Big Ques­tion

What’s stop­ping us from build­ing the cool stuff of our dreams, and what’s hold­ing the web back from its full po­ten­tial? We asked the ex­perts

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What are the big­gest bar­ri­ers to in­no­va­tion in the tech in­dus­try? We asked the pros

Yaron Schoen Prod­uct de­signer, Com­pass www.yaron­

Al­though we’ve made progress, our de­sign tools are still ex­tremely prim­i­tive in the con­text of 2016. De­sign within or­gan­i­sa­tions is still a hodge­podge of tools, files, print­outs, sketches and thoughts scat­tered through­out teams. That is not to say we should blame our tools for ev­ery­thing, but hav­ing tools that help us with the de­sign process (not only the ex­e­cu­tion), would help us move to­wards in­no­va­tion quicker.

Andy Budd Found­ing part­ner, Clear­left www.clear­

It depends on what you mean by ‘in­no­va­tion’ and whether you think it’s au­to­mat­i­cally a good thing. A lot of com­pa­nies are con­stantly chas­ing new ideas to give them­selves a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. How­ever, this can of­ten come at the ex­pense of the ba­sics. While it’s im­por­tant for com­pa­nies to ex­plore the ‘fu­ture’, it shouldn’t be at the ex­pense of the ‘now’ or the ‘next’.

Irene Pereyra UX di­rec­tor, An­ton & Irene­to­nandi­

Sim­ple: The sta­tus quo and the cur­rent era of web de­sign trends. We have long aban­doned the more experimental early days of the in­ter­net for what I like the call ‘the Bauhaus era of web de­sign’. Most sites nowa­days are bor­ing cook­iecut­ter boxes with ex­tremely high us­abil­ity, but very lit­tle in­no­va­tion. A to­tal snooze-fest.

In­no­va­tion only hap­pens if you are able to look at a prob­lem from a new per­spec­tive, and most web de­sign­ers are too busy copy­ing each other, de­sign­ing for the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, and ba­si­cally as­sum­ing users are id­iots. Birds fly in for­ma­tion not be­cause they are look­ing for­ward, but be­cause they are look­ing at each other.

Aral Balkan Founder,

We should be ask­ing: What’s the big­gest thing hold­ing the in­ter­net (and hu­man­ity) back from its po­ten­tial? The answer is the web it­self. We be­lieve the web is de­cen­tralised, but it is dom­i­nated by an oli­garchy of mo­nop­o­lies. We be­lieve the web is free­dom, but it is funded by sur­veil­lance. If we are to tackle the stag­ger­ing con­cen­tra­tion of wealth and power in the world that is cat­a­pult­ing us to­wards an un­sus­tain­able global feu­dal­ism of cor­po­ra­tions, we must move be­yond the web to­wards de­cen­tralised, com­mons-based al­ter­na­tives.

Mat Groves Co-founder, Good­boy www.good­boy­dig­i­

The most amaz­ing piece of tech in web de­sign is We­bGL. It gives the most flex­i­ble and pow­er­ful ways to make mod­ern web ex­pe­ri­ences. The prob­lem is the browsers that do not sup­port We­bGL or have poor im­ple­men­ta­tions of it: IE 9 and10, and the An­droid Stock browser. With cut­ting-edge con­tent, you need to spend a big chunk of time im­ple­ment­ing a fall­back for these browsers, which takes time, costs money and puts peo­ple off us­ing We­bGL to re­ally kick the vi­su­als up to 11. The good news is that this is slowly chang­ing.

Jan Lehnardt Vice pres­i­dent, Apache CouchDB writ­

The big­gest bar­rier to in­no­va­tion is the miss­ing in­clu­sion. We are an in­dus­try claim­ing to de­fine and in­vent the fu­ture. Yet, it’s mostly (het­ero, cis) white men with their prob­lems and ideas for so­lu­tions that are in po­si­tions of power. In the very di­verse world of the web, this is hold­ing us all back. We need more peo­ple with more di­verse back­grounds and ex­pe­ri­ences to work on our col­lec­tive fu­ture. If your prod­uct is in­ac­ces­si­ble to marginalised peo­ple, it’s nei­ther rad­i­cal nor revo­lu­tion­ary.

Cassie McDaniel De­sign di­rec­tor, Mozilla Foun­da­tion www.jane­and­

We have an over-reliance on con­structs like Google’s Ma­te­rial De­sign, UI pat­terns in gen­eral, and pre­scrip­tive toolsets. If a UI pat­tern works ex­actly right for your prob­lem, use it, by all means – these are amaz­ing re­sources! But make sure there is a good reason for do­ing so. I see too many de­sign­ers copy­ing in­stead of think­ing for them­selves, and what’s worse, they are afraid to make mis­takes be­cause our cul­ture is so hos­tile to any kind of de­sign that is dif­fer­ent.

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