I’m taking a brief detour and talking about something other than user tolerance and action on your site. I read a couple of articles, which you’ve probably seen yourself, and felt a deep need to say something. Smashing Magazine published Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers? and the rebuttal, I Want To Be A Web Designer When I Grow Up, but something was missing.
Both articles focused on content and how it gets passed around. The problem is, there is a lot more going than just content on the web. What both articles overlook is the work of the web developer or web engineer. No, this isn’t an attempt to shoehorn engineers into this discussion. It’s about the fact that they are needed to produce function.
Beyond the world of content is a whole slew of function on the web. Web apps have become increasingly important in the landscape of the web. As a matter of fact, you’re currently visiting a web app. Yes, you’re seeing content, but you are also interacting with an application which allows me to manage and publish that content for you to see.
Other things which happen on the web include buying insurance, banking, playing games, posting comments, public forums, meeting whiteboards, chat and many other items which are missing from my list. Web applications are vital to the new web experience.
So, what about the web designers?
Web designers are needed to make all of the extant and constantly emerging applications sensible and enjoyable. Regardless of the particular language or server structure used to produce the web apps you use every day, one of the primary interfaces is still the browser. This means what is an application in one sense is a web page in another. Who designs these pages you see? Web designers.
This link between the design world and the application world has been developing for decades. Designers are vital in the production of web applications just as much as the engineers are. The world of applications today isn’t the same as it was even in the 1990’s.
Users crave satisfaction.
As little as 15 or 20 years ago, to simply have a working application was a feat unto itself. If you could enter input and get a meaningful result in return, the application was launched. People, today, expect more. They want to be able to enter what they need and get the meaningful output they expect, but they also desire rich interaction. They crave visually stimulating and sensible interfaces. Users have gotten more design savvy and they won’t stand for mediocre if they can have the best.
Regardless of where the content, which is fed from a website, is displayed, neither Facebook nor Google will ever be able to serve the function you provide on your site. Moreover, they will not give your user the experience they expect from your company. Only by interacting directly with YOUR site will the user ever find the satisfaction they seek.
Ultimately, the people responsible for bridging the gap between the engineer and the user are designers. Designers come in various flavors from the jack-of-all-trades to the specialist interaction, user experience and interface designers. Designers make the user comfortable. Designers provide the problem-solving expertise which is so crucial to making an interface meaningful and usable.
In the end, to say that the future of the internet has no room for designers would be just as foolish as saying the future of the internet has no place for engineers. I mean, there are all of these turnkey software packages out there, what do you need an engineer for?
Ultimately, engineers and designers are both critical to the web experience. They have been until now and the need is only expanding. Even as content is served out to other distribution channels, the home still needs to be somewhere. Even as content is still king, the sea of applications continues to expand. Much like Jell-O there is always room for designers. Go, design and make the web a better place.