The Web of Opportunity

Why there has never been a better time to be a Web Designer

It’s an exciting time to be a web designer. The rules are changing; skeuomorphism is dying a death, flat design is in. The conventions which designers adhere to are shifting. Yup, it’s definitely an exciting time. In fact, I’d argue that there has never been a better time to be involved in web design.

We all know that, as a medium, the web is still in it’s infancy. As such, the design conventions and rules which have so far governed it have been based on existing, physical concepts. The notion of menus being organised into tabs — not dissimilar to how sections of information might be displayed in a filing cabinet — and terms like ‘above the fold’ — synonymous with newspaper layout — have been commonplace in web design since the beginning. All are familiar visual clues designed to help the ordinary user find their way around in new, unfamiliar territory.

But things are changing. Generations are now growing up web-literate practically from birth; we ourselves (myself as part of the last generation to grow up with a dial-up connection) are learning to navigate the space in new ways. The training wheels are coming off and designers are perfectly placed to take advantage.

Internet Explorer — “Let’s burn it down!”

As support for past generations of the unfathomably awful Internet Explorer dies away, the web is growing up. The ways we look to present information as UX and UI designers have changed; we’ve been let off the leash. The increasing abandonment of skeuomorphic design feels like a direct response to that; a rebellious two fingers up to the standards and conventions that went before.

It’s certainly fascinating to be able to design for a medium where the possibilities are evolving at pace, but it’s a difficult line to walk. The new-found capabilities that HTML5 and CSS3 allow for mean that we are in danger of returning to the dark days of Flash-esque websites, where torturous loading screens were common place and people designed complex interactions because they could — not because they should. Having more choice and opportunity at our disposal should mean more focus on the user experience, not less. We are no longer restricted by fixed widths, tables and styling limitations; we can create beautifully simplistic websites that are a joy to use on any screen size. The shift towards a greater focus on typography means that the stuff at the very heart of it all — the information — is at last put front and centre.

As designers, keeping track of the latest trends is written into our DNA. As the web changes it’s about walking the fine line between continued innovation and usability through familiarity. Ultimately it’s about designing an experience that feels like second nature to the user on a platform which is inherently anything but. Whatever the future holds for designing the web, it’s definitely the place to be.

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