Design Patterns: Badges, Tag Clouds, Huge Fonts

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Web 2.0 dominates. Everywhere and all the time. The new design trends are there, in front of you and me, on the blog you’ve come from and on the blog you are going to visit next. Every now and again we find new design elements which somehow manage to become essential for every hip, trendy, glossy, stylish web-site which will be developed in the era of its majesty Web 2.0.

Remember those web-sites with old gray Javascript buttons, huge Comic Sans headers and visible eXtreme counters we used to visit few years ago? Looking at them, and looking at recent developments, one realizes how much actually has changed. But what has changed really – ok, we don’t see those buttons, those headers and those counters. In fact, we see something else.

With this article we start a series of articles about the latest design trends and patterns a web-developer should keep in mind, designing his new web-site.

1,2,3… Start!

Presenting services and end-products to potential customers, web-designers tend to stick to simplicity. The information provided by clients has to be explained in an understandable way. A web-developers should make sure the user understands instantly, what the company is offering, what are users’ adventages and what is actually required for using the service.

What is interesting is the fact that one can see the same familiar form of process visualization over and over again. You don’t see a huge list with requirements (in fact, usually you’ll find them on the bottom of the page, written in font size 7px or even smaller) or detailed .pdf-manuals on a front page. What you usually see are three-steps- and easy-to-go-badges in the center of the pages – they describe exactly what has to be done to use the service in few clicks. The use of graphics is essential and obligatory. Also Flash is often used to attract the attention of the users.

Examples:

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friendster.com

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fon.com

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communitywalk.com

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blish.com

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dpolls.com

Badges and Flowers

Probably one of the most popular trends in the era of Web 2.0 are “Badges” with various round and square corners and modified flowers, we used to find on milk packages in the 90s.

Examples:

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sixapart.com/comet

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goowy.com

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ajaxload.info

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haveamint.com

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conversate.org

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sidejobtrack.com

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zerohex.org

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secondsite.biz

Beta

Have you tried to find at least one released Web 2.0 service? Browsing through the swarm of Web 2.0-sites you are more likely to find a beta-version than a released one. Ironically, just like few years ago, new ideas are born every day. But today they are realized instantly – and presented to the public as a beta-version.

Of course, “Beta”-stage delivers many advantages for developers. Being “Beta” means being incomplete and therefore – being allowed to offer the functionality which will – and probably – should be improved in the near future – just the way user would like it to be. In this way it is easier to prevent complaints, gain the attention of curious users and win some time for further development.

The label “Beta” has become some kind of trademark for something new and exciting. Over the last year it has almost become a standard for new projects and is often presented in bright and eye-catching colours together with the logotype of the site – intentionally, of course.

Examples:

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clickcaster.com

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bubbleshare.com

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shozu.com

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riya.com

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picpix.com

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redtoucan.com

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mabber.com

Tag Clouds

Tag Clouds can simplify the navigation or confuse the visitors. Used effectively, they can provide help and emphasize the main topics and themes being tackled in a blog. However, sometimes they simply don’t fit and make both readability and usability more difficult: mainly, if web-typography isn’t used properly or basic rules are breached (i.e. line-height hasn’t been defined in em’s, but in px’s).

Examples:

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shadows.com

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connotea.org

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blogmarks.net

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imeem.com

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browsr.com

Large Input Fields

Not a single web-developer would dare to do it few years ago, especially because not every browser would present input fields properly. In the meanwhile, it isn’t a problem any more and web-developers make use of it. Web forms are changing, legends and fieldsets become more and more popular, and large input fields appear like mushrooms after a rainy day – here some examples of them.

Examples:

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Quite unusual design decision. Actually, it is an input field of a search engine seekum.com.

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podbop.org

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feedpile.com

Huge Fonts

The presentation of headers has become an important style element of every web-page. Image headers tend to be replaced by text-based headers – CSS does its work perfectly. The time of mini-headers is over, the opposite becomes more and more apparent – and sometimes extremely exaggerated. Enormous fonts can be found not only in headers, but also in navigation menus and brief texts.

Examples:

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krugle.com

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clearleft.com

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blog.qype.com

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rrove.com

Rounded Corners

Actually, there is a reason why we love rounded corners1. This elements simplifies the readability and makes the understanding of presented information easier. In fact, rounded corners are used by emerging web-sites and young projects. All page elements become more round – navigation menus, buttons, input fields, tables and text columns.

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Typical examples are web-sites like Ioutliner2, Netsquared3 and Springdoo4, which use rounded corners to its fullest effect.

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Rounded corners with sharp shadows: cluckoo.com

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ning.com

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Rounded corners everywhere: zimbra.com

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.basement.org/archives/2005/11/why_do_we_love_rounded_corners.html
  2. 2 http://www.ioutliner.com/
  3. 3 http://www.netsquared.org/
  4. 4 http://www.springdoo.com/

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Co-Founder of Smashing Magazine. Former writer, web designer, freelancer and webworker. Sven is now writing Science Fiction Stories.

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  1. 1

    A really nice article, with great examples!

  2. 2

    What a coincidence. We are both writing about web stuff and we have chosen the same theme. Good taste I guess. Your site is very informative. I found it whilst doing a Google search.
    I see by your profile you are involved with the ‘Web Developer’s Handbook’, which is a site I used at one point for resources. Very extensive.

  3. 3

    Pretty good article, all new stuff in one hand, thanks.

  4. 4

    Very good article and a very useful one for designers like me as well. I have bookmarked your site so that I can learn more about the latest happenings. Thanks!

  5. 5

    good article!) tnx..

  6. 6

    Pretty good article, all new stuff in one hand, thanks.

  7. 7

    A good article but how long will it be before badges, huge input fields and tag coulds be a thing of the past? In other words another web “trend”.

  8. 8

    Bring on web 3.0! Great article. Cheers!

  9. 9

    Very nice article. Need more. Thanks

  10. 10

    nice information,i will surely use this info in my site designersyard.com, i like this.

  11. 11

    nice lists….
    It gives me some inspiration,keep on moving forward!!

  12. 12

    Your site is very informative. I found it whilst doing a Google search.

  13. 13

    These design trends have very little to do with Web 2.0 (other than tag clouds maybe). Mostly these trends have to do with recent “design” ideas that are popular. Everyone is getting on the bandwagon and copying everyone else. That’s not really new either. Rounded corners certainly aren’t new.

  14. 14

    Randolph Valencia

    June 6, 2007 12:22 am

    Very informative post! Good job!

  15. 15

    Thanks for all inspirations, smashingmagazine is one of my favorite site…

    greetings

    Albert from cuba

  16. 16

    really nice articles with example. I m realy impressed with the way it was explained.

  17. 17

    Good list with nice examples.
    -Nish

  18. 18

    I think Web 2.0 has a lot to do with web dev catching on to design, layout and information hierarchy – the theory has been around forever, and the things Web 2 is addressing is quite basic, but the basics are good and I can only say it’s about time.

    The fact that everything is shinny, or has rounded corners means nothing. It’s like saying bell-bottoms on trousers are integral to the trousers – obviously they aren’t, it’s just a fad. And the same can be said about the current penchant for slick buttons, reflections etc. However the underlying theory behind making information easy to access and comprehend has started seriously on the web, which is good to see.

  19. 19

    Here is a lovely list. Our company website is currently being redesigned and this list is serving as inspiration. Cheers.

  20. 20

    Great observations! I’ll definitely check back for more. Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

  21. 21

    why not go straight to web4.0

  22. 22

    Hi this is cool Article. those who are learning Web 2.0 this is very best article to understand Web 2.0

  23. 23

    I like to see all these good concepts.

  24. 24

    I was under the impression that web 2.0 was about functinality, not fancy-schmancy stripy glossy graphics. And what happened to vowels?!
    Seriously, facebook is a good example of web 2.0 (apparently) – being able to rearrange items on the page at will makes the site (or any site that utilizes such a feature) engaging and feels more personal to the user. Modular…ness.
    or am i thinking of Web 3.0?

  25. 25

    Nice, vary nice

  26. 26

    Great post.
    Ive noticed an emerging trend not mentioned here, and one which i believe we will be seeing a lot of in ’08.
    Pattern fills. Mostly subtle, ornamental florals, or sometime retro graphic, used in clean flat vector shapes in logos and other graphics.
    I’m led to believe its crossed over from interior design and last years trend for using wallpaper as opposed to paint.
    One to watch….

  27. 27

    Excellent article. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

  28. 28

    So this was the first one! Excellent work! Thank you for these 7 years!

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