Death and transformation in web design

About 16 days ago I prophesized the death of web design in my oh-so verbose post. In hindsight, I do think many elements of web design are going to die, but I also think in death will be a transformation.

In many regards, web design has not changed significantly since its founding days in the ’90s. Most sites are created as static presences with text that users can consume and perhaps a contact form that can be used to transmit a simple message. This method of communication has become so branded on the internet that it seems almost routine to set it up for any organization.

That’s not a bad thing. Organizations should communicate with people online. The internet offers the ability to communicate with the most people at the cheapest rates.

However, I think web design is due for some death and transformation. No longer can organizations just idly post content. They must engage. They must reach out to their market and actively communicate with people. They must build a brand online that can be accessed, discussed and followed with ease.

Right now, much of the web is passive. There is little interaction and few ways to connect with most organizations.

Web design as a concept won’t die anytime soon, but the methods that have engulfed it will — they must — and a new breed of communication will emerge. I look forward to it.

The death of web design

Ah, web design, good’re about to die. That’s right. Web design is on its deathbed. There are no cures or operations that can save it. Web design is dying.

If you’re a web designer and reading this then you’ve probably put down your coffee and asked yourself what the hell I’m talking about. I’m a designer, too, so let me shed some light on the grim death of web design.

Web design started pretty much around 1995 or whenever companies decided it was a good idea to get online. It was the birth of a new level of communication. It was pretty freaking exciting, too (though, at the time, I was 11 and had more pressing concerns such as the release of Independence Day).

As companies scrambled to get online, web design became a new, uncharted avenue for making money. To know HTML, DHTML and JavaScript in those days was like having a PhD, but you didn’t have to pay gazillions of dollars to acquire those skills! So some smart fool started selling these skills.

When you have one guy raking in boatloads of money for something that’s actually pretty easy to do, it catches on. The next guy opens shop and says, “I can do what that guy’s doing and I can do it better.” Now you have new people with new skills and ideas permeating the new found web design industry. It’s pretty cool, especially during the dot com bubble. Imagine gobs of money. Don’t I wish I had started web design back then? That’s a different story.Keep Reading

Who’s the designer? You or the client?

I experienced two separate incidents this week in which I had a client complain about pretty significant things with my designs. Normally, during the mock-up stage, I’m all ears for critical feedback but these complaints surfaced after the sites had been designed and built. I guess that was just the frosting on the cake.

The more important thing is deciding who the designer is on the project. I’m serious. Is it the designer or the client? The client brought the designer on supposedly because they need a web site created. That’s the purpose of the designer and the job they have been paid to do. I can appreciate client input during the design process — in fact I wholeheartedly welcome it — but there comes a point when I just want to say, “Why did you hire me? You’re obviously a very capable designer.”

But then it strikes. Why are they doing my job?

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered. Sometimes it’s because they’re a control freak and can’t let any detail escape their approval. Other times they just don’t know better. Actually, I guess those are really the only cases I run into.

There are different solutions I apply to these two situations. For the control freak, I have to stroke their ego. It sucks and I hate it, but if it gets the job done, then I’ll do it. These people are typically overbearing and at times annoying. The best way to deal with them is by reaffirming their status and — unfortunately — by running every little thing by them. I try to keep them in the loop every step of the way so that they feel involved and important. Usually, if I do it this way, I don’t get the major complaints at the end of the project. And if I do, I just explain the decision processes that we both went through.

The other type of client who doesn’t know any better just needs a little hand holding. Typically, strong communication and clear explanations of “how it is” will get them to calm down.

Finally, I find it important to just hold my own at times. If someone’s complaining about a design decision I made, I’ll look at them pointedly and say, “Look. This is my job. I designed it this way because I want to maximize the potential of the site. Here is the methodology behind my approach.. yadda yadda..” Well, I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as that, but you catch my drift.

This isn’t about feeling insecure because a client doesn’t like my work. This is about defending my profession and not letting someone who frankly doesn’t know anything about creating web sites take control of the project and destroy it. This is the cold reality of it.

Besides, would you ever tell your doctor how to do their job?

Forget the Details

I just spent nearly an hour trying to get some little piece of code to work. The strange thing is that the code wasn’t that essential and could definitely wait. Nevertheless, I kept chugging along trying to get the damn thing to work. Needless to say, I didn’t get it to work and before I knew it I had lost a good chunk of important time.

I’m the type of person to get sucked into the nitty gritty details of everything. Whether it’s trying to get the right color or tighten a screw just the right amount, I’m all over it. It might be cool that it comes out perfectly except for the fact that it’s a total waste of time. No one cares that there’s a tiny detail out of place. Nobody even notices. Why should I?

The problem with people like me is that we get in our own way. We know that the finer details can wait but our mind isn’t right until it’s correctly implemented. I don’t know, maybe it’s a bit OCD or something.

I just need to keep reminding myself to forget the details. Is that something you can practice?

Building Dynamic Navigation Using JavaScript and jQuery

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m pretty new to JavaScript and jQuery, so as a disclaimer, my coding may not be perfect or concise. With that said, I’m going to explain how to build dynamic navigation highlighting using a little JavaScript and jQuery. The first step is to explain the problem.

Most web sites that follow good usability practices will tell visitors where they are on the site. It’s kind of like that directory map in a shopping mall with the big red “YOU ARE HERE” arrow. On web sites, this is usually accomplished by highlighting or shading the navigation object that the user is currently on.

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Don’t Let Web Clients Walk All Over You

Web design and design work in general is an interesting industry when it comes to client interaction. We need the client to help us lay the foundation for our design work, but at the same time, we need to be careful not let the client have too much say.

Many designers in all fields, myself included, have let clients walk all over them. We’ve let clients dictate exact design direction, tell us what to do, and advise us on what resources to use. This needs to change.

First of all, web designers need to rethink their title. We’re more than designers, we must become information architects. We’re not just making things look good, we’re also making critical decisions on how to organize information, create conversion paths, and ultimately design a presence that will support an entire organization in a huge communication channel.

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My Meeting Length Philosophy

Meetings are a great method for sharing information, developing task items, getting feedback, and so forth. However, I think meetings outlive their effectiveness once they reach a certain length threshold.

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Valuing Your Time and 3 Simple Measurements

Time value is an underrated concept. We spend so much time committing ourselves to such meaningless engagements. The problem is that most people live through the eyes of tunnel vision with a narrow focus on things that will only have a short-term impact.

How does one devalue their time? There are many examples. Excessive social outings, trying to tackle tasks that you can pay someone else to do, too much entertainment, driving, email, doing things inefficiently, and so on.

When valuing time, there are three primary things I try to weigh:

  1. Time Commitment
  2. Opportunity Cost
  3. Level of Satisfaction

Measuring time commitment is simple. How much time will I need to dedicate toward this task or outing? Opportunity cost is also pretty basic stuff. What am I giving up by spending my time on this certain task or outing? For example, I could spend two hours working out or I could spend those two hours reading a technical book to increase my knowledge. Measuring what is more valuable is difficult, though, which is why I include the third item. Level of satisfaction helps me determine how fulfilled the task or outing will make me feel relatively speaking. Will I be happier if I worked out or if I read the book?

The idea of valuing your time extends beyond personal life and should play an important role in business as well. In business, there are real costs and real opportunity costs that may be more measurable as opposed to personal life.

The insane thing is that all of this is straightforward and doable, but a majority of people can’t manage it. That’s why it’s an advantage to you to value your time.

The State of the Web Design Industry (Web Design)

As a member of the web design industry, I’ve been immersed in the going-ons of various industry trends, practices, and activities. For my own benefit, I think it’s critical to assess and analyze the state of the web design industry.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that is happening in the industry. To make such a list would be too exhaustive. Instead, I boiled my list down to the few items that I think will have an impact on the industry within the next six to 12 months.

I would also impress upon those not in the web design field to skim through this. Many of these trends extend beyond web design into other industries. The web is tying things together. To operate successfully in most fields today, you must have a solid understanding of how the web works. This list could help you direct where you need to improve your own knowledge.

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Bubble Frames – Rapid Prototype Wireframes (Ideas)

Whenever I start a new web project, I want to conceptualize, and fast. Ideas seem to flow at a rapid pace in short intervals, making it hard to capture everything. I’m a huge proponent of rapid prototyping. I want to take as many of those ideas as I can, build a quick prototype, take a step back and then carefully analyze everything.

The best ideas are born in those critical few moments that you rapid prototype. And over time, those ideas can be melded into something that is truly incredible.

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