This article dates from June 1999, six months after I left my previous company to go it alone. Hence I had recently experienced first-hand the problems of trying to identify an appropriate title to describe accurately what I did. I became particularly aware of how little consensus there was in the industry about who did what, and what they should be called. This is still much the case today in 2005, and the concluding point of the article – that we should focus on the role and not the title – remains valid.
I wrote this article in February 1999, at least in part out of frustration at a seemingly widespread lack of understanding of what interactive media was all about. Web sites in particular, it seemed, were being created either by programmers or by graphic designers – and never the twain shall meet. People who genuinely understood the medium were in short supply, and everyone else, it seemed, was desperately trying to adapt ‘traditional media’ thinking and skills to this new form – and frequently failing.
Looking back, I think much of my frustration came from the (inevitably) slow pace of progress in this respect – which may be ironic for a medium that was moving so quickly; or perhaps it was a direct result of this pace. Some of us understood the medium, saw the opportunity and wanted to get on with it – but often we had to wait while others caught up.
Re-reading this article now, six years later, I’m struck by how much of it still seems relevant today…
Some random predictions for 2005…
1. WiFi (free public access – taking off big time here in Brighton, not sure about elsewhere – does Starbucks et al still charge? Can’t see that lasting long), VoIP (goes mainstream), properly integrated mobile comms (anyone got one of the new Orange SPV M2000s? Do they live up to their promise? Still waiting for mine – they sent it to the wrong address last week…), cost of phone calls (local, national, international) plummets, ultimately becomes free (OK that might take a few more years yet, but it seems a logical conclusion of current trends).
2. CSS-based design (driven initially by all the hype around accesibility, but ultimately for pure economic reasons; goodbye tables-driven layout, hello semantic markup, progressive enhancement, graceful degradation etc.).
3. China. I had thought it would take another few years before the media picked up on the opportunity but it seems now you can’t pick up a business section without some mention of it. So much for my ten year plan to learn Mandarin… guess I’d better study harder ;-)
1. BT. Really should be Railtracked after their miserable excuse for customer service (BT Openwound especially) but I don’t suppose it’ll ever happen. Maybe they’ll get shafted one way or another. One can but live in hope ;-)
2. 3G. Maybe the TelCo’s should just give up and write off the £30 billion?
3. The United States of America. The beginning of the American Empire? Or the beginning of end of the empire? Either way… On which subject – a few years ago I expected China to become the #1 economic superpower in about 50 – 100 years, with Europe temporarily holding that position in about 20 – 30; now I think China might get there within 10 or 20…
Dangerous things, predictions, of course… ;-)
I wrote this article back in March 1999, when Web-on-TV devices were all the rage. It was largely a response to the tendency of web designers to concentrate too much on visual aesthetics, all too often at the expense of content, usability or robustness. My hope was that the emergence of Web-on-TV devices, and the associated contstaints of TV-based display would encourage designers to re-think their approach and develop more streamlined, fit-for-purpose pages.
Sadly that didn’t seem to work out, perhaps not least because Web-on-TV never really took off (though it may be making a partial resurgence as Interactive TV gains momentum). Even now in 2004 the web still suffers many of the same problems. There is hope, though – I sense that we are indeed moving towards the simpler, more text-oriented, sites envisaged in this article; only this time, the driving force is accessibility and standards compliance.
The article was published in New Media Age magazine.