The internet is an ever-changing place, but the greatest change over the past few years has been rise of the professional designer as the leading creative force.
In the past the superstars of the web were the people that sat behind the scenes, coming up with great ideas for services that people might, or might not, want. The rise of Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook and thousands of other services have led to the virtual deification of their founders and the promotion of the idea that the most important element of any service is the technology underlying it.
This elevation of the developer has been at the expense of another critical part of the development process and that is the role that the designers take in bringing the web to life. Typically designers earn salaries significantly lower that their developer counterparts while many sites rise and fall based on the quality of their design.
Part of the reason underlying this inequality has been the inherent inability of designers to work in isolation from developers. The complexity of creating and maintaining websites in the past has meant that designers have been held virtual hostages to the technical capabilities of the sites they have been creating. Services that offered the ability to build sites without coding were so limited that designers quickly found their creative concepts constrained by the limitations of the services.
However, the way the world sees design is changing and the role of the designer as a creative force is on the rise. Leading the vanguard of superstar designers is Apple’s Jony Ive who, along with Steve Jobs, led Apple’s charge as the company that put design at the forefront product development. From the iPhone to the Macbook Air to the latest Mac Pro; Apple has consistently delivered products that look as good as they perform, a seamless merger of design and technology.
At the same time the broader internet has seen a surge in the growth of sites that celebrate creativity with services like Pinterest that have put creative pursuit’s front and center, be it crafting, cookery, architecture or interior design.
The continued increased awareness of the role of design in society at large has dictated the rise and fall of companies. While Apple has been on the ascendance, former giants in the mobile space such as Mototrola and Nokia have seen their fortunes fade, to a point where some of them have been sold off piecemeal to maximise shareholder value.
The fall of these, once great, companies has been partly as result of the dearth of innovation in organizations that once prided themselves in leading the charge. However, it has been their inability to keep up with the demand from consumers for devices that, through their design, speak to them. This is where Apple made its mark and went from being a small player in the PC game to being the benchmark by which every mobile phone manufacturer measures themselves.
The web, however, remains a place where the developer reigns supreme. This is a remnant of the way that web services were built where those writing the code dictated to those doing the design what they could and couldn’t do.
The rise of professional online website design studios such as Webydo or Adobe’s Muse are changing that. Both services remove the need for designers to be beholden to developers when executing their creative vision and it is this new-found freedom which is set to change the way the web sees designers and designers see the web.
Key to allowing professional designers the freedom they need is the ability to create sites that captivate their users is allowing them to design in a way that is familiar to them from other mediums. Given a more free hand in approaching site design should provide the web with a new benchmark for what constitutes a great site, with the designers at the forefront.
The developer is never going to fade into the background as complex sites will continue to require custom code to deliver specific functionality but as the functionality of code-free platforms continues to increase the number of sites that require the intervention of developers is going to shrink.
At the same time that this demographic is shrinking the focus will inevitably shift to those driving the creative vision of the sites. As this shift happens the attention of the industry will rest on the next generation of designers who will start to dictate what the web will look like in the next five years and the household names will emerge in the world of web design just as they have in other areas of commercial design.