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Future of Web Development

Or: An Open Letter to Advertising Agencies

When I left my position at my last company, the president asked me to generate a document outlining considerations for changes to their web development department. I approached this task in a more global way than specifically tailoring it to their company. The following is what I wrote. Some of this will seem obvious to a lot of people, others will relate to working for a company that simply doesn’t understand where web development sits in the design spectrum or how they can truly move forward with the times and produce great work.

Web development is not simply production.

Web development exists as an interactive bridge between ideas and actualization. The co-creation between visual designers, UX and frontend developers is the cornerstone of engaging, thoughtful, digital experiences that garner results not only for clients but for you and your employees.

Technologies like squarespace, wix, and (soon) thegrid.io are closing in on web-development-as-production. It is becoming easier and easier for code to generate code. If we want to thrive going forward we must bring more to the table than “web production”. We must create experiences.

We cannot continue to think of web development as a team that receives what was designed and outputs an interactive duplication of that design. Not only is this territory already covered by automated services, but it also leaves a giant gap in the process at the word, “interactive.”

Who’s role is it to define those interactions? It has typically been left up to the developer with a dash of input from the visual designer as an afterthought. This cannot remain. Interactions need to be treated as paramount, with all the tapestry to hang around them defined in parallel – colors, fonts, borders… these are accouterments. The lines between visual design, UX, and frontend development are blurring. These roles in a traditional Waterfall approach can live disparately without much ensuing chaos, but we can all agree that the Waterfall process leaves quite a bit to be desired. The medium we’re creating for has variable dimensions, and variable input devices. Should we be using 50% of a project’s timeline working in a static tool (I’m looking at you Adobe) when we’re creating for a dynamic medium?

We know what doesn’t work. Let’s find out what does.

Simplified… here are three steps to do much better work, and have happier, more fulfilled employees.

  1. Simplify organizational obstructions – let design happen:

    • Combine your UX, design, and development departments. This is one job, not three. Hire people who are "kinda good" at all three of these things, and if you can find them… hire people who are really good at all of these things.
  2. Encourage collaboration, and disbursement of responsibility:

    • Arrange work groups in rotating clusters of individual UX, designers, and developers. Nobody "owns" one task, everyone is accountable for the whole thing.
  3. Make transparency a must – no red herrings here:

    • Use continuous intergration. Get everyone on the same page sooner, let the client be a part of the creating and the client will be more satisfied – give responsibility, real responsibility. That’s all we all really want anyway.

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