I’ve been wondering for a good long while why it feels like web design and development isn’t respected as much as native app development, and why the front-end role in many organizations is seen as a nice-to-have rather than a vital part of the business. Why is it so hard to see that this gig we call "front-end development" is crucial for business and even the day-to-day lives of users?
Is it just me that feels this way?
I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but you can see organizations everywhere that de-prioritize front-end development. There are slow websites! Ad-tech junk everywhere! Poor responsive interfaces! Divs used for buttons! Inaccessible forms! The problems on the web today are daunting and overwhelming to those who care about both good front-end development and the health of the web itself.
What's the cause? Well, I certainly don’t believe that it’s malice. Nobody wants to make slow websites or broken interfaces and nobody (I think) is intentionally trying to break the web. So, why do we all end up doing things that go against what we know to be best practices? What is it about the complexities of web design that is so hard to grasp?
Again, I’m not being mean here – this is an honest question.
I got coffee with my pal Lindsay Grizzard the other day and we were talking about this stuff, asking each other these and other really tough questions related to our work. We both see problems in this industry and it drives us both a little mad to some extent.
Anyway, I asked Lindsay that question: what is it about web design that makes it so difficult to understand? She posited that the issue is that most people believe web design is like designing a book. Heck, we still call these things web pages. But Lindsay argued that building a modern website is nothing like designing a book; it’s more like designing a car.
Lindsay and I looked at the cars parked on the street next to us: they have to be mass produced and they have to be tested. Each has to be built up of perfectly identical components that need to fit together in a very specific format. There are technical issues – limitations of physics, money, and time – that require confronting on a daily basis. You can’t point at one part of the car and have an opinion about aesthetics because that one component changes the relationships of the others. You have to understand that you’re looking at an immensely complicated system of moving parts.
I love that comparison though, even if it’s not particularly helpful to give others insight into what we do: a website is a car and not a book.