Essay :: On Design for the Net

On Design for the Net
By Thomas Van Hare

– multimediocrity
a term coined and created by
Thomas Van Hare at the IPPA
to describe the current abysmal
state of design on the Internet.

Surfing the Internet can be a troubling experience. As a professional designer, I am continually struck with the poor quality work that dominates the field. Even some of the largest businesses, those who have the budget and incentive to have a first class site, seem to accept mediocrity. Part of this is the fault of business, but a lion’s share is probably the fault of the designers themselves.

Taking a large body of information and organizing it into a professional, clean, and intuitive site is no small challenge. Failing to cross the line that separates simple, boilerplate presentations from extraordinary works is often more a matter of time and limiting budget than it is a shortage of talent.

A critical factor influencing the process is the widespread lack of quality work already online. Many businesses are satisfied with a site design that is only just barely better than the competition. Furthermore, businesses and designers alike are influenced by what they see — if you surround yourself with mediocrity, you will achieve mediocrity. Thus, the environment feeds on itself.

A studio may be founded by an award winning artist, yet when the pixels start flying through cyberspace, the quality looks worse than a first year student’s work. Some of this may be unfamiliarity with the medium. More often than not, however, it’s rooted in limited time, not enough coffee, and a client who doesn’t yet know what separates quality from just another pitiful show on the Web.

Perhaps the only solution is to educate the client and raise expectations. It is often difficult to press for a higher budget when the competing websites look like they were designed in a garage by someone’s nephew. Nonetheless, where that is the case, it also means that the opportunity is still for the client there to take the leading position in their field online.

Finally, don’t accept mediocrity from your own work. Look over your job and ask yourself what you would have done instead had it been your own business. Next time around, do that instead, please.