What I learnt about the future of web design

By: John McGarvey

Date: 23 May 2011

Last week I headed on down to the Future of Web Design conference. Held in an old brewery in the City of London, this annual event brings together web designers and developers from all over the world.

I really enjoyed the conference and it was a great chance to get away from my day-to-day tasks for a bit. Although a lot of what I heard was quite detailed information aimed at professional web developers and designers, I took away a few bits of knowledge that I think nearly any business with an online presence can benefit from. Here they are:

  • If you're considering building a mobile app for your business, don't forget about making your website friendly for mobile phones too. In particular, Josh Clark argued that people see mobile apps as tools for getting particular tasks done, whereas the mobile web is all about finding information.
  • In fact, a lot of the conference covered mobile-related internet stuff. There were some impressive statistics involving the amount of money people spend when online with their smart phones, and the rate at which accessing the internet via mobile devices is growing. In short: if you're not thinking about mobile devices when you build your website, you're neglecting an ever-increasing group of users.
  • Ian Hamilton is a senior interaction designer from the BBC. He gave a talk on accessibility, making me realise how far most websites still have to go in order to be usable by people who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities. He suggested including people with disabilities in any usability testing that you run, providing transcripts of all videos on your website, and ensuring all linked text is meaningful ('more information' does not cut it).
  • Dan James founded silverorange, a small web agency based in Canada. He spoke about running an open business. In his company, everyone - from the MD down to junior designers - earns the same salary. He says that often in business we talk about a lot of things, but we don't talk about money. He says we should try it. These sketch notes reveal more
  • To design great user experiences, we should try and stay naive. At least, that's one of the things I took from Aral Balkan's talk. In an entertaining 50 minutes, he explained how he tries to not think too hard when he uses things for the first time. Because if something's been designed well, you shouldn't need to stop and work out how to use it. You should just know. Watch a similar talk here.

What do you think the future of web design holds? What new innovations are you planning for your website? Leave a comment and let us know.

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