Nothing is as ephemeral as a web trend. Sean Carton over at Ziff-Davis Publishing has created a list of Top Ten Web Fads that have outlived their usefulness. Below is an abbreviated synopsis, with my take on these fads:
1. Portals: One of the most irritating trends of the late ’90s was the move to make every site a "portal."
A successful business needs repeat customers. Similarly, a successful website needs repeat visitors. One way to achieve that was to provide one-stop shopping with everything a visitor might need jammed into one website. I still see vestiges of this with little icons and graphics with the "weather for your area".
2. Splash Pages: Ugh. Gag. Barf. Everyone hated these things (so expertly parodied at the famous "Skip Intro" site), yet for some reason there was a period of time when having a fancy Flash intro page to your site was all the rage.
Couldn’t have said it better. Even if a site had a really cool splash page, how many times do you really want to see it before getting to the meat of the site?
3. "Community"…All of a sudden sites started sprouting "community" sections in an effort to get users to chat, hang out, and generally become part of the "community." Unfortunately not many did. Who wants to define their social group by the kind of soap they use?
Here I’ll differ from Sean a wee bit. The most successful sites are community-driven. Think Fark.com or Craig’s List. However, that community must be a natural outgrowth, and should not be forced. I’ve seen many forums set up on various sites where the only comments were posted by the forum administrator/creator. I’m guilty of creating three such forums myself. If the interest isn’t there, the community won’t flourish.
4. Page counters
Yes, I think we’ll all agree these things have no place on any serious website.
5. Homepages: There was a time when no cybercitizen could hold their head up without having their own "homepage" filled with bad family photos, resumes, descriptions of hobbies, and personal details that nobody but the homepage designer’s mother cared about.
Guilty – just look at Taylor Digital Arts. However, I gotta wonder – how is a blog that much different?
6. MIDI songs, animated GIF icons, divider bars, and other garbage.
Both my first personal site and my first school website had bouncing baloney all over it. My personal site had a cool (I thought a the time) midi file that started up when the site loaded. Little did I know how annoying that would get. I still have teachers in my workshops that want to load up their pages with this junk.
7. Guestbooks: Why anyone thought that asking visitors to leave their name and a comment in a virtual "guestbook" was a good idea is beyond any rational explanation (and why people actually did it also defies logic).
I’ll agree to some extent, especially if we’re talking about a commercial site. For small organizations and individuals, a guestbook was the only way to get feedback from web visitors. However, blog comments and other feedback methods have made guestbooks redundant.
8. E-Postcards: Nothing prompts copycats like wild success, so it was no surprise that after the early success of BlueMountain.com everyone began to think that e-postcards were a good idea.
9. Mobile access/mobile content/WAP: Remember when everyone thought that the mobile internet revolution was just around the corner?
Number 8 I’ll leave as is. Seems like a good CSS design ought to take care of number 9, too, so no further comment.
10. Awards: …Unfortunately most "award" sites were really just thinly veiled scams designed to capture cash via entry fees or vanity sites for folks who just liked to feel that they were the final arbiters of taste. Eventually folks began to realize that earning "Site of the Hour" on "Billy Bob’s Big List o’ Links n’ Stuff" wasn’t that much of an honor and most of these things went away.
Several of my sites have won awards from the SC Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association. I would submit an application each year, pay the application fee, and receive my piece of paper suitable for framing, along with the privilege of displaying the award on my website. I no longer do that. After serving as a judge one year, I decided that it was a money-making routine, as just about anyone who paid the fee got some kind of award, and the criteria seemed too low.
The scary thing is, I still see these items on many, many many web pages. Either these folks did one design years ago and haven’t bothered to update anything, or they haven’t kept up with current trends. Usually, they are self-designed, without the benefit of professional web gurus.
Sean is working on an article about current trends that will soon be gone. It will be interesting to see what makes that list. Moblogging, anyone?