Friday, July 06, 2007

Luke Wroblewski: The hardest working man in web design

LukeW's take on Web Design ...

"Q: Many have said that the web designer who does it all is a thing of the past, and that the future will bring increasing specialization—which means, of course, larger teams. What is your experience with this?

Luke: When most people think about “do it all” web masters, they think of folks who can crank out visual designs, code them in HTML, write some good copy, and publish everything out to a server. Nowadays the programming aspect of this role has a lot more possibilities.

Many web development technologies like Javascript, Flash, XHTML, and CSS are being stretched to their limits by some very capable folks. So if you want to come into web design and start building the solutions you design at a professional level, you have a steep learning curve in front of you. Of course, toolkits and platforms (like the Yahoo! UI library) are being introduced to help manage complexity for budding developers, but dynamic web development is still a challenge for most designers.

That said, I don’t think this spells the end for generalists. In fact, designers that can understand technology opportunities and limitations at a high level, as well as business considerations are increasingly valuable because they can help focus product teams around user experience goals. So rather than designing and building a website, web designers are setting an experience vision and working with teams to make it a reality. That requires a cross-disciplinary approach that specialization alone doesn’t provide.

Q: What are some telltale signs that a web designer needs more design education?

Luke: I’m a firm believer in always growing and expanding your skill set, so any web designer that’s still creating websites, in my mind, is a web designer that needs more education – by that I mean both research knowledge and hands-on knowledge building product experiences.

To that end, I always strive to be a feedback loop: bring knowledge in and disseminate it out. By keeping up with news and trends in digital product design – mostly through blogs and conferences - I have a continual flow of knowledge in. By maintaining a blog ( and speaking at several conferences a year, I maintain a steady flow of knowledge out.

I also maintain this type of cycle when working with my product teams by spending time taking in research, opinions, ideas, and feedback, and then disseminating information through designs, presentations, visualizations and more.

Carlos Santana might have described this process best when he said, ‘music is water; the audience is a bed of flowers so I have to become the best fire hose I can’."    (Continued via DesignSessions)    [Usability Resources]


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