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It’s Great to Be Cutting-Edge… Unless You Get Cut

In  a world of ‘Web 2.0’, ‘mash-ups’ and ‘blogs’, designers and clients alike are trying to push the envelope with their sites and designs. That’s a great thing unless you lose your consumers in the process.

What IS Cutting-Edge Web Design?

Admittedly, it is just as ambiguous a term as “web 2.0”, but it does have meaning. I’ve most commonly heard ‘cutting edge’ refer to new technologies that are just emerging into use, but it’s not limited to that. I’d consider some color schemes, design techniques and even new uses for existing products or services to be included. Most importantly, the term is mostly indefinable and totally discretionary.

Who Are You Designing For?

Web designers are getting creative. Really creative. Maybe too creative. Take a look at designer Bryan Veloso’s site, Avalonstar (seriously, go ahead). There are some really nice, “cutting-edge” effects here. Since Bryan describes his site as ‘his playground’, the design is exactly what it should be – whatever he wants. More often than not, however, sites are being built to connect with consumers of some kind and are not just our design ‘playgrounds’. This means that the consumers should, at least at some level,  be dictating our sites’ designs .

If the designer’s responsible for AARP.org were to use a similar design, they would absolutely be missing the mark. AARP is an “organization for people age 50 and over.” The youngest a member could possibly be in this organization (born 50 days ago, today) would have been nearly 40 when AOL 3.0 first launched on Windows 95. In addition to being more prone to vision problems that would make lower-contrast sites difficult to read, this demographic as a whole is far less familiar with the internet than most 4 year-olds today.

Providing a cutting-edge website to this demographic doesn’t mean pumping it up with a bucket of Silverlight and 3 cans of ‘web 5.0’… Simply using the internet is cutting-edge to some consumers. Keeping your consumers’ aptitudes in mind will help you keep their viewership.

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