I know exactly what you mean. I do courses for graphic designers that focus on web design specifically. Many of the them still think they’re designing for print, where the whole item or document is viewed in its entirety. Clearly, in these situations, it’s important to create a well balanced, attractive design to make the item stand out, particularly if they are competing for attention with other printed items (product packaging is a good example).
Web design, on the other hand, is a whole new ball-game. The idea is to present a “user dashboard” where the site visitor is encouraged to interact with the website to reach a desired objective. Furthermore, the site has to perform in much the same way as the device it’s being viewed on. If it doesn’t, visitors will get confused and abandon the site if they don’t immediately grasp how it works.
Unusual designs, navigation and all the other bells and whistles that graphic designers like to throw at a web site concept may win them a few awards, but it isn’t necessarily helping their customer increase visitor numbers.
The core message to graphic designers is to put their efforts into designing good graphical elements (images, buttons, icons, logos and colour palettes). If they insist on designing the page layouts also, they should consult with their client on the objective of the site, rather than trying to sell graphic design. This is all the customer is interested in. Once the client has specified the objective, the aim of a good designer is to create a logical journey from initial home screen to final objective that can be navigated with nothing more than touch and swipe. That journey should utilise all the familiar tools that a site visitor has within the viewing device - in other words, make it look and feel like a native app.
One of the reasons that we saw the demise of Microsoft, Blackberry, Nokia and Ericsson from the smartphone business is that they all made the mistake of inventing their own unique graphic interface. This made it very difficult for users to transition between different systems - there was no familiarity. Today’s smartphone users now understand they can switch devices as often as they like without having to learn a whole host of new things. The same is true of modern websites - the moment people are confronted with something that’s totally different, they lose interest and go elsewhere. The bottom line is clever doesn’t equate to increased site visits and subsequent business.
The strange thing is that customers get this, but their designers are a little slow to understand the commercial implications of keeping it simple.