Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?

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Update (27.09.2010): this article caused quite a heated debate in the design community. Please read the rebuttal of this article, called I Want To Be A Web Designer When I Grow Up131 here, at Smashing Magazine.

— Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine

It seems that new posts about what the Internet has in store for us down the road pop up every week or two. Some propose that the Internet will deliver more of the same, but different somehow (it’s usually ambiguous just how), while others propose such radical changes that it’s hard to believe they could ever happen. And the truth is, none of us really know what will happen with the Internet in 10 or 15 years.

After all, it was only a little more than 15 years ago that Clifford Stoll wrote the now-infamous “The Internet? Bah!2” post (subtitled: “Hype Alert, Why Cyberspace Isn’t, and Will Never Be, Nirvana”). In that post he detailed why a lot of things just wouldn’t happen online but most of which are now commonplace.

As web designers and developers, what the future holds for the Internet is imperative for our livelihoods. If the Internet has radical changes in store for us, we need to understand how they might effect what we do to earn a living and what we’ll need to do to adapt and keep pace — if that’s even possible.

The Future is Content and Data

Look at your mobile phone. If you’re like most tech-savvy consumers, you’ve likely got a smartphone of the Apple or Android variety (or maybe a Blackberry, especially if you’re working in the corporate world). Most of us use our smartphones on a near-constant basis doing everything from checking email to working on projects to entertaining ourselves. How much of all that do you do in your phone’s browser?

The answer is probably “not much”.

We use an app to check email. We use the Facebook app for status updates. We use Twidroid or TweetDeck or the official Twitter app for tweeting. We use a YouTube app to watch videos. We use the Pandora or Last.fm apps for streaming music.

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Mozilla Prism4 is an application that lets users split web applications out of their browser and run them directly on their desktop. Is this the future of mobile applications?

It’s likely a similar scenario on our desktop or laptop computer. We use apps for a lot of our common Internet-based activities. We even have options to create our own apps with single-site browsers (like Fluid5 or Prism6). And Google’s Chrome OS7 is just around the corner with devices already planned to use the web-based OS.

Content is king and design is becoming less relevant – we’re already seeing this with mobile themes

Look at how many WordPress sites use one of less than a handful of standard mobile themes. It doesn’t matter what the site looks like in a standard browser; open it up in your mobile browser and you’re often greeted with a page that looks exactly like the last 10 sites you visited.

This is because for most users, design is irrelevant. That’s not to say they don’t appreciate good design. Many of them do (and many of them don’t). But they’re on a website because of the content. They don’t care about visual design, and they don’t care about interaction designer that much, either: as long as the design doesn’t give them a headache or interfere with their ability to find what they want, they don’t really care how exactly it looks like or how exactly it is working. The most widely-used mobile themes offer the content in an optimized format for mobile viewing. That makes users happy.

It is not just apps that reduce the need to visit a website

It’s not just apps that will pull data directly, without the need for an actual website. Devices are making real headway in this manner. We have cars now that can pull information from the Internet for you. Soon devices for Google TV will be out in the marketplace, pulling video content from the Internet without the need to visit a website.

Google TV8
Soon devices for Google TV9 will be out in the marketplace, pulling video content from the Internet without the need to visit a website.

It’s likely that more devices will add Internet integration in the near future. At some point we’ll probably have refrigerators that automatically generate shopping lists for us (including any available coupons and where the best prices can be found that week): based on previous shopping habits; what we currently have; and our average usage rates for different foods. This is just one example of how online data and content will become infinitely more important than the designs surrounding that content.

Content Will Be Funneled Through a Handful of Sources

It’s impractical to have apps for every website we visit. Most of us visit hundreds or thousands of websites every year. What’s more likely to happen is that most of our content will be delivered through aggregators.

Who will these aggregators be?

Currently, there are three big players on the Internet that are likely to continue to be the primary content delivery platforms. Who are they? Twitter, Facebook and Google. Think about where you spend most of your time online and you’re likely going to find that those are the sites you visit most often. This market share is only going to increase.

Facebook is already trying to be the Internet

Look at how much content is now aggregated through Facebook. They have pages for virtually every topic under the sun (most of which have canned content taken directly from Wikipedia). Post a YouTube video to Facebook and your friends can watch it right there, without ever leaving Facebook. Even third-party applications like Networked Blogs stick pretty closely to the Facebook environment.

Facebook apps10
Post a YouTube video to Facebook and your friends can watch it right there, without ever leaving Facebook. Even third-party applications like Networked Blogs stick pretty closely to the Facebook environment.

Besides that, look at the gaming environment that’s cropped up on Facebook. I’ve lost track of how many updates in my news feed are directly related to games like Farmville or Mafia Wars. Facebook has grown into such a complete online ecosystem that many users might never find a reason to leave. Facebook shows no signs of slowing down either. They’re expanding their business and their reach – a trend that’s likely to continue for as long as they can sustain it.

Google wants everything to go through them

Google already has its hands in virtually everything online. It has two operating systems (Chrome OS and Android), its own browser, web applications that allow you to do a lot of things that used to be limited to desktop applications and the most-used search engine in the world put it in a pretty solid position to continue to be a major stakeholder in the future Internet.

Google is also one of the more forward thinking and active participants in Internet policy and technology. It has a vested interest in how the Internet shapes up in coming years and will push to shape that Internet in a way that benefits its business model. I can see a future where Google doesn’t just offer a list of search engine results, but actually shows you the content you’re looking for without ever leaving their sites.

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If you look at Google’s complete product offering, it’s easy to see that it wants to be the primary online destination for most people (or maybe even all people). Google is firmly positioned in blogging, video, search, business applications, webmaster tools, ecommerce and even phone services – expect its reach to expand even more.

Is there room for other services?

There are always going to be innovative startups online. Most will fall by the wayside soon after they’re started or are absorbed into other established companies. A select few will go on to become major influencers online. It’s unclear at the moment where there’s room for new companies and services online. The idea of more location-based services (going beyond FourSquare, et al) is probably the most promising as well as services that go beyond normal Internet activities and integrate into daily life more.

Function Will Prevail over Form

If everyone is accessing web content through an app rather than a browser, then no one will care what a website looks like. The way it functions and the content it delivers will become the paramount concerns to users. There will be no more balancing of form and function on a website; function will override form.

Form will retain a place in the design of apps. In all likelihood, content will be open to the extent that APIs will be developed that anyone can then use in application development – so the form in which an app displays that data will become what separates the good from the bad, the great from the mediocre.

There are Advantages…

There are some big advantages to this kind of model where apps and a small number of content aggregators deliver and control most of the content online. One issue is bandwidth. If there’s no design being transferred to a device (because the application on the device already includes all the design elements), that saves bandwidth. As more and more activities are done online, we’re going to have to consider infrastructure costs. Lower bandwidth use per site will result in more bandwidth available.

Another advantage is that there’s more potential for user control. Users can define their preferences on their device and see content in the way they want. This especially has positive implications when it comes to accessibility. Those who need special settings because of a disability will no longer have issues with unviewable content.

Technical advantages

Let’s face it: the technologies upon which the Internet is built aren’t the most efficient ones available. Part of this has to do with building upon infrastructure that isn’t as good as it could be. The Internet has to be backwards-compatible over very long periods of time. We can’t just suddenly change things, even if it is to make things work better in the future, if it causes half the sites out there to no longer function.

With a content-based Internet that uses device-side applications for displaying data and performing tasks, we can create more efficient applications. We won’t need to make sure each application can handle a huge variety of content and processes (as browsers currently have to do), because we’ll know exactly the kinds of data that application will need to process.

What Does It Mean for Users?

Practically, users will have a more integrated experience with the content they view and the services they use online. The Internet will become even more a part of everyday life, incorporated to such an extent that it’s seamless. It’s already happening in bits and pieces.

Again, look at your phone. You probably use apps or widgets for things like checking the weather or generating a shopping list. These apps will become more integrated and will work better with the data available online. For example, you could use that shopping list to automatically find the best prices on products, either online or at your local stores. In all likelihood, that data would be aggregated through a service like Google Base.

One profile fits all

An online profile will become even more important for users. Rather than setting up every device or service you have, you’ll simply authorize the device to grab your profile and preference information from the web. Security and privacy experts will have a field day with this, but most consumers will opt to use it anyway if it means the difference between going through a two-hour manual setup process or clicking a button and authorizing it to set everything up automatically.

What Does It Mean for the Web Design Industry?

So what does this all boil down to? If the web becomes app-based and content-based, where do web designers fit in — if at all? The bad news is that if the Internet starts relying much more heavily on access via app rather than browser, there’s going to be a lot less demand for web designers. Companies won’t see the point in hiring someone to create an entirely bespoke website when they can just use a template and then feed all their content to Google and Facebook and Twitter.

Developers, on the other hand, will likely see a boom in business. A lot of money will be exchanging hands for apps that work better than current offerings and apps that might be able to undermine the big players. Of course, all these apps also need design work, but it will be a lot less demand than there is now for website design. It’s likely a lot of designers will need to expand their offerings to cater to content creation rather than just web design.

Websites aren’t going to go away any time soon. It’s likely that there will be a bigger market for templates and themes as companies stop paying for custom designs. And there will be certain kinds of sites (like portfolios or art projects) that will always want to be designed.

Multimedia content will also still have a strong market. Those who can produce high-quality videos and even web-based apps (for things like Chrome OS) will have a strong business for years to come.

Who Wins in All This?

If there’s a definite winner in this possible future Internet, it is the content creators. If the only thing that sets one company or organization apart from their competition, then those who can create high-quality content will be in high demand. The thousands of dollars that a company used to be spent on website design will be funneled into website content instead.

Users will also benefit as they’ll have a more integrated, customized experience. Their version of the Internet will be tailored specifically to them, based on their own wants and needs. They’ll get content in the manner they prefer and find most usable.

Application developers will also likely win in all this. While the APIs and the data available will be pretty standardized, the manner in which it’s displayed will become a battleground of creativity. Innovation here will be key, doing something different and better than what everyone else is doing is the only way an app will stand out.

Update

Update (26.09.2010): We’ve got quite many negative responses for this article, like Web Designers Won’t Die Out, They Will Transition12. At Smashing Magazine, we are aiming for strong, high quality articles and after reading the article we do think that it raises some valid points, and now in retrospect we understand why the title and the content may appear to be aggressive. We also can see where the accusation of trying to be sensationalist comes from. But it was never the intention of the article.

We are trying to do our best to provide only relevant and high qualilty content, but apparently sometimes we see our things differently than our readers do. We do appreciate constructive criticism like the above post on Drawar. And we are listening to what you are saying. And we will certainly keep it in mind for our future articles.

Update (27.09.2010): this article caused quite a heated debate in the design community. Please read the rebuttal of this article, called I Want To Be A Web Designer When I Grow Up131 here, at Smashing Magazine.

— Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine

(afb)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/09/27/i-want-to-be-a-web-designer-when-i-grow-up/
  2. 2 http://www.newsweek.com/1995/02/26/the-internet-bah.html
  3. 3 http://prism.mozillalabs.com/
  4. 4 http://prism.mozillalabs.com/
  5. 5 http://fluidapp.com/
  6. 6 http://prism.mozillalabs.com/
  7. 7 http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html
  8. 8 http://www.google.com/tv/
  9. 9 http://www.google.com/tv/
  10. 10 http://www.facebook.com/press/files.php
  11. 11 https://www.google.com/accounts/ManageAccount
  12. 12 http://www.drawar.com/posts/Web-Designers-Won-t-Die-Out--They-Will-Transition
  13. 13 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/09/27/i-want-to-be-a-web-designer-when-i-grow-up/

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Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of The Smashing Idea Book: From Inspiration to Application.

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  1. 1

    I am a creative director going on 12 years now and I love this site and feel like it is filled with helpful and insightful content, however this article is a total FAIL. I might be over simplifying this, but people/companies will always want unique and good looking designs. Whether you are called a “Web Designer” or a “Web Developer”, we will evolve the same way as “Traditional Media Designers” have in the past. I have a simple question for you. When you buy clothing, what is your first thought?…. Ah!

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    • 102

      AMEN. I love SM but this… really makes me not want to WASTE my time on this site… this actually got approved? wow.

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  2. 203

    As some-one who has authored many web page, and used many of the features described to eliminate web site dev/design, I am only left believing the author has no understanding of how this all works.

    If you use a web service like reddit or digg , then this is what they are doing, where it runs locally of via a web the page still has to exist in order to access the information. When it comes down to it, people will rather hit a web site to do the aggregation than load apps on there PC, phone, iPad, TV… So anyone doing the aggregation needs designs and developers and they are only going to access sites that have web accessibility

    What is happening is people do not want to visit 30 sites to get there daily dose. So sites that can merge all the social media together, all the RSS data or whatever. So really the is an increase in demand not a decrease. In the big picture, if you think to get a access you need an account, and to get an account you have to visit the site.

    So don’t worry about dev/design ever disappearing, but as a user you may appreciate not having to visit N sites to get what you want. AJAX or whatever still requires the site exists, if its accessed in the background and you don’t see it in you web or local application.

    I use tooledo (http://www.toodledo.com/index.php) who offer the options described which reduce development and if you think about it, it requires an incredible amount of development.

    If the direction was simple text then designers would already be obsolete. HTML5 is just going to explode abilities where users be should be able to get more desktop abilities on a web page, essentially what silverlight, air, javaFX are offering. The capabilities will not be available unless you visit the site. Aggregators today still point you back to the original site.

    I use an app called MIRO which will automatically downloads new video’s for me so I can view them locally. So yes I agree there will be more of these sites/apps available but it will never decrease the demand for design and quite the opposite for development.

    I’m sure I will not visit or comment ever again. The author has NO experience as described in her bio (6yrs). Young inexperienced people have time for these things like blogs, experienced developers and designers don’t have the time as there too busy.

    I got to this page via Digg, so now I am disappointed I even came here. I’m sick of commenting on something where the author has no scope outside her cubical.

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  3. 304

    As long as web designers understand the fundamentals of design itself and interaction design there will always be a place for them, whether they are called web designers or not.

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  4. 405

    This is an interesting, timely topic. As content becomes front and center – as it really always was, just more online now, web designers could find themselves at a crossroads.

    I don’t think, though, that web design is dead or dying. I just think that aggregation is on the rise. Like someone pointed out above, though – it needs to originate somewhere, and that point of origin can’t look like a piece of crap.

    To stay relevant, I’d encourage web designers to go and further their education and study user-interface design. That’s a critical skill that’s very much needed, especially in developing web applications.

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  5. 506

    Google Chrome has “mozilla Prism” built in, check it out it’s called “create application shortcut” under the wrench menu.

    Clifford Stoll, wow, i hope this guy isn’t in charge of ANYTHING at ALL. This guy obviously can’t see a foot into the future when people who knew what they were talking about did. Stoll’s article is written brain dead.

    “for most users, design is irrelevant”… you sound like Clifford Stoll… seriously… compare web pages to android and iphone apps, MOST PEOPLE, will chose the better looking app OVER the one with a few more features. I think you’re pretty much just wrong, but time will tell. The lack of WELL DESIGNED and FREE mobile themes is the variable.

    I read a lot of this article, some of it was common sense, and a lot of it was just plain retarded. You shouldn’t be running any website, not even your tooth brushing schedule. Just another example of how any moron can get attention.

    -1 for SM for publishing this piece of crap.

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  6. 607

    Confusing… you are talking about only for 30% or less population. [FYI – http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

    I think still 60-70% population doesn’t have internet and they are doing manual transactions, I hope they will start use of internet in next 4-5 years but obviously always design is & will be major part of applications/web or any device.

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  7. 708

    Content was always more important than design, though. This isn’t new. There was never a point where we favored form over function.

    I think the limitations of our devices and how we interact with them has caused design to take a backseat, but this is temporary. Just as design evolved for desktop web over time, the same will happen with mobile/tablet/TV as those devices become more sophisticated in handling the web. Right now we’re in a transitional period where design has taken somewhat of a backseat, but it’ll be back, because people will always favor that which is functional AND aesthetically pleasing over that which is merely functional.

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  8. 809

    This is a great article, it is worrying how big these sites are getting and how users don’t understand if they are using a browser or not. I use Facebook and YouTube for my content and it is hard sometimes to give them content for free.

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  9. 910

    CONTENT IS THE KING – I agree with you
    but, I dont think that everyone will go for templates in the future.
    coz, everyone need to show a difference in their page.
    Web will go for minimal ,userfriendliness and interactive.

    In my openion, web designers in the future will not be a photoshop artist,
    they will be a designer with knowledge in interactive programming ( at that time Jquery or other libraries will be something BIG)
    So dont worry Designers… DESIGNER IS THE KING :)

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  10. 1011

    Looking forward to the future myself.
    Agree that design, to a certain degree, is becoming less relevant while content is and always be king.
    Get me the facts, the data, the goods and get it to me fast. Encapsulate the data with a bit of design, works perfect with me.

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  11. 1112

    I’ve been a designer for over 20 years so I have a lot to say on this subject. First of all is a description of what truly makes design a profession.

    I love this quote:
    “At Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design, we believe design to be a humanistic discipline: the art of conceiving, planning and shaping products that are made to serve people in answer to their individual and collective needs and desires.”

    For as long as I can remember when I tell people that I am a Designer they automatically respond by saying one of two things. Rarely does anyone ask what I love to design or about design in general. Instead they ask 1.) Could you build my website? or 2.) Would you make a logo for my business card?

    This behavior is so common today because the average person has been trained by “professional designers”, impostors really, to think that design is about making things look pretty. This has been a huge error! Aesthetics can be a part of design but it only shines when it works seamlessly with the function of the design as a whole.

    In reality, for a design to truly work, the design must get out of the way. The most honest designers (only you know who you are;) are the ones that understand how to find this solution.

    So, don’t fret. Designers of all kinds will never be out of work unless they forget what their purpose is in the first place. This article shows that many of those that call themselves designers will be forgetting and failing fairly soon. The purpose is the user… duh!

    Want some inspiration?
    Read Design View by Andy Rutledge
    http://www.andyrutledge.com/

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  12. 1213

    Nice article that makes you think. One important thing left out imho, is the fact that many brands will always want their unique recognizable custom design. For them it’s the main thing that separates them from their competitors. And don’t forget that customers also are emotional about it. On the other hand, I bet lost of customers don’t care too much about web design if the price is right (be it low or exclusively high).

    -1
  13. 1314

    It is like saying, if all our clothes become Bikini, there would be no more fashion designers! On the contrary, you will need brilliant designers, who innovate in that small canvas. Same holds good for the web! Even if the entire web is going to be mobile…

    Big Screens
    So sad, we are blindsided by small screens! The revolution that is silently happening is bringing web to your TV. When you have such a big screen, there is some room for branding, and all that related with it!

    (The biggest irony is that the author address TV, and still is blindfolded by the fact. If she cares to look at the video, that she has embedded, there are webpages, which needs to be designed. Like the ESPN, and stuff)

    In future designers would be solving problems of interaction for various devices. You should end up tailoring the same site different screen sizes, from mobile to tv, and interaction – remote to touch. More problems to solve means more work!

    Mobile.
    Given a choice I would want people to read my content on a browser at home than read it in a mobile. Bcos mobile is suited to read the news, and the comment your buddy has posted on faebook. But if you want to read about a break through article, Mobile is not the best device, with all its distractions!

    Content
    Content is NOT the King. Content plays a part. Interaction plays a part. Design plays a part. That is it. Age of Kings are gone!!! If you still are interested in having something king, make that as Business. The trade is the real king! That is the end goal!

    Saying that content is the king is like telling that material is the king in the dress that you wear. It is wrong. It just plays a part.

    Take wikipedia. Content is totally crowd sourced. Content is the crowd. Interestingly enough, if you look at the Wikipedia Staff, – http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Staff – Only Programmers/Designers are paid!!! Interestingly there are NO Editors!

    At best, this article is the response to fear after reading Chris Anderson’s Wired Article – Web is Dead. Lets move on. Could have been better folks.

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  14. 1415

    you are absolutely correct, since creating and maintaining your own website is expensive,because creating a website needs a professional web designer he needs a professional fee and your website domain needs also a periodic payment, isnt it? so how about, say using face book and create your own website insite it for free…no need to pay for your domain… just needs develop the web content of your webcontent with-in a web site say facebook and thats it!!

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  15. 1516

    by the way we can use Flash and fireworks formated pictures isnt it..?

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  16. 1617

    @Vitaly: Fire Cameron FOR GOD’S SAKE!!

    -2
  17. 1718

    I think that too often people confuse design and decoration. The designer as architect will always have a place.

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  18. 1819

    Even though things are starting to take change and go mobile for the internet, that does not mean that the Desktop/Laptop is going to be outdated. Many people do not mind using their mobile devices to access the internet, but like myself and many others I have spoken to about this article, mobile internet will ever be the same as sitting in front of a computer. It is a better experience than viewing the internet on a small screen.

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  19. 1920

    I agree 1,000,000% with this article. I’m spending less and less time on upping my design skills and more & more time upping my OOP skills because of this premise.

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  20. 2021

    This is a good article, but I think it takes a very “either/or” approach.

    Mobile apps are growing, true – but they are their own area. I’m not sure how much they take away from regular browser use, if at all. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    It may be true that design doesn’t matter a whole lot on mobile apps, but I don’t believe for one second that this is the case on a regular browser. Content *can* bring me back, but a great looking site *with* content will win my attention everytime.

    It’s waaaaaayyyy too early to be forcasting the end of webdesign, and Stoll like to see the future of the web as being primarily mobile based.

    Mobile is a new thing & it works – so it is taking off. It has been, and will continue to take a slice of the overall pie, but it also creates a new pie while it does this.

    Think of it this way…. you can play games on a DS, but that doesn’t mean that game counsels like WII, PlayStation, or XBox are in any danger of going extinct. Neither are their game designers.

    I realize that this post wasn’t so much a declaration that web design is coming to an end, but it was rather fatalistic sounding. I really believe that web design is just taking off. Think of how many companies STILL don’t have a presence (or have a very poor presence) online and then consider the possibilities. Now add to that new innovations, technologies, and needs – and there is no danger of any designer or developer going extinct anytime soon.

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  21. 2122

    My response was too long for a comment. To say I don’t agree with the article might be an understatement. I understand where the author is coming from, but logic being used is a bit flawed.

    http://www.drawar.com/posts/Web-Designers-Won-t-Die-Out–They-Will-Transition

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  22. 2223

    Im sorry, but i must disagree completely with this post.
    I am a programmer, and studying Industrial Design BECAUSE i discovered that the form in that you present data its NOT just mere decoration. It adds to the function of the content your displaying. Without it, its just a spreedsheet.

    Function and form are NOT different nor separated. Function and form are part of the same thing. I dont think anyone want to see the web as a spreedsheet of data (well, maybe me) especially on this times where we see and overflow of raw data all over the intertubes.

    Design its not making things look pretty, it making it usefull and relevant. Its what provides the right context AND form to the information the user its looking for.

    You are completly loosing the point, if the user DONT see the desing THEN its a good design. Because it feels like the natural way the data should be seen.

    The future will have A LOT of room for designers who know how to do their job, and not just making things pretty.

    BTW: sorry for my english, not my main language :)

    PS: this remembered me of the article on wired “The internet is dead”.

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  23. 2324

    Spoken like a true compassionate liberal I see.

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  24. 2425

    You are trying to predict the future, assuming that things like internet speed and mobile processors/battery live will not improve. The main reason for using apps is that they are faster, and sometimes they offer functionalities not available to the web browser.

    It is likely that the internet speed and device capabilities will improve in the future, bridging the gap in performance between apps and websites. It is also equally likely that the browsers will include additional (desktop like) functionality. They are already doing it (html5).

    I agree that UX elements will get more consistent, but that does not remove the designers from the equation.

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  25. 2526

    STRONGLY DISAGREE!
    Web design is what differentiates companies and communicates what a brand is all about. You don’t choose a restaurant only looking at the menu items and price. You need to be seduced by their brand. Businesses will always need designers to work in new concepts that will separate them from the pack no matter the medium.

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  26. 2627

    Great article which was NOT written in Facebook, which makes me believe that aggregators like Facebook (yes, currently there is almost NO orginal content in Facebook) will not lead to the decline of websites but a change how websites interact with other services.
    Websites will see the need to serve certain APIs in order to communicate to the big social networks and apps (fb, twitter, linkedin,…).
    Yes, we use a lot of apps on mobile devices. But lets face it: where was this article written and where was this website designed and even Facebook? On a mobile device? No way.
    The mobile web (apps) are for “to go” but serious (corporate) work is done on real computers with large screens and the capability to run both: apps AND browsers.
    So we need to differentiate between mobile content and content for the PC…

    Anyway, as long as I read great articles like this in a browser on a website I don’t see websites going away :-).

    Andreas

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  27. 2728

    The article you linked to in the intro as a good example of a journalist getting it wrong is quite ironic. Perhaps, if smashing mag manages to stay going for that long, we will probably link to this in 10-15 years and have a good old laugh about it.

    Just a quick tip, you would make your arguments and articles so much more credible if when you made a massively sweeping generalisation you cited a source to confirm your thoughts. Allow me to expand on this a little.

    “If everyone is accessing web content through an app rather than a browser, then no one will care what a website looks like.” – Wont they? has a data sample been taken form a survey or similar to suggest this is the case? Or is this just a guess?

    “This is because for most users, design is irrelevant. That’s not to say they don’t appreciate good design. Many of them do (and many of them don’t).” – Can we see the figures that suggest this is true? Maybe a comparison study between an app with no design merit and one that’s been crafted by a skilled designer – both offering exactly the same content – which one proved to be more popular? I’m assuming you did this study before writing this dribble but decided not to link to the results?

    “At some point we’ll probably have refrigerators that automatically generate shopping lists for us (including any available coupons and where the best prices can be found that week): based on previous shopping habits; what we currently have; and our average usage rates for different foods. This is just one example of how online data and content will become infinitely more important than the designs surrounding that content.” – Your right (wow) we may well see this technology emerging, but that doesnt mean electrolux wont spend thousands on making the GUI easy to use and appealing on the eye.

    “Look at how much content is now aggregated through Facebook. They have pages for virtually every topic under the sun (most of which have canned content taken directly from Wikipedia). Post a YouTube video to Facebook and your friends can watch it right there, without ever leaving Facebook. Even third-party applications like Networked Blogs stick pretty closely to the Facebook environment.” – Indeed, and a lot of this success is though a recognisable visual style that many of the less net savvy users can understand, trust and enjoy using. That’s good design.

    “Let’s face it: the technologies upon which the Internet is built aren’t the most efficient ones available. Part of this has to do with building upon infrastructure that isn’t as good as it could be.” – Are you talking about the actual backbone of servers across the world that make up “the internet” as we know it? I’m not going to get into that as I don’t know much about it, nor do you, so lets not try and write about it.

    I could go on picking quotes out like this all day. You could say I’m being pedantic asking for references sources and studies to back up the article, but this is important stuff, as you say yourself, its our livelihood. If I’m reading something that’s telling me I need to get another job, I’m going to question its validity.

    4
    • 2829

      Thanks for this awesome comment. I also would like to see some numbers in there or they are only assumptions?

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  28. 2930

    This is the third article from the same author i have read that seems to have been written in a rush. Not much research and a lot of assumptions.

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  29. 3031

    I always felt the term “web designer” was a confusing label and have tried to distance myself from it since I began. I’m a graphic designer/art director/creative director — the fact that 90%+ of my work is related to the web is incidental.

    The fundamental principles of design should be transferable to any delivery medium, be it websites, applications, or something else.

    I also don’t see content aggregators (which themself always require branding and design) as an indicator that the need for custom design is diminishing; not everyone who now publishes content to a generic blog system, FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr, etc, would have ever had a custom designed website to begin with. Most wouldn’t have, I think.

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  30. 3132

    Well let’s see… I do agree with your thesis that in the future web designers won’t have enough opportunities because of all those apps etc.. but I believe with no doubt that web design won’t die out! There would still be room for it… many people who do not use these apps would be interested in actual websites with an innovative, aesthetic, unique design. In my opinion if there would be a transition in the role of web design the transition would be a good one. This transition would take web design to the form of an art rather than a commercial role….like it would be an underground thing! It wouldn’t be that available to the public so that it would become more precious to some people and finding a good web site with a good design etc… would be respected by a whole lot of artists and designers. I guess its its role would change and the targeted people would change too!

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  31. 3233

    Those are the articles that I liked to see more. Well done SM and Cameron.

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  32. 3334

    What a narrow minded way to see the world of the web?!

    I totally disagree with your point. Asking companies, people, news corporation, etc, to all use templates (that were made by designers) would be like asking everybody to speak the same language. Who would like that? I think cultural differentiation is one of the best thing in this world. It what makes us unique, different and somehow better. The impact would be from lack of core values representation to a unidirectional way of thinking.

    I think you’re right for some cases, but absolutely wrong for most of the other ones. The web is and always will be a way to access information. Whatever it’s for reading news, or browsing new products of a company.

    If I visit quiksilver.com’s website, I don’t want to see a product listing, I want to see what the company’s all about. Designers who understand this right will always have a place and that place is as much nor MORE important because it’s not about what we see, it’s about how we see it.

    Remember, aesthetics, beauty and logics sells and even more these days.

    Why would you pay double of the price for a laptop with an apple on it then?

    Too all designers, open yours minds, think differently and innovate. The world will always need you !

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  33. 3435

    this is scary for me because I just graduated from a two year college in digital media, and reading this makes me want to change my career :C(

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  34. 3536

    damn, this is sad for me, I think I need a career change,

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  35. 3637

    This is a nice article and I agree that the internet is trending towards apps — but I think it shows a lack of life experience on the part of the author. Business people generally do not want a ‘one size fits all’ solution for their projects. I have seen this time and time again across multiple industries. The person in charge wants things either ‘their way’, or somehow unique or original. As long as there is budget for design — there will be design. Those who choose to ignore design will ultimately lose business to those who embrace design.

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  36. 3738

    178 comments, set in the same typeface with a considered line length and lead, delimited top and bottom by white space and line and visually ordered via a tastefully offset post index… couldnt that be called “designed” “content”?

    I havent checked but I’m guessing these or similar aspects apply here in my browser, on my phone, or in Instapaper. Anyone that would say that this isnt necessary obviously has never tried reading an untagged txt file in their browser.

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  37. 3839

    I never would’ve thought that a post like this could be published on smashing magazine. Seriously, what you guys thought before publishing it? Design is an integral part of any and every media without which I doubt nothing can be completed. Design is not just some pretty colors, shapes, or rusty grungy textures. Design is an identity. Content presentation is a part of design and as long as human race remains, design will remain. It is perhaps the most amateurish post from a good blog I’ve ever read on the web until now.

    And those of you guys who are thinking about career change sadly won’t fit for much of the careers because it’s about trusting your talents and having an insight knowledge about your field. A business isn’t a sheep following the rest of the flock. It’s uniqueness of your thoughts and the way you handle your business that truly defines it. Thus next time you read a post think before you comment.

    1
  38. 3940

    Sorry, but the question is a bit silly and short-sighted. Humans will always interface with machines and devices, so we’ll always need interface designers. Expand your idea a little bit when you consider what a “web designer” really is.

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  39. 4041

    That’s true…

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  40. 4142

    Interesting article. I think you will see a trend in the opposite manner in the next 10 – 15 years. People are going to need designers even more as the internet becomes a whitewash wasteland of template data aggregators. Sure everyone will be able to use an app to view content on their mobile phone, but the true experience will still live with the visitor using the computer. I also think there will be a moment when everyone decides enough is enough and recognizes the problems that arise with being connected 24/7. I find it very taxing trying to constantly keep up on all of the various networks and frankly have enjoyed the moments without my phone or computer. It seems to bring back the humanity. Just my 2 cents. Regardless of what the future brings, we will adapt. That’s what we are good at, solving problems through creativity and there are always going to be problems.

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  41. 4243

    There are always two sides. Everyone who’s thinking about a career change take a look at this:

    “We are in an App Bubble. That’s what I argue in a new post for Fast Company. One day the proliferation of apps will look as dated as Pets.com, Kozmo, and everything else that seemed promising in 1999. In the end, the average app—15,000 of which are submitted to Apple’s App Store each week—has little to no chance of breaking even or achieving breakout success. When the app bubble bursts, the paid app business model may be the source of as many broken dreams as the dot com boom was at the turn of the millennium.”

    http://notesondigital.com/2010/08/the-app-bubble-factor/

    1
  42. 4344

    Useless article, it’s obvious you’re not a designer, probably someone who lacks taste

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  43. 4445

    This article and its ilk spew misinformation, stifle innovation, insult progress, and promote FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). This ill-qualified writing reduces the credibility of Smashing Magazine to the sensationalism of Wired magazine. Chapman’s writing in this article is the equivalent of trolling the Internet on the whole. Please don’t publish content like this again!

    1
  44. 4546

    This article is fiction written by someone who hasn’t been in the business long enough to know what she’s talking about. I think we can all relax. Unless you also think the world is ending in 2012.

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  45. 4748

    I don’t think apps are ever going to compete with web browsers. An app simply has no value to a small business, not to mention the amount you would need to switch from a web browser to a desktop app all the time.

    Companies will always require bespoke websites, no matter how good a piece of software is at making sites they will never have the functionality, especially for large organizations that require a site customized around their business needs, that can grow organically as the company does.

    Not to mention building even a good basic website requires you to have knowledge on how websites work, seo ect. Its often easier and less hassle to let a professional web company do the full works. The web market is forever expanding, if anything its giving us designers more work than it ever has.

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  46. 4849

    Who are they? Twitter, Facebook and Google.

    -Seriously? Where’s the explanation how twitter would continue to be the primary content delivery platforms??

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  47. 4950

    I think clarification is needed on the definition of ‘design’ in this article. It is seemingly used here to mean the ‘look’ of a site, when in actual fact the look is only part of what design is.

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  48. 5051

    Content being king is true in every medium. It was true in the 1800’s and it will be true in 2025. Design was important in the 1800’s and it will still be important in 2025. It is design that differentiates one product from another, it doesn’t matter if its information or if it’s a car.

    Of course Facebook and Google would like to “be” the gateway to all information on the Internet. Just like Ford or Toyota would like to be the gateway for all driving. Neither is going to happen. Why? The same reason we don’t all wear the same color of shirt, drive the same model of car and read the same books .

    Of course the web is going to change and the profession of web designer/developer or whatever label is applied will evolve. Some will keep up, others won’t. This is true in EVERY profession, not just web design. You are only stating the obvious.

    As far as apps filtering our information. That’s been around a long time. Magazine and book indexes, rss feeds, music charts, but when you want to dig deeper into the information design matters big time.

    Design has mattered for the last several hundred years and it will still matter in the next several hundred years. It’s a basic human need no matter if it’s the information we consume or the clothing we wear to cover our bodies.

    In my very humble opinion this article is very short sighted.

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  49. 5152

    If you check out this author’s profile – do not click on the link for “Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an On line Celebrity.”

    Avast reports it as infected.

    http://null.charlottebackcountryexpeditions.com/in.cgi?2|>{gzip} [L] HTML:RedirME-inf [Trj] (0)

    Further, I find it very hard to believe that this person is a
    “professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience” – just judging by what I saw on her first site and the complete lack of any content regarding web design. Creating a Word Press blog does not a designer make. A construction working with his/her own blog could have posted this with just as much credibility as this woman has.

    This is clearly blatant self promotion (for her supposed writing skills) with absolutely nothing to back up the idiotic statements that are made in it.

    Smashing should be ashamed of themselves. They should pull this article and end their association with this author. Then they should also apologize to the users.

    This is easily the shoddiest example of content I’ve ever seen here. You aren’t going to sell your e-books by giving voice & credit to people like Cameron Chapman.

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  50. 5253

    Content is, was and will be the King even in future, But good design enable you to better comprehend content, by providing good visual Information architecture, improving readability…etc. Hence if designs are used to enhance these features of the content. Design will not die, but yes space for unintended creativity might die, but not purposeful design. Who is going to read through pages of content if they cannot quickly figure out whats the heading, sub heading , and content.

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