Are web design agencies going the way of the dodo?

Thursday, 19 May, 2016

Between applications that allow people to effectively create their own web presence, and bigger companies taking the web design function in-house, rather than out-sourcing the work anymore, it could be argued that the web design agency has had its day. We shall see.

Then there’s the phenomenon that’s putting the squeeze on agencies at the lower end: the so-called commoditisation of web design. Platforms like Squarespace have made good design widely available and affordable, meaning small companies with simple needs can now build their own sites. Agencies that have so far relied on this kind of business and don’t find ways to innovate will begin to see a downturn.

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Needy design patterns and popup boxes, let the backlash begin

Wednesday, 18 May, 2016

Those popup boxes, the ones I was talking about the other week, that usually prompt you to sign-up for a newsletter, and appear as you are trying to read the content of a webpage, look to have an official designation, they are instances of needy design patterns.

Or at least that’s how the Nielsen Norman Group, a California based computer user interface and user experience consulting firm, that was co-founded by Jakob Nielsen, refers to them. The aim of these so-called needy patterns is a desperate bid to increase user engagement, but the result, as far as this user is concerned anyway, is often anger.

The goal is to catch users before they abandon the site, to show them something they may have missed, or to provide one final appeal to capture their attention. And, according to the logic of exit popups, who cares if this appeal doesn’t work and users are annoyed? There’s nothing to lose, because they’re leaving anyway, right?

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What you see is what you get, a redundant web designer?

Friday, 6 May, 2016

When I used to design websites, I would code them manually, using a simple text editor for the HTML markup. There were some who disliked my methods, and thought I should use a WYSIWYG application of some sort.

An article such as this, one I could have sent these people to, that outlined the advantages of working manually, might have been useful, even if it refers to hosted site building applications, rather than WYSIWYG editors. I really should have written one myself.

If you build websites for other people, the last thing you should be doing is promoting websites that encourage them to use a DIY approach. You’ll practically be declaring that they’ve wasted their money by hiring you for a job they can do themselves.

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How W3C web standards, or recommendations, come to be

Friday, 15 April, 2016

If you’re a web designer or developer working to W3C standards, or more accurately recommendations, and you should be, then this article on they come to be, may interest you. It is, or used to be, a drawn out process, from the time a new recommendation is conceived, or proposed, to the time it is, or was, adopted as official.

First off, the “standards” created by the W3C aren’t really standards, but are rather a collection of specifications that instruct browsers on how to implement certain language features, so when we use a certain HTML element, browsers display it in pretty much the same way. The term “standards” isn’t used by the W3C; what we think of as “standards” are actually “recommendations”. The term “web standards” actually came from the Web Standards Project. Surprising, I know.

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The evolution of web design represented through one website

Thursday, 25 February, 2016

Charting the evolution of web design from 1991 to 2015. I think the representation for 2009 was at best a decade earlier, while I don’t recall the face of the web being quite so Geocities-like by 1999… hey, I was designing the web, albeit a very small corner, by then. We’ve come a long way.

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An actual, real, website hit counter that sits on your desk

Friday, 11 December, 2015

Photo by Jeroen Domburg

There were few websites around in the late 1990s, including this one, that didn’t feature a hit counter. They may not have been the most elegant of elements sitting upon a webpage, but in the days before the analytics tools that we take for granted today came along, they were one of the few ways that website owners could gauge visitor numbers.

But how cool might an actual hit counter, rather than something virtual, that would emit an audible click, each time someone looked up your website, have been? Using a mechanical impulse counter, Dutch software engineer Jeroen Domburg, aka Sprite, recently created such a device, and by following his instructions, you could as well.

This counter would have an additional advantage, though: every time a person requests a page from my site, the counter would give a satisfying ‘Click!’. The more clicks you hear, the more people reading your pages.

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It was twenty years ago today that Jeffrey Zeldman taught us to code

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015

Influential New York City based web designer, I don’t believe that title has yet been deprecated, Jeffrey Zeldman launched his website twenty years ago last Sunday. I’ve been reading it for almost all that time, something I may have pointed out before. Twenty years, that’s a long time, but I’ve said before as well.

And then there’s this:

I wanted to launch a redesign on this 20th anniversary – in the old days I redesigned this site four or five times a year, whenever I had a new idea or learned a new skill – but with a ten year old daughter and four businesses to at least pretend to run (businesses that only exist because I started this website 20 years ago today and because my partners started theirs), a redesign by 31 May 2015 wasn’t possible.

I may not be anywhere near as busy as Zeldman, but so far it hasn’t been possible to update the design here, that has been in place eighteen months now. Those days of five redesigns a year are truly a distant memory.

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Want your own website? Simply follow these 9001 simple steps

Friday, 6 February, 2015

I think everyone should have a website, but then again I’m a tad biased in that regard. If you are however thinking of taking the plunge, and establishing your own online presence, How to make a personal website, in 9001 easy steps by Thomas Levine, is what you need to read.

Nobody other than you is going to read your website once you have it, at least at first, so don’t worry about designing it for other people. In fact, you don’t even need a website; just come up with some system that makes it easy for you to find the things you’ve recorded.

Oh yes, there’s not quite nine thousand and one steps listed here…

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A history of web design for web designers

Thursday, 11 December, 2014 takes its origins in what now seems a primordial desire of mine to be a web designer. That I had no knowledge, or for that matter, experience, in the field was irrelevant, a mere detail. I made it, for a time, but soon realised I was really looking for a way to publish online, rather than build online.

Still, it all remains a reminder to me that anything is possible, should you set your mind to it.

Anyway, for those who came in late, a brief history of web design for designers, by Sandijs Ruluks, will take you through some of the milestones, and major developments, in the field that is web design.

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Jeffrey Zeldman, the first twenty years

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014

I’ve been reading the articles of New York City based web designer Jeffrey Zeldman for near on seventeen years. Zeldman, also known as the godfather of the web, has been designing the web, and writing about it, for twenty years now. Time is passing.

His life and work is the subject of a documentary produced by, and could perhaps feature the byline, “Zeldman, the first twenty years”.

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