Web design isn’t dead. But even if it was, why so threatened?

Paul Boag

Technology evolves faster than we can learn it. Fortunately our skills are not defined by the technologies we know. So why worry?

A post this week on UX Magazine has announced the death of web design. Mashable has reprinted it and the web community has gone into a frenzy. Even Smashing Magazine has felt the need to respond.

It has been a long time since I have seen such a fuss about nothing. Setting aside the inflammatory title, the post on UX magazine is pretty good. The symptoms it highlights are all valid and raises some good points. Of course this doesn’t mean that web design is dead, but then even the author doesn’t seem committed to that conclusion.

What I find interesting is the reaction, not the post itself.

First, web design won’t go away. Print design hasn’t gone away. Radio production has not gone away. These things do not vanish, they just change. Even this takes years to happen so there is no need to get all defensive.

Second, our skills are not in web design or development. We are writers, designers, information architects, developers. We have skills in interaction design. Sure our jobs and even the platforms we are working on may change. But we all knew that. Hell, in the time I have been working with technology things have changed beyond recognition.

I started my career working on multimedia CD applications. Then I worked with flat HTML, and then content management systems. I took a slight detour into flash for a while and so the list goes on. Digital is always evolving, changing, adapting. That is half the fun.

At the moment a lot of cool stuff is happening with mobile apps. That is not something to feel threatened by. Things will move on again before long. We are already seeing it begin to happen. With the rise of Siri, Amazon Echo and similar services I can even see the seeds of a post interface world. But our skills will stand. Sure the designers among us might have to redefine the nature of design when there is no UI. But there will still be work to do.

The only danger here is for those who deny change will happen. Those who read articles like the UX magazine one and get defensive and angry. These are the people who are stuck coding cold fusion on some legacy system somewhere. Stuck simply because they were unwilling to adapt until they became trapped.

I love it when somebody says web design is dead. I don’t believe them, but it means something else cool has come along. Something I can learn about, experiment with and maybe even embrace. You see I am a user experience designer. I go where the user goes. I don’t care if that is a website, mobile device or an implant that allows them to download information into their brains. If people stop using websites then I am fine with that. I just don’t think they will stop. At least not completely and not for a good long while.

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