After freelancing for a couple years, I joined the broader web design industry with an agency around 2 years ago. At the time I was interviewed for either front-end development jobs, visual design, or UX positions, but I had a sneaking hope that I could do a bit of all three in my day to day work. I had after all put myself through a technical college education partly by freelancing and playing some of each of these roles, and my education taught me front-end development and visual design simultaneously as well.
Early web developers were dictating much of how the web looked
If you look back in the relatively brief history of web design, coders were playing a huge role in how the web looked since the beginning, and for years learning to create websites had been significantly weighted towards the coding side. Only more recently, visual designers who don’t want to touch code started cropping up and becoming their own class of people.
A rift appears and stand-alone visual designers and front-end developers become the norm
To the benefit of all that is beautiful on the web, people started to dedicate themselves solely to one or the other and could stand to do so because companies could afford to hire just visual designers, and just front-end developers. Web design really has grown into a much more beautiful craft in the time since this started to be common, but some of the most beautiful aspects of website now are when a heavily visual site has those exquisite features that accentuate the interactive nature of the web. For instance;
- The right color hover state for buttons and links that feels intentional. Perhaps a darker version of the primary color – Close contact between design and development keeps elements like this accounted for and deliberate.
- Smooth scrolling transitions in CSS
- Appropriate show/hides on elements that allow for deeper exploration and feel natural in their animation
- Subtle parallax effects that add to a high-end aspect and don’t draw too much attention
Healing the rift – Visual designer’s start to code again to begin to create interactions with more finesse
Since I wrote my ‘Designer / Developer Manifesto‘ around a year ago, I was adamant that designer’s should learn to develop – or at least delve into code a bit. And for the zealous, I still strongly suggest it – but what about the talented visual designers who are apt to continue to creating beautiful design and hand off to equally talented web developers?
Godspeed – I am not proud enough to think my perspective on this is all-knowing. My hubris – my fatal pride, breaks down when I recognize my limitations in both fields now over 3 years into my pursuit of perfection designing and developing websites professionally. If I was a full-time developer, perhaps I would be well-versed in Magento, Drupal, and Concrete5 by now, or be more adept with things like Git and command line. But I’m not.
The future of the web – a closer partnership between visual designers and developers: Digital art director’s who understand both and teams that rely on each other’s strengths
In the end, no-one does epic work in a vacuum. Even the greatest artists of all time were generally in close proximity to a cultural revolution, or a scene of other genius’s – or as Brian Eno calls it; a “scenius.” Think of the people in your agency or the other freelancers and contractors you work with as your scene that can build on each other’s successes and you’re much closer to finding your tribe, and building something brilliant.
I believe that as I try to come in close contact with people who also do excellent work and care about the value they provide to clients and people around them, that it pushes me do better design. I wrote another article around a year ago called “Designer/Developer Hybrids Will Rule the iPhone 6+ World“, and I was pleased that it must’ve struck a chord (or a nerve,) as a lot of people had things to say about it. Perhaps I was a little early on the draw. I still feel that I’m working to live up to the aspirations of that article – to really push the limits of what beautiful and functional websites can do.
Occasionally I come close to be creating things that are worthy of my ideals, but often I just am admiring other’s in my industry. Here are some examples of the clean – ‘Designerly development’ that I’m referring to though:
8. Legwork Studio (a little off the norm, including for variety)
10. Dog Studio
In my aesthetic, great websites don’t take over the scroll or rely on gimmicks
I generally like when websites put things where people expect to find them, with some exceptions. Most of the website’s that I love give the user all of the control and don’t awkwardly require you to scroll without showing the scroll in the way you expect. There is a huge trend of website’s doing this and often in makes the website feel broken – and I’m a pretty adept website user; imagine how people who aren’t might feel.
But… as with all rules, there are times when they are meant to be broken. In the case of these two sites, the ‘don’t break the normal function of the scroll’ rule is broken in a way that is undeniably beautiful.
Appreciation for white space and clean functionality that behaves as you would expect with full control – respects the visitorClean functionality that behaves as you would expect with full control respects the visitor Click To Tweet
So how do we stoke this kind of forward thinking in our agencies? I’m genuinely interested in your ideas here. Also, are you aware of any other excellent websites along these lines? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below and continue the conversation on Twitter.
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