A few weeks ago I was reminded, as I often am, of life back in New York in the late 90s early 2000s when I was building websites for various clients. Back then a lot of designers were also coders, so we made websites from beginning to end. Arguably it was a lot less complicated, as you were pretty restricted in what you could build (256 colors – just sayin’). When you built websites then you worked super hard for about 2-3 months, you’d have the design done in probably about a week, but would spend the rest of the time asking for final copy, as you tried to figure out how deep you could go with nested table cells. Eventually you’d be done, and you’d pass it to the IT guy (pretty much always a guy) who would FTP it up to the company server. TADA! Finished! ?
You’d zip up your Photoshop, ImageReady and Dreamweaver files and save it … somewhere (no cloud yet). With the site live, you’d share with your family and friends, add to your resume, have a beer and forget completely about it. So simple!
Like the rest of humanity, digital designers are conditioned to find satisfaction in completing something. Finished my homework, Yay! Graduated, Yay! Finished that content audit, Yay!
Since about 2016 though, we don’t seem to ever be finished. Projects can span months and years, content is constantly changing, we need to research, test, measure and iterate, research again, test again, you get the idea …. We are in a world of big data, digital evolution and experimentation. Users and contexts are changing, quickly, so our solutions from last year, or last month, don’t always work now, or that solution you just finished prototyping might not work so well on an apple watch or a 5K monitor. It’s really easy to become disillusioned — “will this never end”, “I can’t keep up” — and make dangerous and bad decisions —“let’s ignore mobile for now”.
Then I remember all those archived zip folders, and that website, maybe still out there, but certainly not getting any visitors. Done and dusted — internet graveyard. Digital sites that don’t evolve, die or best case scenario become collector’s items, fodder for nostalgia; history.
It’s not just designers that get nostalgic. For product managers, product owners, developers and architects, anyone involved in the agile development process change is a challenge. By nature we crave that sense of completion. Which is why even though we have evolving products, we make deadlines and roadmaps and two week sprints. All so we can still have finish lines to get to, even if they are constantly moving …
In 2019 we need to embrace this, and not get frustrated by the challenges, or fixate on the design, remind ourselves that it’s pretty amazing what gets built in two weeks. Success and satisfaction for digital workers today is finding and celebrating the joy in the process, the progression, the adaption. So when nostalgia hits, look long and to the future and imagine a product evolved and alive, and not floating around out there in the internet graveyard.
An Anglo-American who escaped to Spain. Striving every day to make interfaces usable and useful for all humans.