As we cel­e­brate is­sue 300, we ask: what lies ahead for the web de­sign in­dus­try across the next 300 is­sues?

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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 ( “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 (, 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 trend for re­defin­ing how web sys­tems are cre­ated is most ob­vi­ously (and some­what) con­tro­ver­sially seen in the rise of Re­act and CSS in JavaScript.

“CSS in JavaScript is a big shift in how we de­sign apps”, says Haukur Páll Hal­l­varðs­son, an en­gi­neer from Pusher. “It’s step­ping away from the idea that HTML is con­tent, CSS is how it looks and JavaScript is what it does.” But he’s still fully in favour of it. “Fo­cus­ing on build­ing re­us­able com­po­nents solves a lot of prob­lems”, he ar­gues. “I think it’s good to change how we do things ev­ery now and then, to see if we can im­prove them.”

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 ( fjord­ “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

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