What will be the biggest trends in web design over the next few years and do you consider them to be important?
Web standards technologies such as well-formed HTML, CSS and unobtrusive scripting have taken hold at the higher levels of web design over the last few years. Even so, we should not forget that the enlightened group of web designers and developers who use and understand standards-based technologies are still a tiny proportion of a web industry that is largely full of badly written, inaccessible pages. I hope that the trend towards working with standards will broaden over the next few years.
At the same time, those people who are on top of their game are now starting to work with emerging and even experimental technologies, including parts of CSS3 and even HTML5. This is incredibly important in moving the web forward. To ignore CSS3 and HTML5 now and not to perpetuate old-fashioned ideas such as ?web sites should look the same in every browser?.
How has the web design market changed over the last decade?
When I started my business (just before 2000), the industry was unrecognisable in many respects from what we see today. At the time, every designer or developer, agency or small-business was still finding their feet. Ten years on and the industry is maturing.
At the higher tiers of the industry, attention to quality of design, code, accessibility and standards is astonishing. There are some very bright people making very bright things happen. In the UK the chaps at Erskine Design not only show an incredible work ethic, but are a wonderful example of no-nonsense, attention to detail web designers. In the USA, Jeffrey Zeldman’s Happy Cog and Dan Cederholm’s Simplebits both show that creativity, standards and accessibility can go hand-in-hand.
Sadly (in some respects) the industry is fracturing and the differences in quality produced in different sectors of the market is marked. At one end of the spectrum are people for whom paying attention to great design, quality code and accessibility are essential parts of what they do everyday. At the other are companies both large and small, working across sectors from government, education, SMEs to the music industry for whom the way they work has not developed for ten years. For these types of companies, and sadly there are still plenty of them, “anything goes”. It’s as if ten years of learning how to make great web sites never happened.
What have been the three biggest developments for you?
Many of my community activities have made a huge impact on my business. Writing and blogging, sharing information, speaking at workshops and conferences have done more for me that an army of sales reps or an ear-full of cold-calling. I have learned that working in public, sharing techniques and ideas, has been critical to moving my business forward.
Who would be your one up-and-coming web designer to watch out for?
There are plenty of talented folks all over the world who are making fantastic work for the web. Asking me to pick just one is tough. But seeing as you twisted my arm, I'd suggest Tim Van Damme, a young designer from Belgium. Tim has made a huge impact in his use of progressive techniques over the last year, backed by a very solid level of design.