How Can Entire (Design) Industries Get the Web So Wrong?


As a designer, I have deep, almost religious respect for great architecture. There’s something awe-inspiring about it that I haven’t found in any other design discipline (or art movement, for that matter). Maybe it’s the scale & permanence of the structures, or how those factors interact with us in such a human way. It really is the pinnacle of design.

Which is why, as someone who lives in the digital world, architect’s websites strike me as particularly insulting. And not just to me or you as the user, but also insulting to the work it fails to showcase.

Here’s a quick sample of what I’m talking about:

Surprised? They’re miserable. All three are so unnavigable that I had to force myself to make it past the first page for the sake of writing this article.  There are surely some good architecture websites out there, but by and large, these are indicative of the whole.

Other Industries?

Here’s the thing that’s so frustrating: these aren’t small companies limited by the level of web design that they can afford. I’m not picking on some construction company’s website, I’m looking at world-class starchitects.

But they’re not the only ones: design in general is a pretty sad group to be in web-wise. Whether its fashion, interior design, or industrial design — they just don’t seem quite there. Seen Anna Sui’s website lately?

A Common Thread

I think there might be a reason for entire industries that “don’t get” the web: it’s diametrically opposed to the mindset in their everyday work. Just as print designers had trouble giving up control when transitioning to the web, architects and other designers may very well be in the same boat.

Now, I didn’t work on any of the sites I’ve referenced here, so I can’t claim to know exactly how the process went. But based on the architects I know, being in control of the details is everything. Hence the Flash. Hence the Javascript that might as well be Flash. Every detail is accounted for, but on the web that comes at the expense of the overall experience.

I don’t have a great solution, I’m just observing from the outside. From here what looks like an ego issue could in reality be something else entirely. But I will say, the architect lucky to get an interactive agency with the guts to tell them “no” could end up with a site beautiful enough to rival their real-world creations.