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Futuristic web design: what does the future hold

It took a decade of small steps, but the web is finally starting to grow. We’ve canceled the bleak days of brochure software again when companies thought scanning their annual reports page-by-page into half-megabyte GIFs was the way to build an online presence. We’ve woken up from the nightmare of building sites from nested tables that won’t make IKEA reject the trash, thanks to browsers that (mostly) handle stylesheets without leaving programmers vulnerable. Thankfully, most people have overcome their infatuation with Flash for its own sake, realizing that two minutes of geometric rotation is the closest thing to turning the entire front page into a back button.

Call it Renaissance if you like, but the only way is that, no matter what you want to present to the web. Design experts can now extend CSS, JavaScript, and even Flash to their limits, while keeping sites clean, lightweight and elegant that embrace different platforms and even shrink to fit the mobile web. At the same time, those most interested in content don’t have to sacrifice good looks for the brilliance of text, and can rely on publishing tools that make it easy for others to comment, contribute and collaborate online. Today’s sophisticated websites are based on the wishes and wills of their creators and their visitors: they are flexible, accessible and open to personalization. Most of all, it’s user driven: While it’s always true that much of our ego builds sites like HTML, we’re starting to see popular projects that offer distinct personal insights, while embracing what their audience expects from the web and what they bring to the web. . The vision of the portal creators for “Daily Me” is evolving into “Daily Us” bloggers and there’s a lot to like about it.

From interactive to inclusive

One of the early goals of site builders, in what you might call the Stone Age of the Web, was to bring life to static and only readable sites. The obscure world of CGI has been (and still is) beyond the reach of most HTML knights, which means that any browser-based techniques for adding interactivity tend to be pretty weak. Re-read the visitor’s IP address or create a sample text to show “Hello Dave!” When you enter your name is not really the height of technology.

Until recently, there was a digital divide between the bargain basement interaction available to most site builders, and the allocation of higher end sites powered by dynamic servers and databases. Now, despite the advent of clever website publishing tools, this kind of dead-end “interaction” can be thrown into the bit set. Ironically, however, a lot of the customization offered by big portal sites has also proven to be a false dawn. While the ability to pick and choose news stories or multimedia streams seemed like an important thing in the 1990s, it seems to be largely restricted by “old-media” expectations like buying a newspaper for the sports department or using the TV remote. What has emerged in the past few years, then, is a redefinition of what interaction should mean for the web, which builds on the various forms of online interaction that are already thriving, such as email, newsgroups, chat rooms, and instant messaging. So it’s time we put aside notions of stupid push-button interaction that portray the web as some giant video game, and instead embrace a new era of ‘totalitarianism’, where sites are created to enable complex interactions but on a very human scale.

Navigating to the future

A little over a century ago, designers created innovative “navigation” charts that proved potentially fatal for users; That’s because they were designing the controls for the first generation of cars. It took years of competition, countless accidents and lots of bruising before a standardized layout emerged. Trying to visit websites with funky navigation isn’t as dangerous as driving with the pedals from back to front, but the same principle applies: People expect stability from technologies as they mature, even if the right way isn’t always the best way. So while there is still tremendous freedom to come up with radical approaches to web-based navigation, forward-thinking site builders tend to focus more on improving the outdated models of operating systems, sidebar menus of popular sites, horizontal tabs, and clickable “navigation paths” so that they can It works better, cleaner and more efficient.

If you’re far from the more obscure aspects of CSS, you’ll be amazed at the power and flexibility now available to create elegant navigation elements, complete with tabs, and submenus, without resorting to image files, complex scripting, Java or Flash. This doesn’t mean Flash has to be completely off-limits, just be careful not to sacrifice basic usability, such as the ability to bookmark deep links to use the browser’s back and forward buttons to navigate between pages. And remember that users with special needs or who work behind proxies may be denied access. In short, it’s best to avoid using Flash for basic navigation and save it for special occasions.

While the look and feel of web navigation may be stable, it certainly isn’t stagnant. This is thanks to the growth of user-centric architecture, which attempts to avoid the old habit of dividing sites layer upon layer of subdirectories. Whether you’re imitating a company’s hierarchy or the folders on a typical programmer’s hard drive, a layered approach often leaves visitors not knowing where to look for information, or frustrated at having to dig too deep. Instead, building a user-centric site attempts to anticipate the needs and questions of visitors, whether they are new to the site or familiar with its working methods.

Share plugin

There are a lot of dynamic components freely available for personal and small scale websites, which can add some very important stickiness which encourages visitors to come back for future visits. A simple way to get started is to add a poll to your site. Another popular way to attract visitors is to include Flash or Shockwave games, puzzles, and quizzes on your pages.

care in the community

While you can take advantage of the generosity of others to add some sparkle to your own site, this should only be a starting point. After all, the hardest thing of all is the promise to provide original content that is regularly updated. If your visitors can’t go anywhere else for your daily fix of your wits, wisdom, and creative brilliance, you can be guaranteed to come back for more! The ability to update sites on a regular basis, without outstanding design or programming skills, has transformed the web in recent years. Allowing visitors to comment and contribute takes things a step further, creating a truly inclusive environment online. We’re talking about weblogs of course.

Many programmers complain that too many blogs have lowered web design standards, creating a gap between those who care about the appearance of their sites, and those who are simply interested in making dozens of posts per day, and it’s true that most blogs follow familiar multi-column layouts built on standard templates.

What’s undeniable is that blogs are tuned to the way most people browse the web these days: by putting the latest content on top and easy to navigate, they’re especially easy to track and flagged. It also works particularly well with Google by being rich in text-based content, which is one of the reasons why Google bought Blogger. And there are enough examples of beautifully designed blogs like Loobylu to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice your drawing and coding skills to create a site with rich and original content that people want to visit again and again. If you’re looking for more stickiness, the blogosphere is like a big bowl of honey.

The biggest advantage of building sites around the blogging model is that it comes with a vibrant community waiting in the wings. This is even more apparent with sites that make it easy for users to add photos, mood icons, and all the important commentary to their entries, and allow users to join “communities” based on shared interests. Admittedly, many sites look a bit like your geeky uncle’s DIY projects, but there’s plenty of room to take apart your design, and the site’s publishing tools make it very easy to become part of the community, or for other users to track individual posts and add their own comments. .

The most vibrant community-oriented sites at the moment tend to combine original content, collaborative authoring, user feedback, and plenty of external links, all wrapped into clean, submitted designs. While many community-led sites are backed by web blogging tools, the old-fashioned bulletin board is still worth a look.

Building broadband

Being more adventurous and constructive for high-bandwidth users allows you to deliver background music and Flashheavy interfaces that capture the distinct identity and purpose of your site. Currently, the best examples of this are found on sites where producers of “old media”, such as radio, television, and the music industry have adapted their work to the Web.

blue sky future

So where does the future lie for the web, as broadband becomes the norm and community-led sites become increasingly prominent? Can it be found in the text-rich world of blog-based sites, or in sites that bring more layers of rich media to the web? Well, it’s safe to say that both will have their place. While Google remains the primary tool for most users in discovering information that interests them, the edge it gives blogs and sites with similarly heavy content will maintain their popularity. At least it will continue until Flash designers have the technology available to create sites that are easily integrated into Google rankings such as those powered by simple HTML, or until Google or another search engine is sophisticated enough to categorize and index the growing amount of this web content in audio and video format. That day may not be too far away. With rich media content creation tools no longer a niche for discerning professionals, thanks to the growing consumer market for audio and video editing tools, there will likely be enough demand (and programmers savvy enough) to start resetting the web as something more than a world of text-heavy pages . Instead, look for the power and influence of CSS to increase, as it offers Google-friendly simplicity and the potential for graphic-rich user interfaces.

Looking back at predictions made at the end of the ’90s, it’s fair to say that the web has evolved less radically in the past five years than most designers expected. Many advanced technologies, such as XML and scalable vector graphics, still have to become very popular. This is partly due to the sporadic development of browser technology to adopt new standards, and partly because consolidation has supplanted innovation in the years following the dotcom collapse. Now, as new attitudes toward site design and the technologies applied to implement them evolve, we are likely to see a new creative spirit embracing the web where both the ubiquitous ethos of blogging and the convergence of rich media have a part to play, along with other interactive tools like instant messaging.

Does this likely mean that site builders in five years’ time will need to be smarter and more creative than they are today? Probably. But the tools at their disposal and the space in which they will have to work will also be transformed to make it easier to get their creative visions online. It is already possible to update and contribute to sites through your mobile phone. We’re now looking to upload and access streaming HD video, or dictate and receive site updates on the go. Site interfaces will evolve to reflect that the web is exploding from being “something that is on our computers,” and becoming a part of our daily lives. Designing for this kind of online experience would be light years away from putting together a menu bar for your personal website. Just don’t worry about being left behind. It is the ambition, skill and imagination of the website makers that got us where we are today, and it is these qualities that will transform the web in the years to come.


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