The internet: growing pains

Published:  April 13, 2012
Nick Hallam
The internet: growing pains

“The internet is so young, it still hasn’t had sex yet.” - @garyvee

In social media circles, the above quote is famous and it’s also very true. Last week I stumbled upon a site (I’ve forgotten what it was and didn’t capture the address in the screenshot) that was pretty well designed, but one thing stood out like a black eye on Brad Pitt. On the lefthand side I found these seven social media sharing buttons looking like they had been just slapped on at the last minute (see below to see what I mean).

My initial reaction was to blame their designer, but after a few minutes I began to think more about what had actually been the cause that resulted in the buttons being placed so poorly. I wrote a blog post about it, deleted it and then tried to solve the problem myself. Through that process I realised that it may not be the designer’s problem, it’s actually more likely to be a reflection of where we are at in the history of the internet and digital design.

Social media is here to stay and each site wants its own sharing button, fair enough too. What is more important for most start-up companies is having a product that works first and then is beautiful second. That’s good, it’s the way it should be, but when it comes time to focus on UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) a lot of standard and common elements that appear everywhere get recreated from scratch.

From that thought I started to entertain the idea of creating a universal set of visual guidelines for commonly used visual icons, devices and buttons. What would it look like? Would it be possible for designers around the world to put together a some basic visual guidelines that companies and designers could use? Would this create a more consistent, beautiful and user friendly internet? With those questions in mind I decided to try and test the idea…

It could look something like this:

…and with it, you could create something like this:

…which applied to the original example would look like this. Not perfect, but I think it’s a bit nicer:

The situation is this, the internet is growing up fast. Over time things will start to settle down. For now, we’re being bombarded with all sorts of visual solutions, some elegant (like the Square site), some creative (like the Field Trip site) and some not so nice (see above). It might be a bit premature and you might even think unnecessary or silly, but a universal visual system for commonly used web elements could be the kind of thing we see develop as we get our heads around the colossus that is ‘the internet’. What do you think?

Watch Nick’s video about this blog post below. It’s aptly titled, Like a black eye on Brad Pitt:

Thumbnail image: Chris Broughton, The Noun Project, 2012.

One Response

  1. steve

    great article
    please shave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *