In the past decade of the internet, the rate of growth driven by technological advancements meant rapid change for the professionals who populate the web with content. The list of browsers and devices to support has climbed dramatically, new technologies have allowed for greater levels of glitz and glamour to keep up with, and the available code bases and development techniques have exploded with options.
In episode number 104 of the Web Ahead Podcast, The Everyday Designer, the host Jen Simmons and her guest Rachel Andrew chat about their humble beginnings as web designers. The discussion begins with a reminder of how simple building websites used to be as compared to now. They reminisced about the designer and developer being the same person, who had her hands on all aspects of the project. That person gathered a large array of best practices through trial and error. As expectations of a finished product grew, that everyday designer transitioned to the everyday small digital product team.
Daylight is a great example of our specialized roles. Many Daylight employees are individuals who built websites on our own at one point. In 2002 Daylight founder Shawn Mann was a one person team designing and developing websites. To keep up with technological advances, he joined forces with development partner David McReynolds. The two slowly assembled a team of specialized talents; Two types of developers, front-end and back-end who specialize in various avenues of programing; Designers who are UI experts; a digital strategist who helps make product decisions and guide traffic to the finished product; and a project manager who generally saves the day multiple times throughout the course of a project. The level of expectations from our clients requires a team of this size.
What concerns me with this industry-wide transition to narrowed job roles is a lack of opportunity to educate ourselves through on-the-job experience. This is a hot topic for designers who no longer code. We need to stay abreast to the latest advancements in code so that we can leverage these new tools to help the team save time and make better products. In every discipline there are similar concerns but none as severe as for the Interactive Designer.
There is no fix-all solution for designers not keeping up with technology, but recognition of this industry-wide problem is a good place to start. Listening to digital product related podcasts, like The Web Ahead, is one easy way to stay in the loop. Attending conferences occasionally will give you an idea of what others are doing to stay current. But for me, the most influential learning opportunities occur through close collaboration with my development team members. Collaborating not just on problems we are facing with a project, we discuss industry news updates and ideas about new coding opportunities. Developers sharing technical, code-related blog posts with the rest of the team helps Daylight designers stay up to speed. Whether you’re listening to podcasts, reading blogs, attending conferences, or collaborating with teammates, keeping up with technology needs to be viewed by your organization as a job requirement, one that will add value to your role as a web professional.