15 / 01 / 13

web design: a changing landscape

The web has changed a lot over it's relatively short lifespan - it started off as a way of sharing ideas and opinions (along the lines of Geocities style personal pages), then it became about sharing media (think Flickr, Youtube and myspace) and now (in our humble opinion) it's about consuming content wherever you are and wherever you go. We expect to be able devour new information on our phones within seconds of unlocking it. Due to the ever increasing ways that users are accessing websites we need to realise something very important: the definition of "design" is changing.

Previously design, in the context of the web, referred to the layout and general style of a site, now though it seems to be more along the lines of "how can we present this information in the best way possible". These two ideas may seem very similar, and they are, but there is a subtle difference. 

Where as before we were designing for a fixed size of screen (around 1000 pixels wide) we're now designing for an infinite array of screens - ranging from widescreen monitors to iPhones to Kindles. This rids us of any notion that we're designing for a single device, we're creating something that can be digested by anyone on any monitor - we can't predefine the dimensions we're designing for.

Due to this seismic change in the landscape we can no longer assume that design will win over a new client or user - we need to focus on the content. We can deliver the content in a way that's pleasing and easy to digest on range of devices but we can't guarantee that the user will view it on a device that's capable of showing our beautiful colour palette or our outstanding typography. Tools such as readability, instapaper and rss feeds throwaway our designs in favour of pure content consumption.

We can, going forward, create delivery systems that allow our content to change it's shape and style depending on how it's being viewed. We've already started.