First Bokardo on canonical web designs:
Talk to web designers, product managers, and other web professionals, and these [Google, Amazon] are the sites they’ll mention. Don’t talk just to people who build brochure sites…all they talk about is graphic design. Your answers will be the same as above. But talk to web designers and developers, and they’ll start talking about when Amazon added that extra row of tabs and quickly realized their mistake. It has become legend.
You can’t appreciate a web site in the same way you appreciate a logo or a poster. When a logo works, it makes you think certain things. Makes you think about the company, their influence, their reach. It’s about branding. The IBM logo suggests a solidity, the rock that is Big Blue. At this point, after you’ve thought these things, you’re done. There is nothing else to do. Maybe you’ll consider their products in the future… When a web site works, on the other hand, you’re using it to do something. You might be looking for your next favorite book on Amazon, or searching for a critical piece of information on Google. You’re using the web site…interacting with it, having an experience that, contrary to logos, involves you. You are inputting information, asking questions, getting answers.
As for me, I tend to follow Steve Jobs on this one when he says “design is how something works”. Granted, this is a broad definition of design, but really, it seems to fit, doesn’t it? When design does what we want it to, we say “it works well”. Google works well. Amazon works well.—Do Canonical Web Designs Exist?
And from The Zeldman:
Some who don’t understand web design nevertheless have the job of creating websites or supervising web designers and developers. Others who don’t understand web design are nevertheless professionally charged with evaluating it on behalf of the rest of us. Those who understand the least make the most noise. They are the ones leading charges, slamming doors, and throwing money—at all the wrong people and things.
News media are not the only ones getting it wrong. Professional associations get it wrong every day, and commemorate their wrongness with an annual festival. Each year, advertising and design magazines and professional organizations hold contests for “new media design” judged by the winners of last year’s competitions. That they call it “new media design” tells them nothing and you and me everything.
The trouble is, web design, although it employs elements of graphic design and illustration, does not map to them. If one must compare the web to other media, typography would be a better choice. For a web design, like a typeface, is an environment for someone else’s expression. Stick around and I’ll tell you which site design is like Helvetica.
Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.—Understanding Web Design