Boilerplates

June 11, 2014

If there’s one thing that instantly turns me off a service, it’s seeing the same design I just saw somewhere else.

In part, the goal of a designer is to make something familiar, something that anyone anywhere can understand — I get that — but when site after site use the same boilerplate design with only subtle color differences, I start wondering about the project as a whole.

If you can’t design your own simple landing page, are your internal pages boilerplates too? Is all of your code lifted off of Stack Exchange and Github? Am I better off going without you, if all you offer is a widget dressed up the same common clothes as everyone else? How exactly does your widget even differentiate itself from the other widgets I saw, when all I see everywhere are identical websites with identical buzzwords in their copy?

I think a lot of people make their designs a certain way because everyone else makes theirs a certain way — there’s a me-too effect involved. Go look at Dribbble for a while until everything melts into a mess of sameness, then look at some personal design blogs and see sophomore graphic designers talk about how much they love Helvetica, the type used everywhere for everything, from corporate logos to embarrassing ‘inspirational’ desktop wallpapers.

Stop for just a second, stop right where you are. Why are you doing that, why are you designing your thing that way? Ask yourself if what you’re designing serves a role and should even be designed. Are you lockstep behind your inspiration? Stand out.