This article was published on May 6, 2012

Why I’m really excited about the future of Web design

Why I’m really excited about the future of Web design
Harrison Weber
Story by

Harrison Weber

Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.

In a relatively short time, the Web has evolved from its infancy of table-based layouts, blue hyperlinks and low res gifs into something every single designer should be proud of. This was once a dirty, gritty place — that grit will always be there — but now, as tech and standards catch up with the ideas of creators, Web designers are innovating faster than ever before.

With optimism on full blast, here’s 5 reasons why I’m excited about the future of Web design. Sure, standards still move slowly, Flash, IE 7 and IE 8 still exist and Chrome keeps crashing on me, but what the hell — things are still going pretty damn well.

Crumbling Barriers

The level of disruption that’s occurring in the field of education right now is on par with the invention of the printing press. As books solidified and revolutionized the spread of information, the Internet is only beginning to show its potential as a mechanism for enriching minds all over the world.

This is happening in nearly every area of study, and the tech world is one of the strongest affected at the moment. There’s edX, Udacity, Learnable, Coursera, P2PU, Scitable, Skillshare, Academic Earth, Khan Academy, Open Culture, Open Yale, iTunes U, Udemy…the list goes on and on.

As far as learning to code goes, the barriers are crumbling thank’s to initiatives like Codecademy, Programr, Processing, Bloc, and so on. All of these are free opportunities that make Web-based careers truly accessible for anyone with drive.

What does that mean for Web design? It means there will soon be more minds building and shaping our industry. In other words, it’s a really, really good thing.

Evolving Standards

CSS, born in 1996, took four years before it was fully supported in any browser. Believe it or not, IE was first. Back then there was actually an HTML tag dedicated to blinking. Back then, skilled designers played very little role in the creation of a Web site — and if they did, the tools were still too primitive.

Now, as HTML5, CSS3 and applications of JavaScript evolve, the Web is fast becoming one of the best places for any designer. The flexibility and interactivity offered online is too good to resist. These emerging standards are even being embraced by the likes of Adobe for rich media, where Flash’s most important traits (you know, actually creating rich media and not the file type) will live on through the likes of Adobe Edge. Best of all, subtle interactivity and animations are becoming lighter and easier to implement. This means a more responsive Web is on the horizon, without all the gaudy transitions, sparkles and loading screens.


IE has long supported @font-face, but it wasn’t taken advantage of for good reasons. The Web was (and still partially is) built around Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman and Comic Sans. Yes, the 1996 Core Fonts for the Web project carried us this far, and now the rich world of typography is flooding online.

Type is now readily available to every Web designer. Sure, this means there are more opportunities for bad pairings and illegible body text, but that’s no reason to discount how wonderful this change is. Computers, like the rest of the world, need beautiful type.

Services like Google Fonts and Typekit are now here to help to resolve hosting and licensing problems that foundries are facing, but as time goes on new licenses and maybe even new file formats will help ease legal problems in bringing typography to the Internet.

Print Designer meets the web

The Web has had time to evolve, and now designers are finally able to truly utilize it. All the crazy possibilities of print design are now merging with the modern Web page, but with interactivity and fluidity that designers could have only dreamed off a few years back.

The raw talent of young and eager designers is flowing right into the Web, which will only help to evolve the way we experience it.

All these screens

Responsive design; it’s just as good as it is bad.

The stress of preparing for unpredictable screen sizes and viewing situations opens up new opportunities to make order out of chaos. Right now, the technical difficulties of designing for different platforms is a bit of a barrier for some. Still, the idea that the Web is no longer restricted to just a laptop and a desktop computer shows just how far these new devices have come to expand what we think of as Web and digital design.

These advances present new problems to solve, both technical and visual. Overall though, this industry continues to grow far beyond its humble beginnings. The Internet is growing up, and these are just a few reasons to be excited about its future. Here’s to optimism. I’ll leave the pessimism for Monday.

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