I’ve been using Blinksale to send out our invoices since July of 2005. I use this website every single day. Today, Blinksale has a completely new look; it has been totally redesigned. Regrettably, this new design looks more like a before and after gone awry (the before is on the left).

Sure, accounting software in general doesn’t have a strong history of impeccable design. (I’m looking at you, Quickbooks.) However, the old Blinksale at least had a well-defined color palette that was used consistently and with appropriate restraint throughout, as well as an easy-to-use interface. No kludges, just straightforward usefulness. Now, we’ve moved to a very different grey interface with dark blue to dark grey gradients. The difference is striking and immediately disorienting. It doesn’t solve problems; it creates them.

I often think of websites as individuals, people with distinct personalities and likes. I ask myself if I would find this person interesting, if I would want to listen to their story, if I would want to have a cup of coffee with them. When I look at this website, I wonder if it could get off the couch, away from the computer, and out of the sweatpants to get to the coffee shop. I imagine that it would likely know all of the episodes of Star Trek, think Hot Tub Time Machine is a funny movie, and chuckle at how much it might cost to repair Battlestar Galactica.

The designer notes that “Yes, Blinksale got its face did. Even web apps need to be repainted once in a while to stay relevant, appear competent and keep it sexy.” Sexy. Seriously? We’re talking about accounting software still, right?

This redesign appears to be basically an attempt at maturing into a Web 2.0 gradient-fest. To my eyes, the whole Web 2.0 trend is veering horribly away from good design. Good design should be beautiful. At the same time, it should seek to remove clutter, to solve problems. The designer mentions that “the new workspace removes colorful distractions. ;)”, but all I can see now are icons, icons, icons. Gradients, gradients, gradients.

“Make all visual distinctions as subtle as possible, but still clear and effective.” -Edward Tufte

I don’t mean to pick on the designers of Blinksale too much. I’m thrilled they are adding estimates to the software and love using Blinksale every day. I just feel that the new look is a step in the wrong direction, mixing too many metaphors, and throwing way too many icon, colors, gradients, and textures my way.