When I was first designing and building at PoolTables.com in 2006, 1 in 100 websites I actually used impressed me. In fact, I had a bookmark list back then of websites that really blew me away and that list was very, very short.
I designed on the side as well during that period and back then good design on the web was so rare that nearly every client of mine could scarcely believe what I had created for them when I would walk them through a pitch. And, deep inside, I knew I barely even compared to the web’s and the world’s greats. But that just goes to show how far we’ve come.
Now I’m rarely not impressed by most sites I visit. Pages are basically well laid out. Content is written for humans, for the most part. Photos are clear and hi-res and most are edited fairly well. Menus are standardized and orderly. Lists are easy to follow, videos easy to play, and everything is easy to share (really) anywhere!
All this was not true in 2006. Really any of it. In fact the opposite was universally true with rare, rare exceptions. By 2010, and this is anecdotal, but feels about right, we were to the point where 1 in 15 websites were getting there. At this point, though, the web was going through a weird mobile-morphization. Things started to take a few steps back. In the old days where only a few great designers knew how to execute a web strategy, now most designers had some web experience and could help put together a fairly thoughtful strategy. But mobile crippled it. Roadmaps couldn’t adjust in time and designers once again were experimenting with things that they had no exposure in.
Now flash forward to today and things have begun to settle down again for the web, and (now) mobile, world. Today as I go through my phone’s apps and navigate the 100 or so websites that cross my way each week, I’m struck by how easy and fast and beautiful everything is again. Almost everything is designed for retina displays and PC widths and mobile widths. Menus are standardized, videos are easy to play and everything is easy to share and save.
Tonight, to actually draw a point to this collection of personal observations, I’m wondering where we, as a human race, and more specifically as a clan of design thinkers and creators, apply our problem solving spirits to next. Where do we go from here? Of course there is always a new website or app or experience, but we have precedent now. A lot of it. And there will always be an envelope to push, but is there a medium we have left to explore? A place we can go next that will let us unleash our design thinking in new and unexplored ways?
Maybe the next great frontier for our great band of revolutionaries should be business. If you are glazing your eyes over, may that be a sign to you of an under-explored world of design thinking. Distribution, partnerships, business models and product married together in well sized markets and populations are the untamed jungles of our economy.
As a designer turned entrepreneur (of several years now) let me give you my personal witness of the vast and exciting opportunities that await the truly brave and creative that venture below the pixel to the business itself. Listen to it next time it calls for you. Because, indeed, it is calling.