What I learned in 2011 and my predictions for 2012

It’s a funny thing — the more you share your opinions openly, the more people ask you for them. As the year is coming to a close, if you’re thinking about starting a blog next year or writing more frequently on the one you already have, don’t just make an empty resolution. STICK TO IT. I’ve been writing here for almost four years, and I am evidence of the fact that amazing things happen when you’re devoted to putting yourself out there.

Recently I was asked to contribute my thoughts to a few year-end articles, and have been quoted alongside many web practitioners who inspire me every day. You can read my excerpts here, but I encourage you to go to the full articles for a lot more wisdom:

A List Apart
A List Apart: What I Learned About the Web in 2011

The most important thing that 2011 taught me about web design is that physical context of use can no longer be assumed by platform, only intentional context can. For the past couple of years, we have gotten into the habit of presuming that mobile means on-the-go, desktop denotes a desk, and tablet is on the toilet. But increasingly the lines are blurring on where devices are being used and how they’re being used in unison. This year I have learned to see devices as location agnostic and instead associate them with purpose—I want to check (mobile), I want to manage (desktop), I want to immerse (tablet). This shift away from objective context toward subjective context will reshape the way we design experiences across and between devices, to better support user goals and ultimately mimic analog tools woven into our physical spaces.

Webdesigner Depot
Webdesigner Depot: Web Design Predictions for 2012

The rallying cry of the web community in 2011 has seemed to be “make stuff.” My prediction for 2012 is that we’ll soon realize that that was rather shortsighted, and instead will encourage one another to “make stuff that matters.”

I have seen so much incredible talent squandered on designing products that only meet the needs of a small, homogenous, insular group of friends. While this can be fun and challenging for a side project, it is a fleeting satisfaction.

In 2012, mastery of the tools and a cool idea will no longer be enough to get attention. I predict that there will be a widespread movement to uncover and understand deep-seeded, life-damaging problems for sizable communities across the globe, and our efforts instead will be put towards improving their lives and work in ways that empower humanity. Productivity and entertainment tools have their place, but I suspect that we won’t continue to pat each other on the back so vigorously for continuing to crowd the market.

Design is the problem. The social, economic and political environments we will find ourselves in in 2012 will push us towards asking questions before devising solutions, equip us with a longer-term vision, and ultimately deepen our greater purpose.

The Next Web
The Next Web: The Future of Web Design

I hope we come to have a greater understanding of the various target audiences that our products have and that we deliver them content more intelligently. Right now, different content is appropriate on different platforms. But users tell us so much about themselves through their repeated use of our product and we haven’t done enough work to create customized content experiences for them as a result of all of that intel. Instead, we’ve only created custom, functional experiences but not custom, content experiences.

What did you learn about the web in 2011 and what do you predict we’ll see next year (or are just wishing will happen)? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. says

    “I have seen so much incredible talent squandered on designing products that only meet the needs of a small, homogenous, insular group of friends. While this can be fun and challenging for a side project, it is a fleeting satisfaction.”

    I feel the same way. I just hope you’re right about more designers moving to meaningful projects next year.


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  2. […] I blogged about my reflections here, Jim Nielsen commented that my thoughts had spurred him to create a graphic to represent my idea. I love it so much that I […]

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