Dirk Knemeyer

Webmasters, generalists and web design, August 23, 2006

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

In the early days of professional web design, we saw a center of gravity form around “webmasters,” jack-of-all-trade professionals who often handled everything related to developing and managing a website: from design to writing to programming. But as the web became more mature and complex it became evermore apparent that these “generalists” were inadequate to the job before them: the importance and sophistication of the web got to the point where it demanded different, specialized participants. Thus the role of things like usability testing and information architecture came to the fore, and a diffusion of the “webmaster” or “web designer” ideals in particular began to fade away. As a result we had a few years or more of highly localized specialization, with design teams often laboring along with an outrageous diversity of what I would characterize as overly specialized participants. That is beginning to even out now, and the people with the greatest value are those that synthesize multiple tactical disciplines into one designer. As time goes by the breadth of this synthesis will only need to increase and, unlike the webmasters of old who had knowledge about many things but wildly varying degrees of skill in each of them, the digital product design professionals of tomorrow will need to achieve excellence that crosses multiple domains that only recently were still being treated as separate, siloed roles. This becomes less a model of generalist success and more a model of highly experienced and skilled designers who aggregate various skill sets into a complementary and finely-honed set of tools.

Similarly, Bob’s point of there always being room at the top is a good one. And the craftsmen (and women!) who are exceptional at more niche (but necessary) skills such as illustration will always have opportunities, so long as they are bullish about honing their craft and pushing their level of performance. Of course that sort of dedication to constant personal development applies to all of us.

Evolution of web design, January 1, 2006

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

One of the results of the rise of the web was an enormous influx of new design and technology professionals, most of whom had no background with software and applications, having only worked on websites and relatively lightweight web-based products during their career. That is unfortunate, because as Web 2.0 increasingly behaves like a dynamic software application, the designers, engineers, researchers, and other stakeholders do not have the experience solving the more application-based problems that software professionals have long-since mastered.

Rather than focus on inventing new approaches to solving these challenges we should take a look at the thoughtful work done in the past, and use that wisdom as a starting point. So instead of trying to understand Web 2.0 through technology like Ajax or Flex that will soon be obsolete, we should consider learning more about software design.

Integrated marketing, October 23, 2003

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

In the future, we can expect to see a principal designer that presides over crafting successfully-designed communications across all company media. At that point most everyone involved in the marketing and design space will understand the need for true integration and a strong global vision which will include all traditional and new media. But we are certainly not there yet. What Web designers can do in the interim is think like a principal designer and design like a principal designer. If we think of ourselves as Web designers our Web sites will continue to look like Web sites instead of successful components of broad integrated marketing campaigns—which contributes directly to business success.

Through an understanding of integrated marketing and related media and technologies, such as this example with HD video, Web designers can add value to their clients and companies. The exploration of new (non-Web) technologies, like HD video, as a method to improve our Web design can provide extra value through lower production costs and greater integration across other media. This level of broader thinking and knowledge makes us more valuable and improves the business success of those who employ us.