If web design is art, we may be entering its minimalist phase.
Website redesigns from some of the most-visited media destinations on the Internet may be leaving users with a bit of déjà vu since many are sporting the same visual elements.
“It’s sort of the same way that all cars look more or less the same. There’s only so many ways you can design a doorknob to where it’s going to be effective,” said Brad Frost, a web designer that has worked on the websites for TechCrunch and Entertainment Weekly.
Cars and doorknobs serve a purpose under certain constraints, just like websites. But unlike those everyday items, the demands on websites have changed drastically as audiences have taken to different devices.
Time.com (pictured below) is a prime example: Clean lines, big pictures and defined columns dominate. The site launched its redesign in March.
Time.com is also “responsive,” a relatively new concept that combines development and design to allow websites to conform to a wide variety of screen sizes while still providing a useful experience. The rise of responsive design has been driven by steadily rising mobile traffic combined with the introduction of a wide range of devices.
Mobile was this crisis that woke us up from this shared delusion that the web was this fixed width,” said Josh Clark, a web designer and developer.
“To a certain degree, websites always look the same. Design is fashion and it follows trends. We’re in the middle of a trend of big and clunky, not just because of responsive design but also because of touch,” Clark added. “As touch has spread from small screens to laptops and desktops, all desktop designs have to be touch-friendly, and that has influenced the aesthetic, too.”
Numerous major media sites have shifted to responsive design with similar results — multi-column, boxy and flat designs that look almost strangely similar. NBC News has its main column on the left, but the similarities are apparent.