The Splintering Web

The Splintering Web When I first entered the arena of web design and development back in 1994, it was often one of diy – do it yourself. You stumbled your way through Photoshop 3, learned how to code with ungodly nested tables, solved UI and UX problems without putting a real label to them and even added some editorial polish to content.

In short, you often needed to understand and execute on all items that touched upon deploying a website.

Back then, it was the days of the web’s infancy and the different pieces to juggle were by today’s standards, very modest. As the web has developed so has the complexity when it comes to deploying digital solutions. The platforms, the technology, the competitiveness and the savviness of the audience have greatly changed the playing field in the last 20 years. This has led to the splintering and specialization of roles in developing websites.

In that splintering comes both opportunities and pitfalls. The understanding that a content specialist or UX expert can bring to a specific problem can have great value. The specialist will often see things that would be otherwise missed or make sense of a problem that seems overwhelming in it’s complexity.

However, the gains of specialization are often at the expense of fully understanding other links in the chain to a final solution. Designers may design a beautiful interface that poses serious issues in terms of the underlying application code or user experience. Or a writer may be asked to write to an architectural and content strategy that has already been locked down.

The rise of producers in the digital world and even the role of project managers attempt to mitigate these issues and keep all parts running smoothly. However, few things can improve upon great communication between the various specialists – and most important in my experience, an understanding of the interdependencies of all these parts.

In my 19 years of experience in this industry, I have had to learn the ins-and-outs of everything from managing projects and the expectations, budgets and timelines that come with them to developing UX strategies, laying out IA and content, producing great design and coding out projects. In short, I’ve done almost everything during those years – and even though some of those skills have taken more of a back seat to other strengths, I still understand in great detail the entire chain. The best teams I have worked on have included people who understand the implications of their role beyond their role.

And I think there is room for more of this in our industry. We are starting to see the emergence of that. We see more designer/developers who are trying to embrace the relationship between good front end design and good application development. Or writers who can speak to IA and content strategy and aren’t just there to fill buckets.

As the industry matures, there will continue to be further splintering and specialization to address new developments in the landscape. But there will also be the emergence of people who can – and will – have to make sense of all these parts in order to push ahead great, cohesive solutions for clients. Doing that well isn’t a trivial task and in my experience, the deeper your knowledge of the various bits and pieces, the better you can shape a successful project. That is something I’ve always found exciting and something that continues to drive how I work and run our business.