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What is the Future of Web Design?

by Jennifer McMillen


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future of web design audience

The Future of Web Design is actually a conference in London which pretty much does what it says on the tin, looks at future technologies, processes and concepts that will affect the future of web design.

You may have spotted we have talked about them before as I was lucky enough to attend last year and blogged about it here. Well this year we were back, ready to learn and to take our new found knowledge back to the office.

Whilst there, I personally feel 3 main topics were covered in the talks that I saw; design processes, how to maintain enjoyment from your work and UX (User experience). Here is a quick summery of a few point that were brought up:

Design processes

This seemed to be the biggest talking point in which about 70% of speakers discussed the debate of where to design – in browser or photoshop and the like. There were good points for and against and plenty of resources on how these processes can be done well and efficiently.

For example a pro point for designing in browser is that the client can click through the site with ease and not need to imagine animations, transitions and little nuances that are becoming more and more important in creating your brand online and it also help you bridge the gap between the designer and developer and creates a smoother workflow.

On the other hand jumping to the browser can reduce the amount of creativity as the designer is then thinking what will and wont work and will be spending their time coding rather than creating. This can reduce the creativity and the more adventurous ideas that come from this process. There is also the issue of the client expecting to see live data (Their example was Amazons dropdown displaying all categories relating to pets) with services like Invision you can create artwork that gives and example and with live updates straight from photoshop, dropbox etc. it isn’t as time consuming as it once was.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 14.08.20

Here at Exact Abacus we design flat visuals and then combine them in Invision to emulate a browsing experience so you can see how you will navigate your website. We feel this is currently the best way for you, our clients, to see your site, and for us to discuss if the designs solves the original issues and painpoints we would have addressed in the kickoff meeting before any complex coding takes place.

Maintaining enjoyment in your work

All of us get into a rut with our work every now and again but many speakers discussed how to improve your work life with everything from wearables like fitbit to ensuring your company is a good match to your clients to doing side projects and even standing desks.

An interesting point was, when asked if people did side projects the vast majority of hands went up. Then when asked out of those people if they had completed every single side project they started not one hand went up. It seems they get dropped by the wayside quickly. Dan Edwards went onto say that when your on a long project at work or something your not particularly interested in these projects are what keep your creativity alive so treat them like a real project, set deadlines and dedicate specific time to them and you will be rewarded by seeing your creativity and knowledge grow as well as that sense of achievement from a finished deadline that you may not be getting from work.

Arthur Irving had one of the most entertaining talks on this subject and discussed how implementing standing desks has revolutionised his business reporting that his staff felt more energised and enjoyed doing more of their admin work stood up but the nitty gritty coding sat down. It broke up the day for them and relived back pain along with a number of aliments they had all suffered from.

He also discussed how important getting outside is to office workers and how using wearable tech his staff have all increased their activity from walking to work to going out at lunch and states that the difference in mood and productivity was notable.

future of web design

UX aka user experience

The biggest topic covered, much to my delight, was usability. As an aspect of web design I have a personal interest in I listened to these talks with great interest.

The first talk I saw was by the amazing Léonie Watson. She is a blind digital accessibility consultant and engineer who discussed why when building website we need to consider how they are read by assistive technologies. With the use of screenreaders Léonie demonstrated how everyday elements like buttons and forms can become confusing or even ignored by these technologies and by using simple html they can become clear as day. Although these technologies have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years there is still plenty of things we as designers can do to improve to UX for people with disabilities.

Steve Fisher was another speaker to address UX and how crucial the kickoff meeting with your clients is. He used an example of a website for immigrants to find work in Alberta, Canada. The client asked for the website to be difficult to use, pretty counter intuitive I’m sure you’d agree. Instead he and his team questioned why and discovered that their real issue was so many people were going there to work that weren’t prepared and so didn’t succeed there. Steve the proposed that their issues isn’t that the site is too easy to use but that it needs to be clearer who they were looking for and to make their users aware of what it takes to make it there.

Lucy Blackwell also delved into the user experience looking at what motivates people and discussed how actual experiences have a much higher impact on people than material items do and how you can bridge that gap by producing items that capture that experience in a personal way. She used her company as an example in that they try to sell posters relating to the course but they didn’t sell at all but as soon as they offered a certificate of completion because it personal and customised to the user they sold a lot better at a much higher cost too.

lucy blackwell

Talks like these were a great reminder not to design for designs sake. It is to aid the user and enhance their experience and create positive memories with your or your clients brand.

In summary

• It is a personal preference as to whether to design in browser or not but key elements of the creative process could be missed until someone provides a service to bridge the gap between design and development.

• A healthy work balance is key for productive staff, do side projects to keep you excited if things are slow at the work place and look after your health and mind by getting outside and taking your mind off work.

• User experience is going to be leading future web design, taking consideration of expectations of your brand, the issues the client really needs tackling and the momentos that help your customers remember you.

All in all it was an eye opening experience and we are definitely in the most exciting era for web. Things are changing fast no one can predict what the web will look like in another 5 years, but that’s why we love it, and that’s why I do it!

by Jennifer McMillen on 19/05/2015

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