Yesterday, I went theme shopping. There are some things I dislike with the current theme I am using (although I decided, for the moment, to continue using it) and I thought an easy solution would be to find a theme that corrected those issues. I was in for a big surprise.
I went to ThemeForest and browsed their WordPress templates. The designs look somewhat different but many have a similar feature: The Slider. There are different variants of The Slider but the basic principle is the same: the focal point are rotating graphics leading to other content by clicking on the graphic. How The Slider works depends on how it was designed. Most have a gradual transition between images. I saw some that had up to five different transition styles. I would not have known this if it were not advertised as such because I wouldn’t have stuck around that long to watch the images whiz by.
Another common trait of these designs: they heavily rely on graphics (whether The Slider is there or not). If you browse the themes, you’ll notice, due to the placement of the images, your eye is drawn to to images, not the content. This is a wonderful theme trait for food blogs, who are usually using their own pictures. For most bloggers, they are using royalty-free images. Looking at this objectively, they are making photos that are not theirs the focal points of the site, not their words.
Which is why I have a problem with my current design.
When it comes to designs, I either use a pre-made template or I hire a designer. I recommend against hiring a designer unless you have firm plans on what you want to do. I have had many designs done over the years but I never step into that process until I am sure of what I want. It makes it easier for everyone involved. Until that point, I rely on pre-made templates.
The problem occurs when the designers all do the same thing. They notice someone did something cool and copy that cool thing. This results in an over-abundance of the cool thing and nothing else, leaving little variety for the end-user. This is what I’m experiencing now. I am looking for a design that uses my words as the focal point, not graphics. This theme has The Slider. I don’t use it. I tried “the cool thing”, I don’t like it. I am having a hard time finding a premium design that does this. I know a few but I don’t like their default look. They aren’t pretty or eye catching like The Slider designs. Why is that?
Being a good designer is only part of the pieces needed to have a successful web design business. The major part: the ability to make good business decisions. There is a market for quality non-graphic intensive designs simply because the copycat behavior dried up their availability. Wise designers will design for both (and any other markets that arise). Most designers, unfortunately, are so busy copying what is cool they miss the bigger opportunities.
This is one of the major pitfalls I’ve been discussing about the design community for quite some time (and blogging, don’t even bother mentioning that one). People are so busy copying current trends no one is focused on future trends. The community plateaus, until someone with a passion decides to do something different…then everyone copies that. Rinse and repeat. This can happen in any community but I noticed it with design and blogging because I had to deal with the repercussions of the copycat behavior.
Until then, maybe if I throw the idea out there to create designs that don’t rely on graphics being the focal point, people will make a few so that consumers have options other than The Slider.