Why is the web flat?

I’ve been wondering for more than ten years now; why does web sites on internet seems so “flat”? It’s like transferring paper to the screen.

Updated comments below article

When I ask this question to designers, they often get very defensive. Its like we all believe that a web shall have a global menu, sub menus, a logo on top, a lot of informative text and if creative some great images to follow. Isn’t that recipy like a soup in a bag? Just add water…. But do not misinterpret me, there is a lot going on and internet and the web is still only in the early phase of evolving into what we will see in the future. There are a lot of interesting blogs out there discussing and talking (writing?) about this kind of topics, one interesting is this one: 360

Inventions, phenomena’s and ideas tend to keep a pattern we have to accept; they all tend to be loyal to the origin they came from. “The world is flat” we all know this postulate, and it took centuries to evolve from this idea to the one we have now (what ever that is these days..), even after the fact was stated people continued wanting to believe that the world is flat for decades. Web sites (pages!) has a lot of it’s idea created around the idea of print. I always found this interesting, since the computer screen is digital, and factually resembles the TV set more.

Even designers used to defend the fact that designing web pages frequently seems like a “forced electronic paper version” instead of a medium of visual communication with  another fact:  “3D is to expensive in most cases” or “live images can’t get quality due to lack of broadband capacity” This statements are now less true than before, and designers are working hard to evolve the web.

The idea of (and knowledge to) create a perspective in an image was developed during the Renaissance , you don’t need 3D technology to draw diagonal lines to a center point! You need knowledge, and you need a basis for your idea world. Lot’s of interesting things are happening, but far to much of it seems to me to be “experimental”…. And I don’t get it. Experimental?? what is so experimental by implementing what art, cinema and, radio/TV has done for years? What’s so experimental by doing what PR and commercials have been for years? There is less experimenting on the web, than in most new media the last centuries!

Since the “history” of the web is, in my opinion, based upon an “electronic paper”, and the idea has been to provide knowledge and information spread, it’s hard to get out of the thinking patterns that we have to use a lot of text, mainly a form of one way communication, we will still have that as a major direction of how a web page will look, and function. Even web 2.0, social media, interactive solutions keep producing “flat web sites” If one wants’ to get out of this, one will need to take the bull by its horns, and questioning the basic of the idea of what a web site really is, for whom and to do what.

  • It came to my mind that Itera group uses the term “the world is flat” from the book: “The World Is Flat – The Globalized World in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L. Friedman
    There are two major points in my opinion on this use of term. First, using such terminology; To me it sounds typical American (excuse me my US friends) to simplify a phenomena by the wording that much so that the complexity disappear, it’s in fact a dangerous rhetoric trick of (amongst others)politicians to do so, and thereby avoid that the public focus is at more troublesome sides of the case.
    Thomas L Friedman’s book, tries to speak of a “flatter” (read less hierarchic world) but argue in fact of new business models, new technologies and how to achieve this – but, in my opinion naively overlook that it’s not very likely that e.g. poor / common people in the world (so called third world) are the one to enable this. Maybe the commercial corporation Itera group didn’t overlook this and see possibilities for profit in this term ?
    I would rather have a far more Holistic world, than a “flatter” one.

One Response to “Why is the web flat?”

  1. Hi Geir
    Thanks for mentioning my blog and handing out a lot of interesting thoughts.

    I would just like to leave an address to my new current blog http://www.180360720.no since the “2010” has been unupdated for the last months.

    Also, since you are talking about flatness and electronic paper, this has some nice quotes from Microsoft:
    http://www.experientia.com/blog/microsoft-research-and-the-future-of-human-computer-interaction/

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