Stop designing for engineers.

I’ve been around web design since the start of the web. I became despondent with the state of web design in the late 90s and gave up on it almost entirely around 2002.

I was sick of the fact that the tools, technologies and standards continued to provide a less-nuanced toolkit for designers to work with. I was sick of the state of flux around workflow. And I was tired of the relative immaturity of the industry as a whole.

Recent years have changed most (but not all) of that. Technologies and platforms exist that allow designers, writers and editors to create rich and compelling experiences for readers. We’ve got all the tools at our disposal.

And in some ways, I’m more despondent than ever.

As web design has become more and more specialised, I worry that designers have started adopting the mindset of engineers. Instead of constantly thinking about the best way to convey an idea – the best way to create a spark in the mind of a reader – I see designers simply working out how to force ‘content’ into templates.

It’s not our role to make engineers happy. Our role is to use our specialised skills to convey ideas and foster understanding. There should be considerable tension between the engineer’s demands for efficiency, and our constant push for effectiveness.

If something you’ve designed loses nothing by being viewed in an RSS reader, or by being scraped into Instapaper, then you’re simply not doing your job.

Edit: Yep, I get the light irony in writing this for reading Tumblr.

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