What is Ice Design?
When you think of ice consider its properties. Ice is solid, rigid, chunky, cold; frozen in form and function. That's cool for ice, but these are not necessarily characteristics one would want applied to their web pages. Yet currently, that is how the majority of web sites on the WWW are designed. Scores of pages...stuck at a set size in one spot...forever!
In Ice Design, the spot web pages are stuck in is the upper left hand corner of a browser window. How Ice Design appears on someone's monitor is influenced by the size of their monitor and their screen resolution. It will also display differently when the user resizes their browser window.
It doesn't matter if the resolution is set at 640 X 480 or at 1600 X 1200. Whether the monitor displays at 72dpi or 96dpi, Ice Design will be stuck in the upper left hand corner. On smaller monitors, parts of the design may disappear off the viewing screen. On the higher resolution settings, a vast area of negative white space consumes the viewing screen and dwarfs the design. Not a pretty site no matter how beautiful your design may be. An example of a TTs page placed in a table illustrates how such a page will display when you play with resizing the browser window and changing resolutions.
How Do Ya' Make Ice?
Simple. You use a fixed width table and wedge all of your design elements inside the rows, cells, and columns you create. Whatever table width you set is the size it will always be and it will always be cornered in the browser's upper left side. Like real ice, it is frozen in place and in function. If you visit the Ice Design example link (click on example in the above paragraph or the image the right of the paragraph), you can check out the HTML code used to house the page (View>Source Page).
Who Uses It...and Why?
Ice Design is still widely used in designing web pages. Often by people who make personal sites and haven't the time nor interest in becoming professionals. However, well-meaning professionals use it too...especially beginners. It is because Ice Design is relatively easy to learn how to do and is especially easy to create when using popular WSYIWYGs like Dreamweaver, Frontpage, and GoLive.
Another possible reason for so much Ice Design on the web may simply be the limitations of the gazillion amature professional web designers cranking out web sites long before they know what they are doing.
There is a difference between being a web designer and becoming a good web designer. The latter involves many skills and like the hardware and software they continually upgrade, they too require constant upgrading in their skills! This long and sometimes arduous learning curve can stall many wanna be designers at whatever curve they deem themselves an expert.
It takes time for designers to learn a broad base of basics and they are continually challenged to keep up with the latest technological advances in a field that would task the mildly brilliant much less we ordinary, earnest, passionate sorts with average IQ's who have been lured into believing that we, too, can become a master of web design!
Ice Design appeals to another type of designer as well. The control freak. Ice being static and fixed can house complex banners and navigational interfaces that would be difficult or impossible to make fluid without sacrificing control or part of the design. Some Web Designers are neurotically attached to the designs they create and prize it more than function, logic, or common sense. They are attracted to the illusion of control because, in reality, Ice Design cheats both the designer and the user from the freedom that other design alternatives offer.
Top designers realize that after every curve is another one that must be rounded. Ice design is on the way out. Professional web designer's standards to achieve the current ideal is creating stiff competition from far better alternative design choices. Consequently, Ice Design is destined to do a major meltdown.
Giving Ice Design the cold shoulder and moving in the direction that the alternatives afford you will improve your expertise, boost your professional credibility and maximize both the design experience and the end-user's experience (More about the alternatives when we get to Liquid Design)!
Check It Out!
Below are a few examples of Ice Design and how broadly it is used by many different types of clients with varying marketing needs. Many who want a web presence still opt to create or pay for Ice Design: