Famished Web Designers

Ah, the beauty of being online during Christmas. Having already co-prepared dinner with my lady (our first holiday-themed one done together), I am about the usual go of things getting ready to see others and watching the NBA. Of course, since much of what we do in watching TV includes a second screen of some kind, I’ve at least got to have some interest in how life is playing out on a social media network or two. Medium is on deck at the moment, and given a decision to nix comments here, its interesting to see the platters of other social networking moments.

Medium is a new social network… or a blogging platform. Or, something in between. Its kind of like a longer-winded Twitter, without the fun of the cross-context integration that Google+ has. That’s not a bad thing, and with that (normal to the times) beta label, there’s sure to be something to come down the pipe that excites, and something else that disappoints.

For now, its one of those places that I’ve got to be provoked into remembering that it exists. Not that there’s not compelling content there – the piece that sparked me writing now was a good one – but that there’s only so much attention we can give to these digital things. And after that attention bucket is spent, we go on living life. For Twitter, Facebook, Medium, and a ton of other social networks – event-based, music-based, and everything else – I don’t know that those networks necessarily help that. And I think that the article that I read on Medium – The End of History and the Last Website – points to the reason why.

The End of History and the Last Website is essentially a writer/web designer’s poke that web design isn’t like it used to be. The author, Robin Sloan, laments the fact that because there are so many screens that its impossible to manually, handcraft a website. You’ve got to think about your smartphone visitors, tablet visitors, and depending on your sphere of influence, even a TV/presentation-based audience. I feel you Robin, there’s a lot to consider. Ok, there should be – if you learned web design in the vacuum that only considered still, mouse-driven, and attention-needy audiences when you started designing for the web. Context is everything, and there’s no question that this context of how designers think about the web has a lot to take in. So many are hungry for more from the web though because they expect so much.

I used to be the same. I’d make this complex website, especially the landing page. There would be transitions for those who could take that, rounded corners for others, and JavaScript-based interactions for others. And then I got smart. Or rather, I simplified the website to fit its best purposes for me and leveraged design to make the cookie taste better.

My recipe, and I would guess that many others with some history in graphic/web design, started with some kind of design. Except, I started with the sketch and then distilled that to the bare ingredients. Instead of making the final product only pretty, I concentrated in making some separate elements pretty in and of themselves. Instead of a website, I’d do a digital business card. Instead of {reluctantly, not-)hosting my own blog, I let WordPress and Twitter take on the streams of thoughts I’ve got. I pushed for SVG graphics at one point, but just let JPG/PNG images alongside Dropbox play seasoning role for images.

Is the taste pretty? Eh, probably not to all. But, that’s what happens when you take a bit of life from out of the box and then do your own thing with the recipie. Have designers lost patience with that? Maybe. Could Sloan and others have chosen a simpler route to making a website that works across devices? Sure. But, we leverage other ingredients, and not because the website as it was once done needs to end. But, because at the end of the day, we can do different meals with a microwave than we did with a pipe stove. No, the quick prep and tools of the microwave are always good for us. In the hands of a designer, not just a person who wants to make a pretty face present, we can do some pretty interesting dishes.