The Huffington Post has an article on the “Most Innovative Web Site Designs Of All Time” which is kind of a joke. Hello, mystery meat!
There is a reason why most websites have similar basic elements. It’s called usability. When users are trying to accomplish a task (find information, buy something etc.) they don’t need to figure out an entirely new navigation structure and page layout. They need sites to behave in relatively similar ways so they know what to expect and how to accomplish their tasks.
The Web can be a repetitive and boring place. Many Web sites look the same or are created based on the same basic principles.
That’s actually a good thing There is a time and a place for trying something new, and that’s valid, it’s just not something that’s appropriate for most websites.
So, the question is, what are the most innovative web designs of all time? I’ll have to give that some thought.
Well, actually, we didn’t really “choose” anything. Something was chosen for us in the form of a “donation” from OpenText of their web content management products to the university. I co-chaired the committee that was charged with investigating content management systems in the fall and winter 2008/2009. This “donation” was arranged completely outside of our committee. In fact, we didn’t even know it was happening until the deal was essentially done.
I did do my best to sell the benefits of Drupal to the committee, and to explain why the OpenText product (formerly called RedDot) was not a good solution (phrasing it politely). However, I’m not sure that, given the chance, “we” would have chosen Drupal anyway. Why? Here’s a few of the biggest objections given by others in the group:
- Sever models – the other two systems under consideration used a “push” model where static pages would be published to outlying web servers. This was considered to be preferable to a centralized model where pages are served by a database. Why? Mainly because many units within the university really want to run their own web servers. They also liked that the main system was “behind the firewall” and therefore more secure. This issue was focused on by some people to the exclusion of any other factors (usability? functionality? extensibility? who cares?). A few people actually said that since these two systems used the same publishing model then they were “really the same”.
- “It’s not enterprise” - I’m not sure what this is actually supposed to mean but it was a big problem for some people (and I’ve heard this in other higher ed circles as well). Maybe if it had a sticker price of half a million dollars and obscenely complicated server requirements, then it would be “enterprise”??
- Security – there are still many people out there who believe that open source must be insecure because it’s developed by “some guy in his basement.”
There might have been other issues, had we ever gotten around to actually testing Drupal against the other two systems. Drupal isn’t exactly known for its usability, but from what I saw from the others Drupal isn’t any worse and might actually be better. To be honest, our presentation from Acquia didn’t do a lot to make the benefits of Drupal more clear.
Update 04/02/2011: As is turns out we did choose drupal.
There was been a lot of controversy last week over Andy Clarke’s proposed Universal IE6 CSS. Most of the arguments against it seem to revolve around the level of IE 6 usage and clients’ needs to maintain their brand image. Valid points, in many cases.
However, as Zeldman notes:
No hammer fits all nails, and no solution, however elegant, will work for every situation. But if we’re open minded, Andy’s proposal may work in more situations than we at first suspect.