It’s Time for Web Design to Be About Design

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By Ashley Rocha, Creative Director, Brandcast

John Lasseter directed Toy Story, the first computer-animated feature film, and changed filmmaking forever. But it wasn’t the technology that Lasseter wanted people to remember.

“We focused on the story and hiding the technology,” Lasseter says.

That sentiment underscores that the best technology is always invisible. It just works. In the case of Toy Story, it worked to delight.

As with animation, technologies have continually evolved to make website design faster, better and less intrusive to the ultimate goal of any website: creating connections.

To date, more than 1.1 billion websites have been created, with more being added every second. Along the way, the technologies used to create websites have evolved.

A Brief History of Web Design

The first web page went live on August 6, 1991. But the real fun started in 1995 with the birth of browsers that could display images. This period was all about abusing tables and slicing designs to piece together a website. Designers would create a design, but it was up to developers to break it up and figure out the best way to make it work. Not exactly the best way to create a beautiful site – and full of technological burdens that get in the way of the story.

Next JavaScript entered the picture enabling interactive capabilities but this added one more technical skill designers had to master. Around the same time came the golden era of splash pages. Designers could create any shapes, layouts, animations and use any font all from one tool – Flash. It was exciting, but the need for the latest flash plugin and time it took to load made extinction inevitable.

[Related: Earn a Certificate in Web Development | 5 Growing Web Design Trends & How They Benefit Brands]

CSS came along next, which enabled the separation of content from the presentation. This is amazing because it allows you to apply styling to classes (or groups) instead of every individual element and gives you the ability to alter images, layer objects, etc. Around 2007 came the rise of mobile, and with it, came Bootstrap and Foundation. These are front-end frameworks that provide a grid system with the purpose of accommodating responsive web design. But once again, these are all technical languages, not a visual language.

You might notice a trend here that the tools used to create websites are built for developers or those with coding abilities. They’re not built for designers—who are the creative force behind how a website connects and interacts with the viewer.

Designers have long had to hand their vision off to developers or learn to code, which distracts from their intention. While in the coding cycle, every technical hurdle results in a compromise of vision, diluting the story the designer set out to tell. Often times, designs come back from development no longer resembling their original vision. Web design has for too long been overshadowed by how sites are built compromising the story and connections they’re supposed to be making.

The New Era of Web Design

As web technology has changed, so have the expectations of consumers. Good content and memorable brand experiences have become essential to driving customer engagement. Brands can no longer afford dumbed-down websites. And designers need tools that allow them the freedom to create attention-grabbing digital experiences. The good news is that we’re on the brink of a new era for web design. An era in which designers can control their vision from idea to execution.

With new and emerging visual web design platforms, designers can now create completely custom designs in the browser visually, with pixel-level design control and publish with the click of a button—no coding skills required. Brands need custom experiences and fresh content to compete in the modern world which is exactly what these modern visual web design platforms enable. The days of the painful back and forth with developers are over.

These designer-focused platforms will fuel creativity in the digital space as they empower designers and brands to tell the story they want to tell and to make the connections that matter. Just like Toy Story changed animated filmmaking forever, these modern visual web design platforms are changing web design forever.

Ashley Rocha is the Creative Director at Brandcast, a company at the intersection of design and web technology. Brandcast recently launched the Design Studio, the first end-to-end web design platform that gives designers, creatives and marketing teams creative control from start to publish – completely free from the need to code. Ashley specializes in building brands through strategy, design and storytelling. She prides herself on making things that are smart….and pretty. A few brands she has had her hands on: Adobe, Chevy, Coca-Cola, Dolby, Benefit, Häagen-Dazs, Kikkoman, Levis, Sprint and Vitaminwater. Ashley holds a BS and a BA from UC Davis. She holds an MFA from the Academy of Art where she was also an instructor.