The Death of Design

as a designer, i am often asked to create things that “look good” or “work well” or are “pleasing”. the trouble with this is that nothing is ever “pleasing” to everyone. in fact, the increasing amount of personalization in society today means that users expect everything they encounter to be tailored to them specifically, to the point that studies of websites show that users will leave immediately if the design of the site is not visually appealing to them.

so what can be done? in conventional product design, the answer is to study the users extensively, and tailor the final product to the scientifically-determined “average user”. but come on now, that’s no fun. a better way might be best exemplified by the internet markup language XML. today, XML means lots of different things to lots of different people, but what it means to everyone is that every piece of information on a page has “metadata” attached to it, telling the reader what type of information it is. example tags are “link”, “creator”, “description”, “subject”, and “date”.

what this gives users the power to do is to format the information in whatever way they wish. for instance, i use a program called “NetNewsWire”, from Ranchero Software, to collect RSS feeds from around the internet (like the one published with my weblog). there are two great benefits of collecting information this way: 1) i can browse tons of information from one place, much more quickly than i could by visiting individual webpages; 2) it allows me to put the information in my own format (or in this case, the format of NetNewsWire). same content, but in my preferred format.

not quite sure what this will mean for the future of web browsing. already has mockups of the integration of a web browser (apple‘s safari) and an agent (like NetNewsWire and apple’s sherlock). the pendulum of web design is swinging back toward the functional again after a brief dalliance in flash and heavy graphics, and with that swing may come a revolution in the way the internet is used. excited? me too.

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