After 16 years designing applications, pages, tools and sites for the web, I no longer consider myself just a ‘web designer’. Since 2000, when I started designing web based communications, the industry has seen enormous change, especially in the role of web design.
In the early days I would start up a large beige box, with multiple pieces of hardware connected via several metres of cabling, and then wait patiently whilst the software got up to speed. With the click of a few buttons the external modem would fire into action as it connected to the World Wide Web. It was a painful process in comparison with how easily we connect today!
Back then everyone had to have a website but had little, if any, appreciation for the end user, opting for more flamboyant designs to stand out and show off. Unfortunately, this often resulted in some ostentatious results.
In the mid noughties, smartphones hit the market and initially their web browsing facility was very basic. The iPhone’s launch in 2007 changed mobile browsing for the better, yet many websites were not optimised for mobile usage and, as a result, suffered on the small screen.
As the mobile market exploded with the introduction of tablets in 2010, consumers were keen to keep connected on the go. With more and more mobile devices in the market place, user behaviour has quickly migrated from desktops to touch devices.
Initially, web designers turned their attention to converting their desktop views into something acceptable for a mobile device, but often the two solutions worked in isolation of each other.
Along with advances in technology, the shift in consumer behaviour is now determining how we design solutions for the web. We can connect to the internet from our wrists to our cars, and behaviours are tracked, set and automated. Designers now need to create adaptable designs that fit multiple platforms and screen sizes, and are accessible across a range of browsers. Most importantly, taking the end user’s experience into consideration.
With a surge in analytics and performance metrics due to a rise in digital data, we can now monitor how the end user approaches, digests and interacts with content within your website. We are now able to decipher user behaviours and track hand and eye movements. Design now plays an important role in encouraging action and validation.
From drawing simple pictures of nicely set out navigation structures, web design has developed into a fully holistic, interactive experience for the end user. The term ‘web design’ no longer covers the discipline. The web designers of today are designing a full user experience.
Senior Web Designer