As I look at Rails web apps (basecamp, 43things, joyent), they somehow
“feel” different to me. The only way I can describe it is that they are
than your run-of-the-mill web app, even ones that would be considered
Does this resonate with anyone and, if so, would anyone take a stab at
why this is?
In probably all aspects of design there are identifiable movements and
trends. Look at architecture in past 80 years in western civilization
– Craftsman Style, Bauhaus and Modernism, Post-modernism, New Urbanism,
etc. Look at software design in the past 35 years and I bet you can
spot some trends, too.
I think 37 Signals was one of the first to start the “Big” movement on
the web – large text fields; bigger display of fonts sizes; and the
softer color palettes.
But understand that these design decisions or these trends are not
random. I don’t think Jason Fried just decided one day at random to
make Basecamp’s text fields larger than what’s commonly used. Design is
more than just a look. In essence, design is about solving problems and
new trends and movements are very often a philosophical and ideological
reaction against the current problem solving trend (I think RoR is an
excellent example os this).
In the end this is a practical question because I will soon be in need
of a designer and I want my site to look exactly like Basecamp.
Well, if you’re designing a project collaboration app with similar
functionality and interface, then that sounds like a good idea. But
again, design is not only about defining a look – saying you want your
site to look exactly like another web site is a bit like putting the
cart before the horse. Design is dynamic and I would encourage you to
have an open mind about how your site presents its information and how
it connects with your users. Who knows, your new site’s design could be
the start of a new trend!