I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or just typical path of evolution; web design and furniture seems to be going in the same direction. Let’s take two distinct categories of furniture and compare them with each other: modern furniture vs classic furniture; and see how they evolved as well as how we can relate it to web design.
Classic Furniture: Uniformity / Modern Furniture: Vibrance
Classic furniture has a tendency to show the type of wood that is used to build it. Most classic furniture are coated with lacquer or coating that highlights the type of wood used rather than conceal it.
Modern furniture on the other hand tends to focus more on establishing matching colour schemes between individual units. In addition to that, modern furniture tends to be more experimental in the type of materials used in building it.
This can be directly compared to the current Web 2.0 trend in web design. Everything seems glossy, shiny and colourful nowadays. Back in the 90s, web colour schemes mostly fall into straightforward dark on light or light on dark categories.
Classic Furniture: Single Purpose / Modern Furniture: Multi-functional
When it comes to classic furniture, everything is so obvious. Sofas are sofas, cupboards are cupboards and consoles are consoles. Frankly, what you see is what you get.
Modern furniture on the other hand, are designed with the modern times in mind. In this age of multi-tasking, we expect the same functionalities from our furniture as well. Therefore, we’re starting to see more and more sofas doubling up as beds, pouffes that can also become storage areas, not to mention foldable tables that only take up space when you need them.
Although not really related to web design directly, most modern web applications or scripts adapt this multi-functional approach. Take WordPress for example, the engine that powers this blog. Although primarily used as a blogging platform, it is also robust enough to function as a content management system (with some tweaks and modifications of course).
Now back in the 90s, it was quite hard to convert web sites between two distinct concepts without losing data in one way or another. Even changing the presentation of a web site can cause considerable headaches.
Nowadays though, people switch between themes or skins for their web content backend of choice simply by clicking the relevant buttons.
Classic Furniture: Expensive / Modern Furniture: Affordable
Although a lot of factors contribute to the high price tag of classic furniture, in the end it’s still furniture. Unless you’re an afficionado who appreciates the history and culture of classic furniture, most people would scoff at the price.
Modern furniture on the other hand tend do be more affordable. They also look simple and this is often reflected in the price tag. Nevertheless some might say they’re less elegant than their classic counterparts.
Just like classic furniture, old web designs are expensive. The markup often consist of tag soups that are hard to maintain. They are often rendered inconsistently among the web browsers of that time. Handing over a web project from one generation to the next often causes friction and headaches.
Nowadays, people with decent knowledge about web design often separate their design layer from the web content. This means that the design of a web site can be overhauled without affecting the contents. This makes modern web design much more affordable to maintain.
Although choosing between classic and modern furniture is a matter of tastes, you should always use modern markup language for your web sites. They provide much better control over your styling and positioning of information and renders uniformly across multiple browsers.
When it comes to web design, there’s absolutely no use to cling on to the past.