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Gross, glorious Las Vegas – a model for web designers

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SXSW Those web designers obsessed with their mashed up, CSS, AJAX injections may want to book a trip to Las Vegas and learn some lessons from fat people chowing down in the all-you-can-eat buffet.

San Francisco-based web designer Dan Saffer has turned to Vegas in its all its brilliance and blandness as a model for fixing up websites. Developers can find inspiration in the diverse nature of casino complexes. They can also learn to cater to different crowds by studying Vegas's mix of the sublime and slime, the desginer said during a speech here at SXSW.

Saffer, for example, compares the diversity of a casino with the pleasant aspects of a website like MySpace. The Vegas casino/hotel offers up a gaming center, theater, place to stay, restaurant, spa and other facilities, hoping to satisfy consumers in a variety of ways. Meanwhile, MySpace presents music, video, text, communications and all manner of site designs to keep youngsters happy.

One could argue that New York, New York with its miniature Statue of Liberty backed by a roller coaster or the gaudy Paris hotel in Vegas prove repellent and over the top, much like many people think of MySpace as a visual disaster.

"Why should I have a different program for emails and blogging when I can go to MySpace and have all these things done for me in one place," Saffer asked. "If we put aside our snobbery, you can see that is not necessarily a bad thing."

Many MySpace pages look awful, but they prove accessible and convenient for users in much the same way as a Vegas hotel.

"It could be that our technologies are getting too complicated for many people," Saffer said. "People want to go to Paris, but they don't necessarily want to deal with the French."

Besides presenting more, simple options to users, designers might want to consider going ugly or specific when it makes sense rather than designing a site with style in mind.

To support this point, Saffer pointed overweight types gorging at all-you-can-eat buffets in Vegas as evidence that the city serves all kinds of people and doesn't always cater to the five-star set.

He also looked at slot machines with their large, bright screens and rich collection of noises that make games easy to play. Such machines prove attractive to the casinos' target – women over 55 with disposable income. They aren't pretty, but they work well, and a great deal of attention has been paid to creating the ultimate slot machine experience just for the ladies.

Perhaps your version of "DrunkandDivorced.com" should do the same.

You can grab Saffer's rather nice presentation slides off his web site. ®

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