Five for Six: Bold predictions for the savvy designer

~ 29 June 2004 ~

I’ve always been fascinated by predictions — perhaps because they miss the mark more often than not.

Thus, with rash valiancy (is that possible?), I embarrass myself both now and down the road by introducing five predictions for the remaining six months of 2004.

Without a doubt I’ll miss the mark on a few of these, but I’m positive the savvy designer will agree with at least a couple.

1. Large type to make a big showing.

Is anyone else fed up with micro font sizes? I love pixel fonts just as much as the next guy, and they justifiably have their place at times… but excessive? Yes. Instead, look for large type to lead the way. Undeniably legible. Undeniably attractive.

2. A quiet death of the ridiculously stupid, long-scrolling homepage.

Something that’s puzzled me for quite some time now: Weblog homepages that scroll endlessly with previous entries and other paraphernalia. What’s the point? Anyone ever stop to ask why we’re all doing it? No really, think about it — it’s ridiculously stupid if you ask me. Page loads are large. Copy floods the screen like the WCAGs. Instead, savvy designers organize their homepages much like any other rational online publication — with abbreviated stories and categorical links to important sections within the site.

3. Fieldset. Need we say more?

The <fieldset> tag with its associated <legend> and <label> tags not only provide better usability and accessibility, but they also make related content simple to sectionalize {sample}. They’re shamefully easy to use and almost as easy to customize. Surprisingly, I had a tough time locating sites that make use of the tags.

  • Forward thinkers: Couldn’t find ’em.
    Updated: Just For Men (thanks, JZ)

4. The ubiquitous drop-shadow goes horizontal.

No need to explain the drop-shadow leaguers. And it’s a trend that’ll probably remain longer than most of us care for it to. But the savvy designer will avoid the vertical trend by converting the drop-shadow column to a horizontal row. Executed properly, the effect fills a screen’s natural aspect ratio quite nicely.

5. Incessant redesigning becomes cessant.

What’s with all the redesigns? Sometimes several in a single year? I’m all for a well-planned redesign when warranted, but what are we hoping to accomplish with ill-executed attempts every few months? Sure, personal websites are a creative outlet for testing new ideas. But at what expense to your readers? Forward thinkers understand content is still king and focus on such while deploying minimal upgrades, rather than relying on skillful makeovers that gain short-lived traffic spurts following award listings but offer downright weak content.



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1   John Zeratsky ~ 29 June 2004 at 11:28 PM

So, are these predictions of what you genuinely think will happen? Or just a sample of things you hope will happen?

It appears to be the latter, and I for one hope the “ridiculously stupid, long-scrolling homepage” sticks around — at least on weblogs. To me, that stupid long design is a page chock full of information. I can browse entries old and new, see recent comments, or check out other sites the author enjoys, all without that pesky mouse.

I agree, long page loads are a good excuse to keep pages short, and the long home page has no place on some sites. But do I really think it’s going to disappear? Nope, not as long as all you influential bloggers keep it hip. (Weblog design is entirely to blame for the phenomenon in the first place).

2   Keith ~ 29 June 2004 at 11:41 PM

Interesting predictions! Here is what I think (in case you care):

1 - I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw Coudal. I think this is a lock.

2 - I know my homepage (while still a bit long) gets shorter with each redesign (it used to be REALLY long). Although, I can say for sure that users I’ve seen don’t mind a bit of scrolling on the homepage…But for the most part I agree with you, and the long load is a big deal on some sites.

3 - Yep. We’ve been using this at my day job quite a bit recently.

4 - You’re probably right, but I’m getting sick of drop-shadows. Again.

5 - Amen. As much as I want to redesign at times, I’m really trying to keep from doing it. Hopefully stock-piling great ideas for the day (maybe toward the end of the year?) when I do get to it.

Fun stuff Cameron.

3   Adam Howell ~ 30 June 2004 at 12:27 AM

I don’t know if it’s good or bad that (warning: shameless plug) my upcoming redesign of The Weekly Standards (In your living room July 7th!!! You’ll pay for the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!!!) hits on 4 out of the 5. I know it doesn’t mean I’m a forward thinker, hope it doesn’t mean the design will be dubbed ‘trendy’ before it even gets off the ground.

Keith: Don’t hate on the horizontal, man. It fills out a big, wide screen so nicely - even with the obligatory dr**shad**. As does (*wink wink, nudge nudge*) … elasticity.

4   walter ~ 30 June 2004 at 03:14 AM

I don’t think I agree with you on 2. I think long scrolling pages are ugly, but I also think the average reader doesn’t click. Too much effort.

5   Malarkey ~ 30 June 2004 at 03:31 AM

Woohoo Cameron!

I you read my latest column you might have to reconsider my forward thinking status… ;)

In doing the blog for the last couple of months, it has been a real pleasure to ‘meet’ such a nice bunch of guys from all over the place.

Email me off list (with your address to sent the fat fold of bills to) :)

6   Mike P. ~ 30 June 2004 at 03:42 AM

1 - Large type - we’re launching a site soon with large type for headlines in some instances. Never been a fan of miniscule fonts myself… I hope this catches on, in a balanced “hey look here not there” kind of way.

2 - There’s a balance to be acheived here. Stopdesign is more than a blog, so it’s homepage serves a different purpose…

4 - Dropshadows, Achhh! Can’t… stop…dropping.. shadows..

5 - c’mon, let us redesign, that way we can go horizontal and get all wicked and worn..

7   Seb ~ 30 June 2004 at 04:10 AM

I’ve been using the various form markup tags for some while now; I’d like to point out one drawback:

In Netscape 6, if you apply a style to a <label> tag, the label disappears completely. (Check your example form).

Solution: Place a <span> tag around the text inside your <label>, and apply styles to “label span”. I know it’s extra markup, but it’s the only way I know around this bug…

8   Cameron Moll ~ 30 June 2004 at 04:33 AM

> “You’ll pay for the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!!!”

lol, Adam. Clever.

9   John Nunemaker ~ 30 June 2004 at 07:14 AM

1. I am personally a fan of average type,
not to big, not to small.

2. I definitely agree with the long scrolling
homepage. I have always thought of the homepage
as a directional device rather than where all my content is.

3. Love the fieldset. I just started using it.

5. I used to be an incessant redesigner,
but now of late I have been trying to
focus more on content and little details
rather than redesigns.
Thanks for the great predictions.

10   Jonathan Snook ~ 30 June 2004 at 07:40 AM

1. Big Headers are so sexy. I’ve been using them on my site for about two years now.

2. Indeed. I’d extend this to simplicity in general. look at kottke’s new site… very minimilistic. I’ve been trying to accomplish the same with recent site changes.

3. Also love the fieldset but I don’t think it’ll be a huge trend… especially in the blogger world where there’s not really a heavy use of forms that would require a fieldset.

4. drop shadow horizontal and vertical will always be around… I don’t think this ever went out of style.

5. I think you’ll find that the more popular sites will see less drastic redesigns and vice versa for less popular sites. If you have a site that works well, you’re more apt to tweak the little things and not upset the overall balance. If you have a less popular site, you’re more apt to take chances to drive new traffic to your site.

6. My prediction: you’ll see a decline in date-based archives. because how is a date going to help you find that article you’re looking for?

Good article. Everybody loves predictions. :)

11   Joel ~ 30 June 2004 at 12:23 PM

Amen to the condemnation of incessant redesigns. Someone get Dan Benjamin in here now!

12   Blake Scarbrough ~ 30 June 2004 at 01:36 PM

Prediction number six: The resurgence of the worn look.

13   John Zeratsky ~ 30 June 2004 at 03:06 PM

“Prediction number six: The resurgence of the worn look.”

Too late.

14   Scrivs ~ 30 June 2004 at 03:13 PM

2. Heh, I can’t remember a time when my homepage was ever long. Gotta go with whatever fits the content.

15   Cameron Moll ~ 30 June 2004 at 04:12 PM

Ah yes, Paul. You need to be on the forward thinkers list for #2.

16   Drew ~ 30 June 2004 at 11:15 PM

Sorry to be a pest, but your “File Upload Forum” example for the “Fieldset” section has:

<label for=”Name“>FTP address:</label>
<input type=”text” name=”FTP” id=”FTP” />

when it should have:

<label for=”FTP“>FTP address:</label>
<input type=”text” name=”FTP” id=”FTP” />

I agree with all of your postulations, except for perhaps the “Long page” problem, which I see as an easy way to present a large amount of content, with minimal interactive effort from the viewer (as others have said here). As was also said above, this is mainly a weblog phenomenon, and there is no way I would use it when designing a non-weblog site.

17   Gfunk ~ 01 July 2004 at 02:56 AM

Fieldset. Best. Discovery. Ever. Cameron I could kiss you - if the bigger brothers hadn’t made me sign a form promising I wouldn’t. If I can make it do something usable in IE5.5, expect quite a few Australian government sites’ interfaces to receive the fieldset treatment thanks to you.

18   Miriam Frost ~ 01 July 2004 at 09:22 AM

Fieldsets rock — the logical groupings make them easier on both the user and the coder. As usual, however, one has to watch out for IE.

19   Mark Wyner ~ 01 July 2004 at 11:51 AM

Nice. I’m very happy to see my site referenced for the large font sizes.

I decided to use overly large fonts with specific interest in moving towards more readable content for visually-impaired users. In the process I discovered a new love for the beauty of large font sizes.

And your mention of the FIELDSET tag is right on. I use the LABEL tags on my contact form, but haven’t yet used the FIELDSET option. By the end of today, however, that will have changed because accessibility is king.

Excellent post.

20   me ~ 01 July 2004 at 04:22 PM

, best used by:

- Watchfire:
- NSCU: (they also do a nice job with font size, headers and body text)

21   me ~ 01 July 2004 at 04:23 PM

that’d be FIELDSET, LABEL in my above comment

22   Brian Radspinner ~ 01 July 2004 at 06:37 PM

I’m perfectly happy with overly-large text when used sparingly. It’s a nice attention getter.

Everytime I see a blog home page with only short samples, I grow more found of the effect. More power to the smaller home page crowd.

I already have the horizontal drop shadow in place! I also have no plans for dropping it any time soon.

If the re-designs continue to invoke awe and inspire me, then keep them coming. I see no problem as long the bar continues to be raised.

23   Cameron Moll ~ 02 July 2004 at 06:10 AM

Drew - good point. The sample I linked to is a copy of a rough that’s still sitting somewhere on a development server. So the form tags haven’t been formatted correctly yet.

24   Shelley Paulson ~ 02 July 2004 at 06:21 AM

Great predictions. I am especially an advocate for larger type. My clients often remark that many web sites are difficult to read.

I will disagree with the person who commented that people don’t like to click. I believe this was true in the early days of the web, but now I think it is better to intelligently filter people through to the information they want. Also, if someone doesn’t like to click, but it’s a long scrolling page and they don’t have a scrolly mouse, they will definitely have to click MORE to get down the page.

BTW - Cameron, I really enjoy reading your blog. This is the first comment I’ve made, but I’ve been visiting for awhile. Thanks for the time you put into it!

25   pid ~ 02 July 2004 at 06:25 AM

finding fieldsets is probably a natural progression for most of the people learning standards compliant XHTML, they’re in the spec for a reason.

what about the other less frequently used tags? DL based menus are still relatively rare…

26   The Dummy ~ 02 July 2004 at 07:38 AM

Here’s my prediction: Continued Creeping Prescription.

Following on the heels of its popular (and warranted) movement for web standards, a nonelected and, by now, drunk-on-power web design intelligentsia known as the CSS Cabal will attempt to prescribe rules for “acceptable” web design, including everything from font size to page length to redesign frequency.

Through overweening, even Powazekian cultivation of its own mythology, The Cabal will attempt to limit artistic diversity and the free exchange of ideas on web design.

Using such methods as hierarchical comment highlighting and exclusivist link trading, these self-appointed arbiters of taste will banish or alienate talentless designers and A-list aspirants, rendering them voices in the web wilderness, roadside gawkers of the design parade.

(Now watch this drive.)

27   Cameron Moll ~ 02 July 2004 at 09:02 AM

Whoa. Where’s that MT Philosophist Philter plug-in when you need it?? :)

28   Cameron Moll ~ 02 July 2004 at 09:04 AM

Shelley - Always enjoyable to see readers come out of the closet and make their first post.

29   Matt ~ 02 July 2004 at 01:33 PM

Fieldset is used quite a bit in the WordPress backend, and we’ve run into trouble with not on IE, but with Opera. I first saw it used in an interesting way by Dunstan.

30   Matt Frost ~ 02 July 2004 at 03:01 PM

Another prediction: Promotional stunts will proliferate. Eventually, web designers will sit in folding chairs next to their personalized vans at the county fair, playing their theme music through PA systems, handing out T-shirts and bumper stickers to passersby.

31   std ~ 02 July 2004 at 03:08 PM

Another drop-shadow forward thinker: Michael Preidel

32   Marc Jones ~ 05 July 2004 at 05:32 AM

I’m still loving long pages. That could be me feeling revolutionary after time with strict styleguides forbidding them though. I like the fact that users made such changes possible. ie designers were told it went against usability (and it did when the web was young) but as the vanilla viewers became savvy it just seemed to change. I understand there is such a thing as ‘too long’, but I’d rather scroll waaaay down (as long as quicklinks toi hop back up top are about) tahn shift sideways or hop to new pages. As for load times, pages loading out of view as you read matter not, changing pages of course does.

33   Marc Jones ~ 05 July 2004 at 05:34 AM

PS, sorry to floodpost but my first ever forray into CSS design (old head needing new tricks -and seriously later than I should have learnt them) had a bit of drop-shadow forward thought ;-)

34   Tom ~ 08 July 2004 at 10:44 AM

Mmmmmmmmmm horizontal drop shadows. Quite a nice effect there, and it’s been there for ages.

I also really dig big text. My clients often make me make it smaller though. I have one notable who is really into tiny text. Even worse, he will stand for no serifs.

I enjoyed your predictions, Cameron.

35   John Y. ~ 08 July 2004 at 11:54 AM

The House Judiciary Committee Minority Office (i.e., the democrats) are also using fieldsets on their contact page.

36   Jason G ~ 08 July 2004 at 01:13 PM

Here’s yet another example of fieldsets in use on a website I use daily:

Sentinare Spam Filtering Webmail Login

37   Jason G ~ 08 July 2004 at 01:18 PM

Come to think about it they also use a horizontal drop shadow on the Sentinare Home Page

38   mark rushworth ~ 09 July 2004 at 02:09 AM

1. only because people are now working at ridiculously high resolutions, it makes big type loog good, only when you’re back down to 800x600 it really sux! (try it)

2. I like the new stop design home page… hopefullyt what you mean is a move away from the blog template thats more towards an information based site with multiple topics and an easy to navigate front end.

3. Yup been using em for a while now.

4. trivial stuff. i think that there will be more sideways scrolling sites period.

5. i think that because the medium is easily changeable with new fads being discovered every couple of months that sites will always be changing.

39   mike ~ 09 July 2004 at 03:45 PM

While internet advertising has pissed me off for years. I hope part B of no more ridicoulously long pages becomes

no more side panels, top panels, and panels in between paragraphs. In other words the current state of many magazines. 3/4 ads. I can actually say that I don’t think i’ve ever clicked on one of those sponsors etc.

40   Bronwyn ~ 09 July 2004 at 06:53 PM

I too desire larger type, and practise what I preach. Opera’s zoom feature is my salvation, usually at 150%.

41   papp ~ 11 July 2004 at 02:58 AM

Tom! hm… and - quite the same navigation

42   Joe Clark ~ 12 July 2004 at 05:53 PM

I have a sh**load of content on my Weblog front pages because they are infrequently read and I have no reason to believe people will browse archives by year or month, which do not skip over what you’ve already read.

And big type? Please. I have people complaining it’s *too* big.

43   Joshua ~ 13 July 2004 at 05:21 PM

Nice site man, I realy like what you got going here. I will be sure to come back.

44   Nic Johnson ~ 14 July 2004 at 10:19 AM

I really agree with what mark has to say:

mark rushworth
1. only because people are now working at ridiculously high resolutions, it makes big type loog good, only when you’re back down to 800x600 it really sux! (try it)

It just comes down to the problem of designing for so many different resolutions. Now that larger monitors are becoming more affordable that they were a few years ago when small fonts became trendy, we find ourselves squinting more and more to see what would have looked great on our old 17” monitor.

45   Aaron G ~ 19 July 2004 at 05:44 PM

For more fieldset/form accessibility madness, check out (especially the survey), Ride4Ever, and Liberty Bank.

46   nerys ~ 26 July 2004 at 11:55 AM

long scrolling pages are still essential when you’re online with a dialup connection - so you can go offline and read without paying for every minute of reading. :-)

47   Sam Ryan ~ 10 October 2004 at 08:21 PM

These people disgust me. Why would you do this to Cameron? Asshats.

48   Cameron Moll ~ 11 October 2004 at 05:21 PM

Sam, you were probably speaking about the comment spam. Removed now.


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