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Home arrow Tuesdays with Tukaiz arrow Technology Driving the Future of Web Design: Part 3
Technology Driving the Future of Web Design: Part 3
Tuesday, June 08 2010

Over the past few weeks, we've covered many issues related to how technology is driving the future of Web design. In the near future, we expect many advances to come together to create a new paradigm of user enablement so people can more easily create elegant Web designs. Many Web design tools, while having a WYSIWYG element to them, still require some level of custom programming to make a site fully come together. This factor can be an inhibitor for someone who is not accustomed to writing code. Additionally, in the Web design process, writing code can take a good chunk of time, especially with the growing list of considerations that designers and programmers must account for. In addition to building sites that display correctly across multiple Web browsers, designers and programmers must more frequently design for various format sizes for mobile devices (which also can have multiple types of Web browsers).

Businesses need to be able to more rapidly modify their Web designs to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of viewing enablers. They must also stay abreast of design trends so they can remain fresh in the eyes of visitors. As technologies like HTML5, Web Open Font Format, and CSS3 (the next iteration of the styling language) start to solidify and are used in common practice among Web developers, it becomes increasingly possible to make the design process simpler up front. Some of these capabilities already exist in various development tools. For instance, Adobe’s recent release of Creative Suite 5 includes an application called Flash Catalyst, which has a point-and-click methodology for creating interactive designs (think of it as a mix between PowerPoint and Flash Professional). Additionally, both InDesign and QuarkXPress have had more interactive elements added to their capabilities over the past few years, enabling exportation to formats beyond print. Imagine if the layout design capabilities of InDesign were combined with these new Web standards, enabling the creation and exportation of an entire design piece to print, the Web, or even a mobile device, all adhering to these standards. That functionality could be very powerful for a designer that does not have the coding chops to be a full-fledged developer, but still wants to convey a design in multiple channels.

Although this scenario isn't quite possible today, there are many options available that can help enable aesthetically-pleasing and functional Web design. In addition to the Content Management Systems we previously mentioned, there are a number of development frameworks based on many different types of programming and scripting languages that can help developers get a quicker start (CakePHP, Zend, and Django are just a few in a sea of hundreds). There are also libraries of functions that can be referenced for good Web site design. One of the most popular libraries is jQuery, a JavaScript-based library with many functions that can be quickly implemented to speed up development, improve the user interface, and increase visitor interaction. There are even CSS frameworks, such as Blueprint, that give Web designers a head start on styling their sites. The majority of these tools are free to use and open source, meaning that they can be modified (within the terms of the associated license) to fit the developer's needs.

Finally, although technologies abound, it is important to understand how these technologies are being utilized in designs across the Web. There are a number of prominent blogs that keep track of trends in Web design to inform designers at-large about the most popular design elements. One well-read blog is Smashing Magazine, which comes out with a post on the top design trends expected for the coming year. Its 2010 report was released in May, providing plenty of examples of each trend mentioned. The trends include more engaging and eye-catching design overall, keypress navigation (using the keyboard to navigate a site), more influence from print design, and more horizontally-focused designs (as opposed to the scroll-fests that many people have become accustomed to). Another great site that explores Web design from an aesthetic and technology perspective is A List Apart, which publishes articles on a monthly basis related to Web design and has a rich archive of information to peruse.

New technologies are advancing the way that people experience the Web, but it’s up to designers and developers to harness this technology to create interfaces that will enhance that experience. Designers and developers must also adapt to the new trends and determine which ones make sense for their businesses. These technologies can make it easier and quicker to make changes, some of which can make a site viewable on the growing list of mobile devices that are being released. As Web 2.0 moves on to whatever its next incarnation ends up being, technologies can help businesses adapt quickly. Staying on the cutting edge and delivering the best Web experience possible will keep people coming back for more.

 

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