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Pushing the Envelope in Web Design

For years, everyone thought that running a mile in four minutes was physically impossible. Roger Bannister, a student at Merton College in Oxford wanted to try and break that record. He wanted to be the first person on earth to run a mile in under four minutes. For months, he kept trying and trying and something always happened that prevented him from breaking the record.


It was on May 6, 1954 that Roger Bannister finally broke the record when he ran his mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. When no one thought it was possible and everyone had engraved in their minds that it was never going to happen, Sir Roger pushed the envelope. But it all started in his mind. He had to determine that he was going to break the record and eventually, he did!

The web design community is in a wonderful time right now. Over the last few years, we’ve seen many web designers who like Roger Bannister, want to continue to push the envelope and see how much they can do on the web. And more and more web designers are following suit and seeing what they themselves can do with CSS3 and HTML5. When I see guys like Anthony Calzadilla2 and what he’s doing with CSS3 and how he’s taking it to the next level, I’m reminded of that story of the four-minute mile. Websites are popping up every month that are just incredible and mind-blowing. Here’s just a few that I discovered from my Twitter stream recently that are just impressive!

I’m sure there are a lot more websites that have been built these past few months that have completely pushed the envelope. It seems like every few days, someone does something incredible and new with CSS3. Unique, responsive designs are popping up everywhere. Designers are moving beyond the limit of what has usually been done or was the accepted standard. And all this inspires me. It motivates me. It makes me want to get better at what I do.

I was talking about these sites the other day with my good friend, Soh Tanaka and this is what he said.

People are pushin’ the limits man! No time to sleep!

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SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    I agree we need to push the limits, especially when many sites begin to look and feel the same. Then agin we need to be careful not to leave the user behind. The New Zealand 100% Pure site looks great and engaging to start with, but is a step backwards in UX. The pervious site was easy to use, with well structured navigation, perhaps one of the best tourism sites on the web in its time. The new site has placed too much focus on form than practical function. I love the visual effects, but getting anywhere on the site is just confusing.

    In pushing the limits we have to remember that we are only pushing the limits inside two points. Point one of the compass is the client (need) and the other end is the consumer (need). Logic suggests we take the shortest path between these points for a good UX. Pushing the limits outside that is fine, if there is no commercial objectives. I would not say I’ve nailed it, but it’s constantly a challenge and that’s what pushing the limits is about.

    • 2

      Great point Simon. I’m definitely with you on this. I posted that site as an example of how designers are pushing the limits when it comes to CSS3/HTML5. You’re right, it’s not good UX and I completely agree with that. But this site definitely shows us what’s possible out there if you push the envelope.

      So what I’m thinking is that we definitely still need to continue to push the envelope, especially with personal projects (like what Anthony is doing with CSS3 animations) but with our client projects, we still need to keep usability in mind. After all, the sites are built for their consumers to use and not for other designers to admire. :)

      Good thought and thanks for sharing it!

  2. 3

    Pushing boundaries is critical in this industry. Just look at all the recent work with HTML5, CSS3, “responsive” web design, etc, and you will see wonderful examples of how web designers and developers have taken the tools available to them and found ways to make them do increasingly amazing things.

    I have been working on the web since 1999, and I really do believe that we have NEVER had a more exciting time in our industry – a time perfectly suited for pushing the envelope, experimenting, and finding new ways to make the web awesome.

  3. 7

    Great article, and yeah its a great time to be a web designer right now, you can do so many things. I remember a time before CSS and a time when browsers didn’t like PNG’s, now you can do allmost, if not everything.

  4. 9

    great article, loved it :)

  5. 11

    Love those sites you linked to in this one. I hadn’t seen all of those. If I didn’t know any better, I would have mistaken them for Flash sites. Nice to see devs using Canvas and CSS3.

    Oh and great to see you active again in the community, Jad. Looking forward to more stuff. :)

    • 12

      Hey Louis, thanks for the comment. That’s exactly what I thought when seeing those sites. I was really impressed by the fact that none of them used flash.

      Oh, and I’m definitely going to be more active in the community again. Thanks for noticing. Looking forward to your stuff as well! ;)

  6. 13

    Thanks for sharing the story of the four-minute mile and the links! I enjoyed them!

  7. 15

    As the internet continues to evolve, I look forward to seeing what some of the new designers come up with. The fact that there so many sites, you end up seeing so many sites that are just duplicates of each other. It is always nice to new and exciting designs.

    • 16

      I’m excited as well. I love seeing a totally unique website where it looks like the designer has done something that’s never been done before.


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