I have just finished listening to Molly Holzschlag’s keynote speech at the Web Essentials conference in Sydney. As usual, Molly had some fascinating insights into the changing world of web development, but something about her presentation just did not sit right with me.
Specialists working together
Molly primarily focused on the increasing number of fields within web design. As web development becomes more complex, so the need for specialists in different fields becomes more important. From usability and accessibility consultants to designers and developers, the range of specialists continues to grow. Molly went on to say that these specialists are increasingly working together to develop more complex web applications.
So what’s my problem!
So why did this not sit right with me? I certainly agreed with everything Molly said and she is definitely more knowledgeable than I am about the latest developments in web design. I think what I felt uncomfortable with was that Molly spoke as if this collaboration of web design specialists was the norm within the industry. In my experience, the web development world Molly was describing only exists within the high end of web design. I got the impression Molly believed that the majority of web designers specialised in different fields and worked in teams to develop sites. Although she did acknowledge this was not the case throughout the industry, I think she had a slightly unrealistic view about what was the norm.
There are still many all rounders
I work with fairly big clients including government bodies and various higher educational institutions. However, even within organisations of this size their web teams are limited. In most cases, they consisted of web editors and web developers/designers. Largely speaking individuals in web teams still have to be general "all rounders" and do not get the luxury of specialising in specific fields such as accessibility or usability. The majority of people still need to be "jacks of all trades" to some extent.
Now obviously the clients I work with are not comparable with those who engage Molly. However, I did get the feeling that Molly was describing a web design world that is still beyond the majority of my clients and certainly beyond the reach of the majority.
The need for trailblazers
Of course, it is important to remember that Molly and her peers are trailblazers in the industry, which are vital to our continued growth. However, I do have some concern that the gap between these trailblazers and those who follow might become too big for us to bridge. It is important that there are individuals who can bridge that gap and bring these working practices at the forefront of web design to the rest of the industry.
No real conclusion
I am not sure what my point is here and I have no nice conclusion to wrap up with. This is certainly not meant as a criticism of Molly or her peers. I guess it is merely me expressing a concern that for most of us, the world Molly describes is not yet here.
If you have had time to listen to Molly’s keynote I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it. Does your organisation have specialists or are your web developers "jacks of all trades"?