On Web Design

I’ve been thinking a lot about work, recently. Probably too much. Since January, things have been pretty hectic, and as we approach summer, it’s our yearly review. Time to take stock and think about the year just gone, and, more importantly, where I’m going, and what I want to do.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates me, what gets me interested – what made me want to get involved in all this in the first place. I can code, and I have some Photoshop skills. Looking back on my childhood, I realise I’ve always been into what we’d now describe as ‘the Media’ – I was always creating newspapers and magazines; my brother and I recorded details of our lives on countless cassettes, I remember vividly compiling fictitious TV listings. I spent probably four years as a Youth Leader, creating activities and often doing, well, ‘Pervasive Gaming’, probably.

But the thing that has caught my imagination since I began full time work was always the innate feeling that there was something new to be discovered. Some new way of making something fun. At the end of the Siemens Graduate Scheme that I was fortunate enough to win a place on, I summed up my career ambition thusly: “to make a significant (positive!) contribution to the Media Industry”. Wishful thinking, I know. But it’s still a mission. And so when I discovered the simple, poetic beauty of the Semantic Web, that’s been it, for me. I know it’s not perfect, there’s a myriad of things we haven’t solved, and may never solve. But not to try them? Not to experiment? Not to create, and have fun? That would be a waste.

And so, it always comes back to job titles. Again, they are, of course, not so relevant as what you actually do. But it’s always struck me that the term ‘web designer’ has pretty much become a synonym for graphic (and possibly interaction) design of, and for screens, accessed by the Internet and the Web. Not that there’s anything wrong with that role. So much of what we call UX is incredibly important and has a rightful place in an organisation. But it’s not really web design.

As I said before, I can code. I can do entity-relationship diagrams, I can do your standard business analysis techniques. But the pleasure I seek isn’t in designing elegant code (though that does, I admit, hold some sway). Nor is it, frankly, in designing visual or interaction masterpieces – important as they are. I don’t want to design database structures, either.

What I want to do is design webs. Web. Design. That’s what I do. And I want to do it in a way that is creative, that brings Web Design in to the realms of drama, entertainment, comedy, sport. Elegant Web Design. That’s what I can do. My material is the Web. It’s URIs, it’s hyperlinks. It’s creating on the Web, just as much as creating a physical thing. So yes, that’s what I want my future to be. Someone who designs Webs – helps others to design them, and creates Webs of literature, of art. That’s me.


UPDATE: I know it’s passé, but a trawl for inspiration and direction came up with this (relatively famous) diagram by Jesse James Garrett. And you know what? The definition of Information Architecture doesn’t sound that different from the above, really:

“Information Architecture: structural design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content”

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