THE FUTURE OF WEB DESIGN
As we celebrate issue 300, we ask: what lies ahead for the web design industry across the next 300 issues?
Tom May asks web visionaries to look ahead at the next 300 issues of net
“The future, always so clear to me, had become like a black highway at night We were in uncharted territory now, making up history as we went along”
Thus spoke Sarah Connor at the end of
Terminator 2. But these prophetic words could just as easily apply to the state of the web industry today.
With new techniques, technologies and movements constantly arriving on the scene, our sense of where things are going is more uncertain than ever. So as
net magazine reaches its 300th issue, we wanted to investigate what the landscape of web design might look like in another 300 issues’ time.
We’re not WIRED magazine, though. So don’t expect to hear from self-styled ‘futurists’ and ‘thought-leaders’ who spend more of their working days giving TED talks and writing Medium posts than actually sitting down and designing.
Instead, we’ve reached out to some professionals who are doing real-world work, to get a more grounded view of how they think things might progress. Here’s what they had to say…
Developer tools will change the game
As we move towards the mid-21st century, it’s indisputable that web design is going to become increasingly important. As people live more and more of their lives online, digital user experiences will be the rock on which almost every big organisation is built. But there’s one slight problem.
“There’s a demand for good software but broadly speaking, there aren’t enough good developers to build those things, ” says Craig Frost, designer at Pusher ( pusher.com). “And even if there were, infrastructure is something that takes lots and lots of time and attention – time that could be better spent on building features for customers.”
But here’s the good news: to plug that gap, we’re currently seeing an explosion in developer tools.
Pusher’s tools, for example, make it easy to build real-time features into applications, so they update automatically without users having to refresh the browser.
“We want to act as a force multiplier, to help end the reinventing of the wheel across the industry”, explains Frost. “There’s lots of infrastructure and all those types of things that goes into building software, and we want to take that burden away from the product building teams.”
Sebastian Witalec, developer advocate for mobility developer relations at Progress ( progress.com), tells a similar story. Its open source framework, NativeScript, enables you to build both desktop and mobile applications on a single codebase. “Once you would have needed five different teams to do that, each with skills that are totally untransferable, ” he points out. “Now you can leverage the web skills you already have to do it all.”
And the pay-off to all this is that web experiences will become quicker and cheaper to create, adds Frost.
“Building websites used to be slow, expensive, and hard to maintain. And it also meant you had to have a lot of skills, a lot of people. Now we’re putting the power back into the product builders’ hands. Which means you can spend less time maintaining these applications, more on customer needs. Having conversations with them, building things they need.” And how should we discover what users need? Funnily enough, that’s something that’s changing too…
Data meets design
The future is going to be all about bringing design and data together, believes Nathan Shetterley from global design and innovation company, Fjord ( fjordnet.com). “I think this will be the underpinning of not just all web design, but all business”, he says.
So what exactly does he mean by that? “I’m talking about designing an experience that’s helpful to the user and leverages data and analytics to make that personalised and contextualised,” he says. “So don’t give me an experience that’s meant for someone else; don’t treat me like a ‘between 25 and 40-year-old white male’. Treat me like Nathan Shetterley.”
This already happens with ads, he points out. “Google is crawling my Gmail to understand what I’m interested in and providing me with an ad specific to something that I probably have some interest in. But we don’t do it very well outside of ads.” Yet the technology infrastructure is there, so in his view, it’s just a matter of time. And this shift isn’t just going to apply to consumer experiences, but employee ones, too.
“How frustrated are you, say, with your internal tools for putting in expenses?” he asks. “Why doesn’t the system automatically say: ‘Look, I think these are all your expenses, is that true?’ And why is that not making your life as an
As people live more and more of their lives online, digital user experiences will be the rock on which almost every big organisation is built