Faster Web Sites

Designers are learning from the challenge of rebuilding web sites to work on mobile devices. The redesigned sites are, quite simply, faster and better, so much so that the changes are being rolled into the desktop versions of the sites.

One of the best examples of this can be seen by comparing the two versions of the WikiRhymer rhyming dictionary. The old version at (as of March 2011) is loaded down with extraneous material and complex navigation that makes it slow and confusing. The new “2.0” version at (as of March 2011) is so much more simple and direct that it’s hard to imagine going back.

The recently completed redesign of MySpace is another example. There, a thought-out architecture replaced layers of legacy code and an overarching complexity that every user had complained about. The change there came in one fell swoop — albeit one that took five months to roll out and that still has some stray bugs to fix.

Any new design medium goes through a learning phase as designers learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. Web sites have come a long way from the frames and animations of the 1990s, but it would be a mistake to imagine that web design is a mature art form now. There is still room for improvement in almost everything you see on the web. Award-winning web designers still make mistakes in some of the most basic things, failing to account for the variable appearance of the web page. Nearly any web site can be picked apart and improved with careful study, something I am hoping to do with this web site as soon as this month.

As users expect to traverse the web more quickly and site owners look to cut their energy costs, web pages have to get simpler, and that transition is underway now.

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