Web content and design

26 September 2011

When it comes to digital content on the web, it can be argued that there are two groups of people: those who create content, and those who design how the materials are presented. Quite often, these two roles are combined in one person, especially for small sites and blogs, such as this one. Like many other webmasters and bloggers, I have spent a long time, probably too long, choosing an appropriate theme for this site, forever tinkering with this and that minor element. In my view, content is naturally very important, but so is the site design. A good-looking site without meaningful content is unlikely to attract or retain readers, but sometimes good content does not do as well as it deserves, because the design lets them down.

Both are acts of creation, and as such, can be showcases of creativity and imagination. Perhaps webmasters are engaged in a type of total art, which never stops evolving, growing in size because pieces of content are added, and always adapting to the new environment marked by progresses in both hardware and software. Of course, I cannot claim that this site achieves any artistic merits, but I have found it strangely rewarding to be in control of the materials and the ability to choose the design of the site. Even if it may not be the best or the most beautiful, it is definitely and unmistakably mine.

With the increased importance of the social networking sites and blogging, the roles of producer (and presenter) of digital content on the one hand and consumer on the other hand have become more blurred. The consumer is no longer a passive recipient of something produced by someone else, but also a co-creator by the virtue of participation in discussions and debates, as well as an interpreter and propagator of materials. This environment, where amateur enthusiasts can flourish, is an exciting place to be. With more platforms and easier ways to create content, I am hopeful that there will be a lot more interesting content presented beautifully in the future by more people.

The flip side of this potential free-for-all amateurism is that it can deprive writers, artists and professionals, in other words content creators, of their livelihoods. In addition to the relative ease of creating content, people are increasingly unwilling to part with their money in exchange for an access to materials. News, stories, images, videos, and other forms of creation are now often made available for free, some willingly by the creators, but quite often illegaly so. When there is no physical element in the transaction, be it a book, a dvd or a cd, but conducted digitally, it makes it far easier to copy materials.

Some coding and programming are not particularly difficult to grasp, but there are many complex programming languages, that require proper training, so professional web designers may be in a better position to continue to receive payment for their work. Yet, as mentioned earlier, there are so many platforms, whether blogs, CMS, or social networking sites, and many free themes available for the users, that there may be fewer well-paid positions in the future.

Perhaps there is going to be a kind of two-tier system, whereby there will be a huge number of amateurs, for whom creating content and maintaining an online presence are not the main means of making a living, but a hobby, and a few people, mostly in large organizations who will be paid to do either content creation or web designing (and maintenance) professionally. This kind of landscape is probably healthier and more dynamic than mind-numbing mediocrity.

What will the future be for content creators and web desingers? Will my guesses be right, or wrong? I think that the general direction is more positive than negative, and I hope I’d be correct in thinking so.