But what’s next, what comes after responsive web design? Could it be artificial intelligence driving web design? Maybe, but that is still a long way off. In the interim, we should look more at things like visual development. You see, one issue with many web design/development projects is the disconnect that many companies find between their programmers and their designers. Designers mock up and create ideas for what the website or app should look like, then it is left up to the programmers to understand and implement that vision. It’s not a bad system, but one that could use some improvement to help with that disconnect.
That’s where visual development comes in. By bridging the gap between designer and developer, websites can be built quicker and more efficiently, while also being truer to the original vision because visual development is very hands on. “It allows creatives to design with the code, instead of creating a representation of it,” says Bryant Chou, co-founder and CTO of Webflow. Webflow is one of the companies leading the charge in this new visual web development world and helped me understand some of the more intricate aspects this growing aspect of web design. Their platform allows anyone to create dynamic websites with a true drag and drop system that builds the code in the background as new building blocks are introduced.
With visual development, it alleviates most of the need for hard coding to be integrated, and instead, the CMS and visual tools actually build the code for you as you create your landing pages and functionality. For now, these new “visual designers” will most likely be working hand-in-hand with traditional web development teams, but as implementation becomes smoother and more widely used, we should expect visual designers to start playing larger and more significant roles within the teams.
I asked Chou about the future of visual development and where he saw it heading in the next five to ten years.
In 10 years, it’s inevitable that we’d build the majority of web and software applications without code. Software will continue to improve to the point where we’ll be building apps within apps, and software with software. The future Twitter/Etsy/Airbnb will be created entirely visually. We’ll only be coding extensions on top of visual tooling to fill in gaps,” states Chou.
For years, creatives and entrepreneurs alike have taken classes, self-taught themselves how to code, or forked out large amounts of cash to build websites the traditional way through coding and traditional CMS platforms like WordPress. All in the name of seeing their vision come to life. While visual development may still be some years off from becoming a “typical” web development method, it’s exciting to see where it is heading and that there are companies like Webflow that are looking into what could be the next big thing in web design.