Conny Liegl won­ders if, as the web grows up, web de­sign­ers are be­com­ing ob­so­lete

net magazine - - CONTENTS - As lead de­signer at Kennedy Li­brary, Cal Poly State Univer­sity, Conny (@ con­nyliegl) builds in­tu­itive in­ter­faces to make peo­ple hap­pier

As the web hits its mid-20s, Conny Liegl won­ders if web de­sign­ers are still needed

When I was 25, I did not have my life fig­ured out at all. I was in a state of flux, woth a mind that was con­stantly be­ing filled with new ideas. Now, at 34, I see a lot of my own ‘awk­ward 20s’ in the de­vel­op­ment of the world wide web.

De­signer roles

Since it started life in 1990, the web has been con­stantly learn­ing and chang­ing. Thanks to so­cial me­dia, web­site build­ing ser­vices and WYSIWYG ed­i­tors, the web is be­com­ing less and less de­pen­dent on web pro­fes­sion­als. We can no longer hold on to the way things used to be when we were ‘web mas­ters’ , ex­clu­sively re­spon­si­ble for pub­lish­ing con­tent.

The need for de­sign in­no­va­tion has shrunk sig­nif­i­cantly. Con­ver­sion rates and re­turn on in­vest­ment dic­tate de­signs that bal­ance nov­elty with us­abil­ity. Stan­dards and frame­works try to bring or­der to the chaos of the in­ter­net, and help users digest con­tent by us­ing fa­mil­iar struc­tures.

PageCloud (, which calls it­self ‘The world’s most ad­vanced web ed­i­tor’ , launched in Novem­ber. With it, users can ba­si­cally save a copy of any web­site, making any el­e­ment editable. From this, they can build the web­site of their dreams, based on oth­ers’ work.

If this still seems like too much work, why not have a web­site just build it­self? En­ter The Grid ( www.the­, which re­cently launched in beta. For this web­site builder, de­sign­ers have man­u­ally built a pat­tern and de­sign li­brary that is used by an AI to cre­ate a web page. Users drag and drop con­tent into a min­i­mal UI and set some pa­ram­e­ters, and the AI places the el­e­ments onto the page, crops the im­ages and creates a colour pal­ette.

There are plenty of other threats to web­sites, too. Face­book pages are an easy place for small busi­nesses to share up­dates and of­fers with their clients. Mo­bile apps of­fer a handy, straight­for­ward al­ter­na­tive to web­sites for users on the go.

Google’s Univer­sal Search also seems to be aim­ing to make third-party web­sites ob­so­lete al­to­gether. Typ­ing in ‘Flights SFO NY’ re­sults in an over­view ta­ble dis­play­ing var­i­ous flight op­tions, along with prices. If you have an up­com­ing flight Google will even scan your emails and dis­play the itin­er­ary on its search re­sults page.

What’s left?

The good news is that us web de­sign­ers are not com­pletely ob­so­lete yet. How­ever, in a po­ten­tial fu­ture sce­nario AI soft­ware may learn au­tonomously, im­prove its al­go­rithms, per­fect fron­tend web cod­ing and de­velop new de­sign prin­ci­ples and pat­tern li­braries across the web, with no hu­man in­put what­so­ever. If web de­sign­ers want to con­tinue offering value, we must en­gage in dif­fer­ent fields, and grow our skills.

Con­tent is king: In a world of self­de­sign­ing sites, de­lib­er­ate mod­u­lar con­tent will con­tinue to be the de­cid­ing fac­tor for a suc­cess­ful web pres­ence.

UX: Part of an out­stand­ing UX is the holis­tic in­te­gra­tion of UX prin­ci­ples to achieve con­sis­tency across plat­forms.

Brand iden­tity: While ma­chines might be able to make de­sign de­ci­sions based on pat­terns and li­braries, cre­at­ing a brand iden­tity will al­ways in­clude hu­mans.

Emo­tional de­sign: An im­por­tant part of UX and brand iden­tity, emo­tional de­sign in­creases cus­tomer loy­alty.

New in­ter­ac­tion pat­terns and de­vices: New ways of in­ter­act­ing with de­vices are con­stantly be­ing cre­ated: fin­ger and hand ges­tures, eye track­ing, even mind read­ing. And our gad­gets are get­ting smaller or even wear­able, and start­ing to blend in with the real world.

Web ethics: In the dig­i­tal world that con­stantly sur­rounds us the dif­fer­ence be­tween per­sua­sion and ma­nip­u­la­tion is sub­tle, and th­ese bound­aries need to be clearly de­fined.

Web copyright: It is still easy to in­spect and copy the source code of nearly ev­ery web­site. The area of web copyright is grow­ing in im­por­tance as new tools make it eas­ier to re­verse en­gi­neer or sim­ply copy con­tent.

Ac­ces­si­bil­ity: The ma­jor­ity of the web is still not ac­ces­si­ble for mil­lions of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. It is our so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to im­prove this sit­u­a­tion. Mod­ern web de­sign­ers are con­fronted with the most dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies yet, that could po­ten­tially re­place our field. We have to adapt to suc­ceed in this new re­al­ity: our 25-year-old is start­ing to live a more in­de­pen­dent life now.

The web is be­com­ing less and less de­pen­dent on web pro­fes­sion­als. We can no longer hold on to the way things used

to be when we were ‘web mas­ters’

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