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Themes and the Web 3.0

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supermike's picture
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I just redesigned the Web 2.0 look of my killer web app that I've been working on. Using Web 3.0, it's 2D instead of 3D, is less busy, and has a bright yellow banner with a more subdued yellow pastel sub-banner underneath it. So what is Web 3.0? Let me explain...

After IE 3 / NS 4 and the dot-com era took off, I felt we moved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. But when 9/11/2001 happened, I think we entered a duldrum until Web 3.0 took off with rejuvenation again. Now I see things are going up, up, up again.

In Web 3.0, I'm seeing some common themes. What do you think? Do you think I'm right?

* Web apps and web sites are utilizing a mix of simplicity and postmodernism. By that, we're seeing abbreviations as if speaking in mobile-phone-ease is hip. Take for instance "flickr", a website to upload and share photos. They dropped the e as a kind of way of abbreviating the web for the busy person. Meanwhile, the websites and web apps have worked hard to reduce the pages to the bare minimums instead of stuffing everything you can into the page. By doing this, people do not feel as overwhelmed with information overflow. The web apps/sites are easier to use, so people are more prone to use them. In a sense, you could think of Google as having traces of a Web 3.0 kind of website by the look of its main home page.

* Instead of going with blacks, greys, and blues, or a mix of all colors, websites and applications are going with a mix of soft Earth tones and pastels and/or bright vibrant primary colors besides blues and greys. They're daring to use pink, yellow, orange, and bright lime green. For instance, here's a bold move:

http://ebox-platform.com/shots/object-members.png

They're avoiding a big battleship-grey section on the screen by all means necessary, so as not to look like a web page from the 1990's.

* Constant animation is out, while static content with perhaps a minimum of Flash for mouseovers, is in. Even the sites that use an introductory Flash anim. before you enter the site -- that is definitely out.

* Websites that use shadows are out -- the whole 3D thing is out. Instead, 2D is in again. There's even buttons being replaced with hyperlinks and Javascript so that they act like form buttons.

* Using lowercase and/or punctuation and special characters in the title of the web app or website. They are trying to make it fun and modern.

* Using a Spanish name instead of an English name just to be different, or perhaps it's to fend off trademark poachers.

* Except on the login page or main home page, they're keeping the page white (because it prints better) and only being daring in the banner. For the login and main home pages, they're usually using a 3 primary color or pastel color system with shades of these 3 hues beyond that.

* Using photos instead of any kind of cartoon or drawing, unless it's part of the logo.

* Always using at least 2 photos on the home page of a website, and at least one of them will have a person in it.

* Using " :: " between the main links like: "New Topic :: Search :: Help".

* Trying to be abstract or show "whisps of colored winds" in the background images and then putting a logo or photo in front of that.

* Using special, powerful photo shots where you have 2-3 models standing in the back either in focus or out of focus, and a close-up model standing close to the camera, with all of them looking at you. It's like a metaphor that says, "We'll work even harder for you."

* Using a photo shot of someone looking off, with a jacket over his/her shoulder, and you're like down on the ground looking up at him or her. It's like a metaphor that says, "I'm considering options but not working too hard at it."

* Here's a technique the newer apps NEVER use anymore. One of the hip things to do in the 1980s with computer graphics was to make "pinhead" people. Sometimes you see these in books or magazines. The other day I saw one on the cover of a management seminar book I was in. These images are where you take a photo of a person or people, blur the face to make it look just like skin, stretch and dilate the image to make the people look thinner, and then apply a graphical filter to make the image look like an Impressionist painting. The concept here is to make one not focus on what the people look like, but on what they're doing for the theme of the context. Unfortunately, this goes back to the days of the early Apple Macintosh, and few people do this anymore on the web.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

Actually, the current buzzword is "Web 2.0" which was originally a name of the O'Reilly web conference but caught on. The early meaning of the term is "web as a platform" meaning that the new web is about web applications and services instead of plain piles of pages. Smiling

There's an excellent article about this written by Paul Graham, a Yahoo investor guy: Web 2.0.

It nicely explains the origin of the term, the meaning that it eventually acquired and maybe most importantly the reason why he despises it. I tend to agree with his reasoning. The form that web is taking most recently is the web as it should have been in the first place, as that form is in its nature. That said, to have a special term that even implies this is some kind of a second incarnation of the web is like acknowledging that the old web was also the right kind of web, which it wasn't. That old web is pretty much what brought us to the dot-com boom and then left us with its legacy. Now, the web is becoming what it was supposed to be all this time anyway. That said, it's just our web, there's nothing 2.0-ish about it. Eye

So, yeah, I've noticed these latest trends and I really like it. Web is becoming friendlier, more usable and more democratic. Instead of bombing us with silly flash pumped sites with alot of big slow loading images, we're now increasingly getting nice, simple and usable websites that do the trick and look good. Besides, it's not the web homepage that people will be looking at mostly anyway considering people increasingly read content through aggregators, no matter from which site it originated.

Welcome to the web (the way it was meant to be), not web2.0 or web3.0! Eye

dylunio's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20

I agree with many of your points about the 'evolution' of the web, but I think it more as a bunch of SVN versions rather than release versions. That is, it's being updated and evolving every minute rather than ever having "On 20 of May 2006 the second version of the internet will be released" - which is a bit strange.

Indeed the web has become easier for the user, less pointless .gif animations and overall crufft (though I find javascript heavy sites still annoying at times).

tbuitenh's picture
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Re: Themes and the Web 3.0

I agree about most, but some things you mention as "in" are considered "out" by me.

By the way, vector graphics, especially with gradients in them, are in. Rounded corners are in too.

"supermike" wrote:

* Websites that use shadows are out -- the whole 3D thing is out. Instead, 2D is in again. There's even buttons being replaced with hyperlinks and Javascript so that they act like form buttons.

Using javascript for that is out. CSS for flattening buttons is in.

Quote:

* Using photos instead of any kind of cartoon or drawing, unless it's part of the logo.

* Always using at least 2 photos on the home page of a website, and at least one of them will have a person in it.

Using photos, and especially photos of people is out. Look at www.qnx.com . Their website used to be full of such photos. Not anymore. And you have to agree their site looks very modern.

Quote:

* Using " :: " between the main links like: "New Topic :: Search :: Help".

That's soooo 1999. OUT!

libervisco's picture
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Re: Themes and the Web 3.0
"tbuitenh" wrote:

Using photos, and especially photos of people is out. Look at www.qnx.com . Their website used to be full of such photos. Not anymore. And you have to agree their site looks very modern.

Ah, they use flash for their main image. That's so OUT for me since I don't have (nor want) flash! Sticking out tongue

"tbuitenh" wrote:
Quote:

* Using " :: " between the main links like: "New Topic :: Search :: Help".

That's soooo 1999. OUT!

I kind of like that actually. Not everything from 1999 has to be bad. Wink

It is a way of using plain text as a design element, simple and fast. Smiling

supermike's picture
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Re: Themes and the Web 3.0
"tbuitenh" wrote:
"supermike" wrote:

* Websites that use shadows are out -- the whole 3D thing is out. Instead, 2D is in again. There's even buttons being replaced with hyperlinks and Javascript so that they act like form buttons.

Using javascript for that is out. CSS for flattening buttons is in.

Okay, I'm game. How does that work exactly? How do I make a form button do a submit using CSS?

supermike's picture
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"libervisco" wrote:

There's an excellent article about this written by Paul Graham, a Yahoo investor guy: Web 2.0.

Man, I have a lot to learn from this Paul Graham guy. This was some sensational stuff. Paul Graham is never short on opinions. From this I also discovered reddit.com, ideas for startups, the road ahead, and Y Combinator (a VC for micro startups that understand web-based startup methodologies).

Thanks, libervisco! :banana:

libervisco's picture
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Re: Themes and the Web 3.0
"supermike" wrote:

Okay, I'm game. How does that work exactly? How do I make a form button do a submit using CSS?

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is actually just for styling. It is invented to compliment (X)HTML in order to separate style/design from functionality.

So, you don't make a form with CSS, you make it using HTML or JavaScript or whatever, but you style it using CSS by applying CSS tags to its elements and then defining in a CSS file how they're supossed to look. That's how you style the looks of a button.

Here's an example:

#button { 
  background-color: #FAFAFA;
  color: #383838;
  border-left: 2px solid #C3C3C3;
  border-top: 2px solid #C3C3C3;
  border-right: 2px solid #1F1F1F;
  border-bottom: 2px solid #1F1F1F;
  padding: 5px;
}

The above should make the button look like those "submit" and "preview" buttons in our current phpbb post form. Smiling

To apply it you'd just have to define it's CSS id to html that makes that button. For example it could be <div id="button"><your-button-code></div>

libervisco's picture
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"supermike" wrote:

Man, I have a lot to learn from this Paul Graham guy. This was some sensational stuff. Paul Graham is never short on opinions. From this I also discovered reddit.com, ideas for startups, the road ahead, and Y Combinator (a VC for micro startups that understand web-based startup methodologies).

I know! Same feelings here. Articles like the ones this guy writes make me reassert my belief in business as possible means to success. He is apparently someone who clearly sees the path ahead and fully understands that the time has come for old business models to be shattered and new ones to take place, because old models are simply incompatible to the connected world today.

Part of the reason for the whole dot-com boom fiasco is because people misunderstood internet applying traditional "offline" business models online. Now we ought to finally understand that business on the internet is something entirely different and it must be different to serve the user and the global online communities best.

Anyway, have you read his other article: "What Businesses Can Learn From Open Source"? Great read too. Smiling

a thing's picture
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Re: Themes and the Web 3.0
"supermike" wrote:

Except on the login page or main home page, they're keeping the page white (because it prints better) and only being daring in the banner. For the login and main home pages, they're usually using a 3 primary color or pastel color system with shades of these 3 hues beyond that.

http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/media.html

"Maddox" wrote:

When I go to a web site, I WANT TO READ THE CONTENT. Trust me, that micro-font everyone uses isn't nearly as original as they think. I've chosen a black background for most of my text because it's easier on the eyes than staring at a white screen. Think about it: your monitor is not a piece of paper, no matter how hard you try to make it one. Staring at a white background while you read is like staring at a light bulb (don't believe me? Try turning off the lights next time you use word processor). Would you stare at a light bulb for hours at a time? Not if you want to keep your vision.

About flash, not only is it proprietary, but loading it for two little effects would bloat it up.

supermike's picture
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These pages seem to explain the Web 2.0 thing quite well.

http://www.vipedio.com/roman/blog/20culture_full.html
http://msippey.tadalist.com/lists/public/155420
http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2006/02/a_web_20_checklist.html

I actually feel a bit embarassed that I mentioned Web 3.0. I just thought that Web 2.0 had already hit after Google went IPO on the stock market, and then when companies like Flikr and Writely started popping up, we had something different. But I was wrong. I had not read enough about this to know that sites like Flikr and Writely exemplified Web 2.0.

You know, it almost seems like Web 2.0 has hints of being postmodern, where things are more alpha, more artful than function, as well as being abbreviated.

The only thing I think I have to speak out on is AJAX, which seems to want to be a lovefest for Javascript, which I abhor because I think it's a design gone bad. How many web pages will break because developers use AJAX? I look forward to a day when most of the common uses of Javascript are reworked into a future CSS standard. For example: autofocus and autoselection of a field should be a CSS standard, not something I have to do with Javascript. And making a button act like a hyperlink or a hyperlink or image acting like a submit button -- those things should be CSS properties.

So for now, I'll take the roundtrip to the server, thank you, rather than use AJAX. AJAX is a great technology before it's time. What the AJAX org'ers need to do is hop over to the W3C and get a future CSS spec created to implement something to absorb some of this and rely much less on Javascript slash ECMAScript. I'll hold my breath.

libervisco's picture
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Web 2.0 is a buzzword, and like most buzzwords its meaning is becoming more and more meaningless. It had an original meaning that would basically represent the modern interactive bottom-up internet as opposed to the old non-interactive top-down internet of the nineties and dotcom age, but it just took off from there to mean much more.. Also the funny thing is it's being viewed as something new while many technologies and websites built this way existed for years already.

Thanks for those links though. I've already read up some resources on it, but I'll check them out.

As for AJAX, I actually like it. It's hard not to as the concept just seems too attractive to dismiss. Though I don't program JavaScript and therefore cannot judge much of its design, from the users point of view I'd say it has its place when used moderately. Putting too much JavaScript on a site would probably just make it too slow and bloated, beating the sense of the very purpose one would put AJAX style JavaScript in; for improved usability and functionality.

I like your idea on CSS getting some functionalities now reserved only for JavaScript. I love CSS and what can already be done with it and I can definitely see how it could evolve into a possible semi-alternative (or even full alternative) to JavaScript. CSS is clean, easy and fast.

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Somehow this Web2.0-boom also brings a lot of rubbish with it. There's thousands of sites like friendster.com (my girlfriend also makes me scan her photos for that Rolling Eyes ) and propably millions of blogs. But I think that's society, one kid has a cool toy, so the other kids also want to have it.
Meaning: It seems nearly everybody suddenly feels the need to explain his daily experiences and what-so-ever in a blog.
Sure, there a cool blogs out there, but I don't like these "everybody else has it, so i also need it"-trends that pop up all the time. As I said, that's propably just society. And since Web2.0 is reflecting the society more than the old Web did before, that's propably some sort of side-effect.

As for JavaScript I really have to say: I don't really like it and I only use it for extra stuff, not for necessary stuff on the site. In the forum I wrote in PHP I use it to have these funny format-buttons, similar to the ones we have here. Only that mine pop up a little input-box where you enter the text you want bold/italics/green/what-so-ever.
In the office, that's different, there I have quite some JavaScript since the bosses requested some stuff only possible with JavaScript (at least in IE; yes, I'm talking about these list-menus which just need CSS in any other browser than IE). Last week I even had a short look into AJAX and found it quite handy. But as I said, for my site I wouldn't use it for anything essential, only for optional stuff.
And Flash, never!

tbuitenh's picture
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What is AJAX? If you dig deep enough, you'll find AJAX is nothing new except for the XMLHttpRequest javascript object. The common use for this is to retrieve only the changed parts of webpages instead of the whole, making complex web UIs much faster and the load on the server lower.

Now the question is should we want web UIs at all? AJAX makes them less painfully slow, but didn't we already have Java applets for that? OTOH it's less easy to make a Java GUI look pretty, and a pretty Java applet tends to get bigger than a pretty AJAX page.

Let's make a comparison between local apps, AJAX, Java applets, plain old web and dumb terminals (eg SunRay) (1-10 ratings)

boot time:
local app 10, terminal 9, web 5, AJAX 4, Java 1

speed when in use:
local app 10, terminal 7, Java 6, AJAX 4, web 1

beauty contest:
local app 10, terminal 10, AJAX 6, web 6, Java 1

security:
terminal 10 (assuming the admin is competent),
local app 10 (assuming the user is competent),
Java 2,
AJAX 1,
web 1

ease of installation:
terminal 10 (assuming the admin did it for you),
web 9,
AJAX 8 (need a recent browser),
Java 8 (need to install Java),
local app from distro repository 8,
local app compiled from source with dependencies on exotic libraries 1

Conclusion: If you want to use client-server, use real terminals (SunRays or maybe tiny linux boxes using FreeNX to do something very similar to dumb terminals). If that's not possible, AJAX might be a good choice depending on what the needs of your users are. But if you ask me local and P2P apps are the way to go (if we can teach users not to do dumb things related to security, that is).

supermike's picture
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I agree with you, TB, that AJAX could be useful to some developers and that, like you, I see that there are better suited technologies to handle the right application of need. I also want to mention that not only do you get a new object in Javascript, but then you have to do something with it once you get it back or it's useless. That, I'm afraid, requires client-side Javascript/ECMAScript, and that's another place where things go wrong -- because this doesn't work in the largest array of browsers or has issues on this or that browser version or vendor version. And the way that Javascripters fix that is with exception code, which isn't perfect and is like putting a bandaid in every application you write. Plus, not every browser supports this new AJAX object and then your whole site breaks.

My take? AJAX is before it's time. We need a few more years behind us and to see the W3C finally get both Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari looking like twins of each other, sticking to the standard and not much else. When that's achieved, a new feature could be introduced as long as huge warnings go along with it that most people won't have this feature in their browser for about 2-3 years after in