I gave a guest lecture in one of my good friend’s User Interface and Design courses this past week talking about Web 2.0 … it was a lot of fun and the students were actually very open and engaging. I really enjoyed it. One of the points I was making as I was comparing the Web 1.0 models to the Web 2.0 concepts was the notion of web design and how much it has changed in the last few years. With the birth, or more appropriately the adoption, of easy to use publishing systems — like blogs — there has been a bit of a push away from “radical web design.” People just don’t need to spend a ton of time using Photoshop (or whatever) to create graphically intense layouts and move them into Dreamweaver … it seems to me the concept of web design has changed so much. So much that most of the places I go look about the same … you’ve seen them, two columns or three, its all the same stuff.
I am not saying there isn’t any value in the notion of web design anymore, but it is less about the look of a site and more about the content, the functionality, and the value it can provide. I guess it is a natural evolution, but it is strange to still see college kids working so hard on their web pages in Dreamweaver (or whatever) when they could be just as easily using one of the many free open source tools that empower instant web publishing. The value is built into the process of design — not the output of the graphics package. If we (and our students) can begin to spend more time on looking at who we are trying to reach, establishing goals, crafting great content, and providing a usable solution then I am all for the death of web design. This is not an attempt to piss off web designers — that skill is real and those who do it well kick ass. I just thought it was interesting that so many of the students (and the faculty that let me give the talk) engaged me around that point. They were most certainly Web 2.0 newbies and I think the point that web designers once ruled the earth (like the dinosaurs) and no longer do sort of woke them up to some new ways of thinking about design. Is web design dead, doomed, or not?