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.
— Jeremy Keith (@adactio) July 27, 2017
Accept the challenge 👌
— Dick (@michaeldick) July 27, 2017
Totally deliver 👍
— Kevin Nagurski (@knagurski) July 27, 2017
The “Keep It Simple” Crowd
This is mostly where my own mind went:
focus on minimalist design and great typography.
— Zach Leatherman (@zachleat) July 27, 2017
I would avoid extremes: no extremely vivid colors; a classic font set; clean but not overly minimal; moderate border radiuses
— keith•j•grant (@keithjgrant) July 27, 2017
Focus on the typography.
— Daniel Sellers (@daniel_sellers) July 27, 2017
Keep it clean and minimal with excellent typography.
— ⌘ Sean Bunton (@seanbunton) July 27, 2017
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?
— Cennydd (@Cennydd) July 27, 2017
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.
Decline the business, because that’s not a reasonable expectation.
— Len Damico (@lendamico) July 27, 2017
— Jez McKean (@jezmck) July 27, 2017
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.
— Woman Code Warrior (@amberweinberg) July 28, 2017
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?
A) system fonts
B) semantic HTML
C) let the browser's shifting sands on how to render the page update the site for you
D) git drnk
— Sean T. McBeth (@Sean_McBeth) July 28, 2017
mobile-first, svg graphics, time spent on ux analysis (card sort analysis etc), decoupled modular micro-service front+back end
— Adam Mackintosh (@agm1984) July 27, 2017
Honestly an SPA, no external dependents, and build an archive and entry mechanism to handle content. Wildcard redirect and buy 10 yr hosting
— Jeff (@etisdew) July 28, 2017
If you're looking for an actual answer besides no, maybe html only, inline styles, nothing dynamic, no external calls.
— David v2.9.5 (@davidlaietta) July 28, 2017
“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
Simple, driven by content
— Eric Shuff (@ericshuff) July 27, 2017
Focus on making it easy to publish and manage great content. Because great content can easily outlive 10 years.
— Deepti Boddapati (@DeeptiBoddapati) July 27, 2017
Very basic, content focus without all the pretty things.
— Bethany (@fleshskeleton) July 27, 2017
Minimal. Large text elements with a few images mixed in with the content and little color.
— Veronica Domeier (@hellodomeier) July 27, 2017
The “See Existing Examples” Crowd
Adopt the Craigslist design philosophy.
— Chris Cashdollar (@ccashdollar) July 27, 2017
Borrow from @daringfireball
— Joe Casabona (@jcasabona) July 27, 2017
Hand them the Google homepage.
— Darth Seh (@seh) July 27, 2017
https://t.co/wu3bjk5zoA that would work I guess
— Pascal (@murindwaz) July 27, 2017
Plus things like Wikipedia and Space Jam. Also see Brutalist Websites.
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:
shape the culture that uses the app/site to hate change
— Overactive Algorithm (@sarah_edo) July 28, 2017
And Christopher to give us some options to keep them on their toes:
A) say, “Is this one of those tricky Google job interview questions?”
B) say, “GeoCities lasted 10,000 years, so this will be easy.”
— Christopher Schmitt (@teleject) July 28, 2017
Why do any design at all?
text file on the server root
— Eric Bailey (@ericwbailey) July 27, 2017
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.
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.
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.
Simplicity is always going to be timeless. Clean graphics and simplicity in design.
Here you go!
Where do I send the bill?
Development: $ 10000 (we do need to take ourselves seriously)
Setup fee: $250 (no setup, no site, right?)
monthly support x 10years $50 p/m: $6000 (in advance, obviously)
All assets give 404 error, i want my money back
I think the key phrase to the question is “look good in 10 years”. People and businesses often do not think in 10 years spans and focus on the right now. What’s trending? What is popular? What is my competition doing?
They want to be cool and relevant and seem to shift from design trend to design trend just like a [flock of birds].(http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view7/20140505/5030844/starlings-murmuration-flock-of-birds-ytgifs-o.gif) Think about how many times you have redesigned something… the irony.
The only exception would be to have a client that is disciplined in design. Someone that knows trends shift and change and they are willing to adapt slowly. One example I can think of is the Google homepage. Think of all of the traffic that page has and they have not filled it with stuff.
I like your analogy, particularly because flocks of birds move for a reason. And so should a business’ brand and design direction.
[Brand A] Should absolutely not look the same in 10 years as it does now. Because people in 10 years aren’t looking for the same thing they are now. The brands that ARE still around in 10 years will be so because they were able to migrate their brand in the right direction at the right time. Lest they become Kodak.
Wish I’d responded to the Twitter question now.
My take on it is that our job as designers is to match business needs and a brand story with reality. While there may be some businesses that won’t change their needs or brand story in a decade, MOST will change how they function in that time.
When the business changes enough, a new design will probably be necessary.
That or practice iterative design updates ;)
Posthaven intends to last forever.
It’s doable, but not easy.
I’ve got a website now that still looks good 5 years later (albeit, it doesn’t have a mobile layout), but the design doesn’t look dated – which I’d guess is the key part of the question.
Not planning to change the design again in five years. Hopefully will rewrite the underlying code so that it can do mobile, but the design plans to stay the same.
In all honesty, there’s not much I could do. I can say “This’ll last at least two years without any refreshes”, but then I’d be going against my instinct of things like arXiv.org, CTAN, F-Zero and things.
For the most part, SVG for as much as possible, some extended markdown (dlists, images in SVG/generative design, no major external deps etc) for the main content.
Even then, what type of site is it? If it’s articles, arXiv (and processing via LaTeX) are easily done. If it’s a café, the simpler the better: maybe an image or two, basic branding and a standard menu? Even simpler is easy.
The simpler the better, really. If you go back a bit, it’s easy. If you go forward with everything, there’s not much that can happen.
I love the diversity of responses. I’m surprised not one said “one page, embedded MP4 video, done”… then you don’t even half to worry about typography… just if MP4 will still be playable but I’m guess yes.
Would it be reasonable to step back from the question completely and consider that what the client is looking for might not be a website at all?
It’s one of these requests that demands some questions asked. The problem is, as some have pointed out, businesses themselves are not static, unless, of course, they only intend to be around a short time. And, in that case why a site that will stand the test of time.
All successful businesses continually need to change as their market or customer base changes and matures. And, as the primary function of their website is to support their progress it needs to respond appropriately to changing customer needs and behaviour. And, if it doesn’t, what’s the point again, in it standing the test of time.
All sites should have good typography, good content and UI that enables their visitors to complete the task they clicked through for. And, if it still looks good in 10 years then that’s just fine!
Would have answered NO.
Because it means if it doesn’t look good in ten years (who will judge by the way?), you’ll be held responsible. Would you accept to be held responsible for a design that you made ten years ago? No way.
My response would be: for the price of responsibility over ten years, pay me 15% each year, and I’ll update the website accordingly!
design is so simple that’s way it’s so complicated
Surely a website is meant to be a living “breathing” thing?
A client who says this clearly doesn’t understand the fundamental basics of what having a website means, so should be avoided.
If the website isn’t going to change in 10 years, even design wise, then it won’t be relevant. There is no way it can be used for 10 years with no design changes – they happen all the time as a matter of consequence as the web matures – be it for technical reasons, seo reasons or, device reasons, performance reasons, usability reasons etc. etc.
If pushed, then a simple website layout is the only option. Only h, p, ul, li, a, img and div tags and the most basic css imaginable and no js or external calls to anything. Better still a static img or pdf would do!
I have in fact actually accomplished this challenge … it’s not even a hypothetical for me.
I have one that I built in 2006 that’s still in use and isn’t bad. It’s better looking than some of the things I’ve seen built by people who don’t understand design basics. And the site wasn’t an insanely expensive or time consuming site to build.
The site is purely informational for an orthodontist in a very small town. Html, css, and php (php includes for consistent navigation mostly.)
• It works on mobile because I was actually building table based liquid layout websites back then. I made one adjustment in 2016 when they needed to change out some contact info (a bit of code had a typo in it that meant it worked perfectly when I tested it in 2006 but the modern browsers weren’t forgiving that typo and were making the menu shift and be offset from the button images.)
Yeah I know … tables … die… but it was 2006 and it’s actually works on mobile!!! (Liquid or fluid layouts I think. Not exactly the same as responsive but close.)
• Timeless elements: Lucked out on the photos of real people being rather timeless (polo shirts and pony tails.) Plus dental chairs in photos really haven’t changed over time either. And info like “what to do if a bracket breaks off and you swallow it” is pretty timeless as well. It even had google maps used on the contact page. And contact form with obfuscated email address and a php script. The fonts used were basic. The logo is timeless and not trendy (didn’t match the sign on the building but the sign on the building was focused on “braces” not the name of the biz … again small town.)
2 minor changes I would make if I knew then what I know now:
1) Site map that the user can get to would be a great fall back for future proofing. You CAN access all of the vital info from the 4 top level pages but you can’t get to a few pages on mobile because of how the drop downs were created. It doesn’t look like any info is missing though if this is the only way someone is accessing the site. We weren’t doing things with touch based screens yet – the iphone was announced in 2007.
2) max-width css for larger monitors. The text keeps getting longer and longer instead of looking like a proper paragraph… that bothers me but resolutions were much lower when I built it. Was max-width even part of css in 2006? I don’t think it was.
So my answer would be it would really depend on what the expectations of the client are and what kind of business they are in as well as content. And maybe even their location and competition (as I said, small town.)
I also have a few WordPress sites that, although they get plugin and core updates, haven’t been redesigned in a number of years either. The problem with the older WordPress sites is that I abandoned responsive layouts for about 3-4 years while I moved into WordPress and because css wasn’t what it is today. Some small biz and artist clients who still get most of their biz from word of mouth but are in fixed width wordpress websites built YEARS ago.
Can anyone name a website that is still going after ten years without change?
I tried to find an example but failed.
Even archive.org has changed in ten years!
Google.com – lol…simplicity!
Yeah, agree, I would have said Google.com hadn’t changed in ten years.
Just looked in archive.org and it has changed a bit. Well the things around the search box have anyhoo.
I would imagine Google had a few little back-end and server updates in 10 years. Probably super minor stuff ;)
With regards to web design it is nearly impossible to design something that will last 10 years. The nature of the medium changes so frequently with the advancements in technology that if you are unable to adapt you will surely lose. Just in the past year we have to thank the google lords for adding another medium: AMP. It is much harder for a website’s design to stay relevant over a decade then lets say the interior design of a house: there simply is less room to innovate. 10 Best Design -> Look at any of the companies on this site and tell me if they would still be around if they had a 10 year old site!
I feel I should clarify my blunt tweet.
I’d like to continue making money from a client, and this kind of question would ring alarm bells that they’re going to be one of those clients who ends up losing you money.
If forced, then the KISS approach would make most sense to me.
There is already something that lasted more than 10 years on the web and it’s this: http://portale.hearstadv.it/images/WORKING.gif
Ahem. What about Richard Stallman’s site? It’s probably 20 years old by now.
Well Google has changed in the last 10 years.
It is definitely not the same today like it was in 2007. Not only the logo on the homepage has changed (it changes from day to day even) but also the way search results are beeing displayed has changed a lot. Not even to mention the search results themselves.
Which brings me to the logo: I would spend a lot more time in trying to make that one timeless and avoid any trends applied to it.
I have a customers website that has been running for 10 years now and it still “looks good”. On the other hand I had made a logo for another client that was then altered by the website company to look like an app-icon. Today this makes it look outdated and I already knew back by then it would be.
In short the same like what the others said: Spend more on typo and colors and leave out anything that is not necessary.
But I also understand Amber: A website is a living thing. Not improving it means putting an end to it. Funny way of lazyness.