What is Timeless Web Design?

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Let’s say you took on a client, and they wanted something very specific from you. They wanted a website that without any changes at all, would still look good in 10 years.

Turns out, when you pose this question to a bunch of web designers and developers, the responses are hugely variant!

The Bring It On Crowd

There are certain folks who see this as an intreguing challenge and would relish the opportunity.

The “Keep It Simple” Crowd

This is mostly where my own mind went:

Plus of course some nods to Motherfucking website and Better Motherfucking Website.

The “Nope” Crowd

An awful lot of folks would straight up just say no. Half?

To be fair, we didn’t exactly set the stage with a lot of detail here. I bet some folks imagined these clients as dummies that don’t know what they are asking.

I wonder if the client presented themselves well, clearly knew what they were asking, and were happy to pay for it, if many of these designers would have responded differently.

Still, curious that so many designers didn’t see any the challenge here, just the absurdity.

The “Let’s Get Technical” Crowd

I’m partially in this group! What things can and should we reach for in this project, and what should we avoid?

“No external calls” seems particularly smart here.

Based on experience and observation in my time in the industry, I’d say it’s somewhere around 75% of websites are completely gone after 10 years, let alone particular URL’s on those websites being exactly the same (reliable external resources).

The “It’s About The Content” Crowd

The “See Existing Examples” Crowd

Plus things like Wikipedia and Space Jam. Also see Brutalist Websites.

Interesting Takes

Our very own Robin Rendle had an interesting take. Due to population growth, growing networks, and mobile device ubiquity, they site may not want to be in English, especially if it has a global audience. Or at least, be in multiple major world languages.

Leave it to Sarah to come in for the side tackle:

And Christopher to give us some options to keep them on their toes:

Why do any design at all?

Although I might argue in that case, you might as well make it an `.html` file instead of `.txt` so you can at least hyperlink things.

My Take

Clearly “it depends” on what this website is supposed to accomplish.

I can tell you what I picture though when I think about it.

I picture a business card style website. I picture black-and-white. I picture a clean and simple logo.

I picture really (really) good typography. Typography is way older than the web and will be around long after. Pick typefaces that have already stood the test of time.

I picture some, but minimal copy. Even words go stale.

I picture the bare minimum call to action. Probably just a displayed email address. I’d bet on email over phones.

Technically, I think you can count on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I don’t think anything you can do now with those languages will be deprecated in 10 years.

Layout-wise, I’d look at doing as much as you can with viewport units. Screens will absolutely change in size and density in 10 years. Anything you can make SVG, make SVG. That will reduce worry about new screens. Responsive design is an obvious choice.

Anything that even passably smells like a trend, avoid.

Inputs will also definitely change. We’re already starting to assume a touch screen. Presumably, you won’t have to do anything overly interactive, but if you do, I wouldn’t bet on a keyboard and mouse.

I’d also spend time on the hosting aspects. Register the domain name for the full 10 years. See if you can pre-buy hosting that long. Pick a company you’re reasonably sure will last that long. Use a credit card that you’re reasonable sure will last that long. Make sure anything that needs to renew renews automatically, like SSL certificates.

More thoughts, as always, welcome in the comments.