I’m not deliberately obscurantist or opposed to innovation, but there are a few trends in web design that I don’t appreciate. For example, I don’t like lightboxes. (Yeah, I know we use it at Reevoo for our reviews service, but Befehl ist Befehl.)

If you’re lucky enough not to be familiar with this abomination, I should explain. The lightbox user interface trope layers a dark, semi-transparent layer over the web page, and displays the new content over that. It looks cool and shiny. Even the best lightbox implementations tend to be a bit temperamental, but that’s not what pains me: I don’t like them because they subvert pre-existing browser functionality—better functionality. If it’s a real link, I can control-click to open it in a new tab. Or I can shift-click for a new window. Or plain click and replace the current page. Whatever I choose, that’s my choice. When I click and get a lightbox, it’s guaranteed not to be what I was expecting, and that’s not a good user experience.

I’ve been doing a lot of browsing on the small screen of my EeePC 701 lately. That’s 800×480 pixels. It’s made me start to notice how unusable is so much of the AJAX onanism that constitutes modern web design. Sure, it looks great on the dual zillion-pixel monitors of my quad-Xeon workstation at the office, but to blame me for browsing on a small screen would be to miss the point of (X)HTML and semantic mark-up.

Similarly, I don’t like the trend of hijacking the onclick events of links to force them to replace the current page. If I control-click to open in a new tab, the chances are high that I don’t want this tab to load the same content as well. On the other hand, if I’d just clicked it, I’d expect it to load right here, which is exactly what it would have done anyway. So don’t try to second-guess me, please.

But now I’ve discovered something even more objectionable. Have a look at this Amazon/IMDB press release. Try clicking on a link.

It opens a little iframe in the middle of the window, with the linked-to page inside it. WHY?! What did I do to make you think that I would want that?!

Stop it, all of you. You can make nice-looking, functional websites without any of these gewgaws, and we’d all be the better for it—not to mention that it would take much less debugging work for you as a developer to make it functional in Internet Explorer. And the government wouldn’t have to release documents telling its departments which browsers to test their ill-considered baubles in.