I recently read the article “Blog and CSS Only Sites” by Art Javid on the American Design Awards website and I was so opposed that I had to write a personal response. In the article Art argues that blog-style websites and CSS-only layouts are cookie cutter and unimaginative. Furthermore I find it very upsetting that the judging committee for the monthly design contest has such a prejudice against blog driven sites. Art states that “I don’t have to tell you how they faired in the grading… not a single one scored higher than a zero, and that was being more than generous.” This is a picture perfect example of how design awards fail to grasp a true understanding web design, and continually award sites that are nothing more than flashy advertisements. My impression of the article is not all bad though, as I will explain later.
WHERE I DISAGREE
Placing blame and subsequently eliminating sites based on the technology used is just ludicrous. The flaw I find in this thinking is that these technologies are just that, technology. Blogging systems and CSS are only tools as is photoshop, illustrator, or even a pencil and paper. In fact most blogs are designed in exactly the same manner as a typical website, where the designer first designs then develops the site and then afterwards integrates the blogging system.
Art also seems to believe that a number of designers think that blogs are the wave of the future. For the most part, I think that web designers evolved past that way of thinking sometime in early 2004 after the huge spurt of adoption occurred. However I do think that they have reached this critical level of adoption because they are functional and allow a large amount of customization. Designers may also place a lot of faith within a blogging systems because of their stability, low cost, and flexibility which is more than can be said about custom solutions in most situations. These programs have been developed and retooled for years now and are some of the most stable content management systems available.
About half way through the article Art states “to see such talented people jump on the bandwagon created by boring blogoholics, who care more about the words on a page than how it actually looks, is pathetic.” This is ultimately where I most disagree. While we could get into and endless crystal goblet discussion based on his statement, I think it gets at the real flaw in his argument. This statement shows that he fails to understand the nature of blogging, which is primarily about the content. Blogging is about making it easy, quick and convenient to share information, not about the presentation. The blog designer’s role is similar to that of a publication designer, to create a firm standard which is used to maintain consistency throughout the publication. While this may not lead to the most interestingly varied layouts when coupled with the limitations of the software, it does create a unique set of limitations and goals. It is through these constraints that creative solutions are developed.
WHERE I AGREE
Ultimately where I think that Art is trying to go with his article is that many designers (or wannabe designers) are content taking the default theme, decorating it a little and calling it their work. He also states that most designs are very similar due to the nature of the software. This is true however I would consider this the fault of the low barriers of entry into web design rather than the technology itself. Also Art comments that “If you are programmer or blogger, stick to what you are doing and try not to wear too many hats – especially that of a designer.” Which I think is him getting to the point that untrained individuals should not claim to be designers just because they can customize the look of some software. I agree that this is a huge problem currently facing our industry, however probably no worse than desktop publishing is to the print world.
Either way I applaud Art for taking a stance, it is great to read an actual opinion piece online for a change even if I do disagree. But what is your opinion? Am I being to critical of Art’s words or do you agree with me? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.