The Future Of The Web?

Andrew Johns
11th March '14

In February I attended a refreshingly different digital event in London: The Future of the Web. This event for digital creatives was run by Digital DUMBO - a community which was set up in Brooklyn, New York (DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and has branched out across the Pacific to the UK.

Iggy Hammick, organiser of DD: London had this to say about the group, when I reached out to him after the event:

"What I'm trying to create with DD is a regular social gathering for people working in digital creative agencies. A geek ball if you like! Awesome content, plenty of drinks and friendly people. I feel this is lacking in the agency world right now, we could create great things as a collaborative community, but companies seem really closed off and private. I want to blow it open!”

Having attended a lot of other industry events, and got used to the usual format of individual presentations followed by networking, it was a nice change to see that they had put together a panel of people who answered and discussed questions posed by the organiser - which was then later followed by a Q&A with the audience. The evening's topic was one often debated internally at Pretty, so I was interested to hear outside opinion:

What tools and processes can we use to solve the challenges faced when designing today’s websites?

The panel:

Adam Robertson: UX Director of fffunction | | @robeam

Peter Gasston:Web developer and author | | @stopsatgreen

The discussion:

The primary challenge that came up during the discussion is that the old Photoshop-first approach to web design isn’t flexible or fast enough to cope with responsive, mobile-first design and that the idea of showing the clients designed mock-ups for every type of layout is just too slow as it goes through iterative refinement.

The solution?

Adam and Peter use tools like Mixture to mock up interactive wireframes, rather than full designs, much like we at Pretty have been using Axure to develop prototypes. They favour including the client in a collaborative design process, using these tools - but did say that some clients were really receptive to this approach and others weren’t

Why has it taken so long to get to this point?

I asked the panel why it has taken so long to get to this point in the industry, when advocates of accessibility and device independent design have been around for at least 15 years?

Adam answered (with a straight face) that the delay has been down to Internet Explorer! But jokes aside and on a more serious level, the answer is that Apple's innovative devices made consumers aware of good User Interface and UX, even on the mobile web, and that it has taken time to get that awareness of good UI and UX to mass market.

I don’t think this quite tells the full story, although I will agree it has been the catalyst. Perhaps due to Apple, users have moved away from desktop machines to smaller devices to surf the web and consume media. This in turn means that more users now use smaller devices to make online purchases. So while Apple got the ball rolling, I believe the real driving force has been that companies are fearful of losing sales and have realised they have to adapt.

So what is the future of web technologies?

When asked this question, the panel mentioned Web Components, Flexbox and also iBeacons - low-powered transmitters with the ability to send contextual information to your phone when you are nearby.

For me, the great thing is that the future of the web is already here and these technologies are available and ready to play with right now and people are testing and innovating with these tools and already creating awesome things.

What is the future of Digital DUMBO: London?

Hammick is really excited about the next event:

“We're exploring side projects and it's an awesome idea to have things on the wall. We’ll have a main headline talk, some show and tell style demos of people projects, and also a gallery on the wall of London's best side projects!”

The next DD: London event is Thursday March 13th, 6:30pm - 9:30pm at El Paso, Old Street. Tickets available here.