For some time the web design industry has been moving in a natural progression away from its roots and towards traditional print media. Early websites were crafted with new and crude tools by pioneers with few resources and less experience. Stock images weren’t readily available, professionals hadn’t migrated from traditional design backgrounds, load times were long, and browsers were awkward and inefficient viewing portals.
Things have certainly changed. Websites are cheaper than print media to both assemble and disseminate. This makes them attractive to more companies who have fostered the growth of a skilled design community. This new community can produce products that either (a) replicate other media or (b) forge novel tools for new applications.
It’s understandable that marketing departments would seek to reproduce past success (just look at the number of sequels rolling out of Hollywood). Most recently, the advent of streaming video has allowed television style commercials to roost in our web browsers. Concurrently, techniques used in packaging and print advertisements have really found their footing. I’ve noticed that modern video gaming websites in particular have come to resemble the packaging or ‘box art’ that has decorated shelves since the early 80′s.
The fasted growing trend in this arena might be magazine style layout and presentation. This style uses large images and bold text to decorate the front page of a website much like a magazine cover. Thanks to technological advancement, designs that rival the quality of magazines with massive readership are now possible for the small business.
These magazine style techniques are highly appropriate for some industries, but feel a bit forced on others. If you were able to produce a magazine, would people read it? Would they pay for the privilege? It might not be quite as easy or effective as it first sounds. Magazine publishers have large staffs composed of many specialists. The cover is just one aspect (albeit an important one) of the operation, and relies on well written headlines, great photos, rigorous editing and a library of consumer behavior science for its appeal.
I expect this trend will continue to grow, side-by-side with trends that promote simplicity and function. I’m not sure that there will be a winner between these two factions, but they are likely to begin to merge over time. Regardless of the trend, the next time you wait in the super market check out line, picture yourself on the cover of the racked magazines. Imagine those shiny covers advertising your business, in lights, for all the world to see.