The web design industry is in the Dark Ages

Arjun K

Jun 24, 6 min read

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The Dark Ages. When you hear something like that, you often think of a bad time. A time that no one wants to think about, that people assume to be terrible and wrong. But is that really true?

Let’s go back to the first time the term “Dark Ages” was used to describe a time period. An Italian scholar named Petrarch, came up with the term in the 1330’s to illustrate what he thought was the deterioration in the quality of Latin literature from the period of ancient Greeks and Romans.

When the Germanic people conquered the former Roman Empire, which Petrarch was loyal to, they eliminated ancient Roman traditions to favor their own. Petrarch believed that the teachings of the ancient Romans and Greek was the apex of human achievement. He considered the era that came after to be dark and chaotic because, to him, there were no great leaders present, no scientific accomplishments made and no great art works produced. His definition of the Dark Ages, later became the basis for others interpretations of what the Dark Ages meant to them. Dubbing the Early Middle Ages The Dark Ages not only referred to what Petrarch claimed as dark but the term later evolved to refer to a lack of cultural advancement in Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Renaissance, aka the Early Middle Ages.

Many historians argued that the Early Middle Ages were actually not much darker than any other time period. Instead, this era evolved with its own political, social, economic and religious change. There are a couple of reasons why the Dark Ages should not be labeled dark, but have a name reflecting the enlightenment brought to humanity in that time.

The visual arts prospered during Middles Ages, which created its own aesthetic values. The wealthiest and most influential members of society commissioned cathedrals, churches, sculpture, painting, textiles, manuscripts, jewelry and ritual items from artists. Many of these commissions were religious in nature but medieval artists also produced secular art. Few names of artists survive and fewer documents record their business dealings, but they left behind an impressive legacy of art and culture.

Dark Age of Web Design

The concept of the ‘world wide web’ is believed to date back as far as 1946, when it was first described in a short story by Murray Leinster. However, its official (albeit accidental) invention is credited to physicist Tim Berner-Lee in 1989. While creating a database of software for a client, he used hypertext to create an index of pages on the system. This eventually evolved into what we now know as web pages.

This era of web design was known as the dark ages, as designers would work on black screens with pixels. Designs were made up of symbols and tabulation (also known as the TAB key). While we may now see this iteration of web design as primitive, many designers still take inspiration from the post-modern aesthetic of the 80s. In a sea of ultra-modern websites, this web design layout stands out with its pixelated background, icons and blocky text.

Why we are considered to be in dark age of web design now?

While we notice many modern websites, we might feel like art is given preference over usability standards. While surfing and admiring these great pieces of modern art in today’s websites, many those websites are pretty slow even if we have faster internet speed. Some of them are even laggy, eating up all my poor computer resources. They also have huge loading times. Although not every website has the same speed and reliability of Amazon or Google, there is no denying that these "inspiration" websites are becoming less and less useful as the days pass.

Most of them are portfolio or showcase websites, but I started noticing how this horrible trend of “wait 10 seconds” started regard E-Commerce websites too; as technology evolves we’re also supposed to enhance experiences and we know that people are pretty lazy: waiting more than 3 seconds is often too much for half of the users.

Impact of recession on developer’s job

Being a developer changed dramatically while comparing with early times. Back then, to get a job you’d need to know a programming language to develop UI and SQL for data persistence. Knowing stored procedures for a popular RDBMS like Oracle, Sybase, or MS SQL Server would help. This is it. The resume having Visual Basic plus MS SQL Server or PowerBuilder and Oracle would easily get you a job. Of course, you’d need to know them well. If you knew Unix shell programming (OMG!), you’d be getting several job offers in a heart beat.

Mid nineties. Do you know how to handle a Click Event on a button in Visual Basic and how to write an SQL statement that would find duplicates in a database table? You’re hired! In the second part of the nineties people who knew how to spell COBOL and CICS – would be getting multiple offers because of that Y2K FUD.

The year 2000. The world survived the Y2K craze. Legions of musicians, cab drivers and civil engineers became software developers, and most of them were able to retain their well paying jobs. You know Java and EJB? Really? How much do you want to make an hour? $100. You got it. Knowing HTML or JavaScript was not an asset – easy peasy and not serious.

But now, because of the recession and the growing interest of companies in simple, low-cost, showcase websites, being a developer has become both a “common” and low-quality result job in the last few years. In an effort to ride the wave of technology, communication agencies started flooding the market, but increased taxation and the recession forced them to look for quantity and cheap work.

Nowadays the wage and workflow are a lot similar to factory-working, where you have to “code” 3 WordPress websites a month in both a continuous economic and quality downtrend. Lowering the wage and selling off the IT jobs is creating a lot of economic difficulties for modern white collars, and probably the constant need for them will crash into a wall after people understands how the industry is working.

Impact of no coding softwares

The no-coding mentality that is prevalent today is also killing both designers and developers. It all started with Dreamweaver, but now software like WordPress, EditorX, Webflow, and Anima are pointing in the direction of how “let computers code for themselves”.

Forrester predicts that the no code development platform market will grow from $3.8 billion in 2017 to $21.2 billion by 2022. Google recently acquired AppSheet, bringing no code development to the Google cloud in a movement that continues to prove the potential of no code as a mainstream software development solution.

How does this impact designers and developers?

Higher education is reflecting very badly in the IT industry because the adoption-abandonment cycle of software and/or frameworks is fast-paced, unlike in the past when a strong understanding of algorithms and complex informatics was necessary to become a good developer.

Yet, we have to consider the other side too. Will no-code tools completely replace developers? The short answer: No. The significant change is in the way designers and developers can work together to create websites.

In addition to the development of CSS, Javascript has also evolved in parallel and perhaps even more. The idea that frontend developers need to control all the abilities makes no sense. And yet, the development of no-code over the years has enabled designers to build their own designs.

It’s a win-win situation, in which developers can focus on developing logic, and designers have more control over the user experience and styling.

So, not everything is bad

We mentioned in the beginning that the medieval Dark Age gave rise to a lot of wonderful things, and so us expect the contemporary gloomy period of web design will have some similar advantages. This century is proving this axiom true. The Z-Gen are energetic, enthusiastic, and prone to becoming entrepreneurs: their desire to succeed, win, and make a positive difference in society is what makes them successful.

Check out the awwwards websites. They are beautiful! Integrating designers directly into development creates the most beautiful digital masterpieces. Due to strenuous competition for jobs, developers and designers are building the most fascinating web in history, like gothic art.

Future of Web development

What we do on the Web changes every day. The web development industry is constantly evolving. While we may not be able to tell the day-to-day changes while it’s happening, it’s easy for us to look back to the past few months and see that a lot of things we do now are much different than what we’ve been doing before.

Because our work lies in one of the fastest-paced industries, it’s important for us to predict and learn about what’s coming up or risk being left in the web development dust. While this may sound daunting at first, it’s actually pretty easy to see where we’ll be in the next several months/years to come. Through the introduction of new technologies such as virtual reality, interactive 3D graphics, and augmented reality, web and interaction design as a whole are experiencing fantastic growth.

If no-coding mentality completely destroys the low-quality development market, developers will again benefit from higher education and will be able to focus on complex IT topics. It is likely that designers will be able to transform their Figma designs instantly into cleanly architected and animated websites without the need for buggy plugins or supplemental software, and they will be able to study and discover how virtual reality will become more mainstream.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with the team at SANCREATIVES and let’s see how we can help.

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