Recently, I read an article in a communications-advertising magazine about why Google was such a household (indeed, room-hold!) name now. The fact that it was so friggin' simple and easy to use.
And it made a hell lot of sense. It's so uncomplicated. The interface is uncluttered by the plethora of ads that preponderate into other search engines.
Like Yahoo! for example. There are so many other links given on the page - that it takes away the 'singular importance', as it were, of the search bar.
(Granted, Yahoo! has feet in a lot more boats than Google, but let's not get into that now)
When you get to the Google page - there it is, the Google logo, and a huge searchbar. And to make it better, the cursor is automatically placed in the search bar.
Simple. Direct. Pragmatic.
You want to search for the life and history of Jawaharlal Nehru. Go to Google and type it.
You want guitar tabs for a van Halen song. Google it.
And there are no superfluous extra links - they exist, yes, but not in a manner which leaves the user tearing his hair out distinguishing between the sponsored links and the links which the engine has come up with.
With the burgeoning of design and animation, more companies feel the need to put in as much eye-candy into their sites as they can. The more flash animations, the better, seems to be the credo. The more GIFs and moving ads, the better seems to be to driving force of whoever designs their web pages.
Does it have to be that way? Not necessarily. The eye candy is good for an initial impact, yes. But then, what keeps the visitor coming back is the practical functionality of the site, and here is where Google scores over the others.
Even the most munificent judge of beauty would not give Google a consideration for the prettiest site, but it's so effing useful, so effing simple to use!
And hell, that's what matters! In this new age of instant business and quick solution and all that razzmatazz, it's not the prettiness that counts anymore.
The article states it, companies have realised that they've reached a saturation level when it comes to eye candy (etc). They are now turning towards practicality and usefulness.
Another case in point : www.cricinfo.org.
This site has been around for ages. Why? It's so damn simple to use, and so easy on your browser, and optics too.
In the internet boom of the late 90s-early 00s, a plethora of cricketing sites cropped up - some even had film stars endorsing them - and today, none of them exist. Why?
Because they believed that putting a flash animation of a dancing cricket ball and singing stumps were what kept the visitor amused. Oh yes, that was amusing alright. And so was trying to find out where the hell the links to the scorecards of the current India game were *sarcasm here*.
Cricinfo on the other hand. Neat, white interface. No background or anything.
Front page shows the links of the matches being played currently, clearly giving links to the scorecards. You could never get lost in a place like that.
And another example : the ubiquitous iPod by Apple. It looks sexy. Why? It doesn't have 3 billion buttons on it. Just the screen and the innovative scroll wheel. The USP of the iPod (leaving aside massive storage) over other players has always been it's ease of use.
Simplicity. Directness and to-the-pointness.
That could very well be the next big thing. Because when you run out of flashy (pun intended) and RAM-hogging animations that leave the user wondering what on earth to do, you fall back on the tactic of simplicity.
Hell, it's almost hip to be 'simple' these days.