Call me a bitter old man but back in my days, websites were on a totally different level of crazy. Innovations, when it came to design, were so unpredictable that you wouldn’t know what you’re going to get. Colors were wild, layouts were experimental, and there was so much going on. Heck, you could even hear some sick beats or a video running in the website background.
Only a decade ago, websites were more or less built from scratch. Nowadays, it’s all the same. You stumble upon a random company website, and what will you see?
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It’s 2017, and things seem to stay the same. Web design has become predictable. You would most likely see the same design over, and over again, maybe with a little variation in color and icons.
One could argue that the web design of old days was atrocious aesthetics-wise but it was, in all ways, imaginable and experimental. Nowadays, it feels like you’re browsing through websites that look strangely similar to the ones you’ve visited before.
Web design has become stagnant, partly because it became easy — and because we made it easy. We wanted to make our jobs easier so we created frameworks that basically allowed every single designer to put up a website using minimal effort.
Take Bootstrap as an example. The use of Bootstrap in web design has exploded over the past few years and is now used in almost 20% of websites. If you think that’s a small number, think again as it accounts for almost 11M websites.
The reason behind this is that Bootstrap allows a designer to build websites faster since it already has the elements that will most likely be present in any kind of website design.
And this is mainly the hook frameworks like the ones Bootstrap provides. They often have grid layout systems, easy-to-use components, and easy-to-navigate code that allows designers to quickly finish a project.
Most importantly, these frameworks not only give the designer an easier and quicker job to do, they also allow the marketer to check off a task in his list because these frameworks convert better. They are highly optimized to provide great user experience, ease of use, and accessible call-to-action elements.
These, of course, are great opportunities to take advantage of. It’s understandable. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you need it. You just need to tweak it according to your needs. However, the popularity of using frameworks also stymies the creative aspect of design, which is one of the rudimentary purposes of creating a website.
As frameworks are easy to use, a lot of people can take advantage of it. First, you get the early adopters who start using these frameworks, but when everybody starts to catch on, and the design becomes ubiquitous, it becomes annoying.
This website perfectly illustrates such annoyance.
Case in point, currently there are 9,238 WordPress themes in the Themeforest database – 3,760 are built with Bootstrap alone. That accounts for more than 42% of all the WordPress themes on the website. In addition, the demand for Bootstrap over the past five years has been upward.
This is alarming as using frameworks, although can be advantageous at times, isn’t necessarily the best road to take.
Using the same design over and over again doesn’t make you a better designer. It makes you a zombie. First, you think you’re making your job easier but eventually, you won’t realize that the framework is slowly making style decisions for you. You get so comfortable with it that you begin to produce generic solutions.
Imagine websites like this using a framework? It wouldn’t look and feel as good as it should be.
The truth is, websites that are designed and built from scratch tend to provide designers with more freedom to work with. Frameworks are usually boxed and have certain rules so that you can easily use them. These rules are established to make the framework stand. It’s easier that way since less skilled designers can easily adhere to them without any complications.
But as these rules are set, designers are boxed with what they can do. It will be extremely difficult for them to add certain elements that are not included in the framework. It would be hard to experiment because you already know if it would work or not.
It’s hard to be unique, and it’s understandable but sticking to the same type of design can spell bad for you as time goes by. As a designer, you would want your creativity to be sharper, thus the process of experimenting with designs, building them up from scratch can help. However, if you box yourself with what you can or cannot do, it would be difficult for you to come up with new ideas.
Remember that frameworks are like safety wheels on a bicycle. They are meant to help you along the way but sooner or later, you would have to take them off. Get out of your design comfort zone and let your creativity loose.