, and the horrible layouts it hosts. However, most people have a "MySpace Mentality" in regards to design. After all, every designer has a Geocities site to prove they started the same way.

When people saw my redesign, they thought it was "plain" and "not colorful enough." What I thought of as white space, they thought of as room for a few more blinking GIFs. What I saw as good typography, a subtle color pallet, and usable navigation, they saw as boring.

In the real world, people like Comic Sans— it's playful. They like moving and flashing things— it's engrossing. They like clashing bright colors— it's eye catching.

It was depressing to realize this. What I considered a beautiful layout was considered plain and boring by everyone else. Non designers have a "more is better" approach when it comes to design. The more information and images and colors you can fit into the browser, the better the layout.

People don't make "bad" MySpace layouts because they can't do any better— they do it because they actually like it that way.

So, my high schools site is now being redesigned and implemented by a non-developer and non-designer, and it's going to be done in Dreamweaver. And most people will probably like it more.

Hey, at least now I have something nice for my portfolio.

About Gregory Koberger

I'm a freelance developer and designer, formerly of Mozilla. I talk a lot about web development, technology and user experience — sometimes on my blog but mostly on Twitter.

Keep Reading

Your Turn