[Interview] Designers, what can we learn from the past?

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Frontend development, SEO analysis, UX/UI challenges… we can easily put all these issues under one common banner. Is it IT? No, rather it is digital marketing. This world full of code and mobile devices is rushing forward and will never be the same as it used to be. However, the past of the Internet industry is a great reason to look back for a moment and… to draw conclusions.

Question: What was the internet like when you started out?

Błażej Piątek: Those were the days of iframes, animated gifs and bad taste patterns that made you stomach sick! 🙂 Do you remember when the website of even the most serious institution have a crazy animated clipart with a cartoon mailbox in the footer? Me too… even if I want to forget. It was simply in a “good tone” to create stuff like that.

Question: Were those websites different or times were different?

Błażej Piątek: It’s all about the people. Twelve years ago Nokia N-Gage with SymbianOS on board was the dream of every teenager. It was a time of different technologies, but also of different mentality – people were completely different than today. Example? In modern times, who creates a website dedicated to fishing trips with friends? Who takes the time to learn HTML and to share with the world their blueprints for a self-made ultralight plane? 2000-2008’s was a time of freedom, but also a completely different approach. Sometimes I miss it a bit in today’s internet.

Q: Today, social media (not personal websites) leads in personal contacts…

Błażej: Yes, and they, in a sense, took over the care for the good UI. John Doe who wants to create a photo relation of his RV trip to Germany have Facebook and Instagram now. In the past, he would rather create a HTML website with a photo gallery and subpage for each day of the expedition. He would also develop a menu, iframes, links and so on. Times has changed. Today photos are online after a minute after they were taken by a smartphone. John opens FB app, loads pictures, types “Guys, check out my RV trip to Germany!” in the text field, sticks an emoticon and bang! – 42 pictures are added! 116 people share this moment with John and within a second everybody knows that he is near Hamburg.

Q: It’s good or bad?

Błażej: It is simply different than before. On the one hand, it accelerated processes that previously took weeks. On the other hand, issues related to the front-end and user experience are left to professionals… or people who have a lot of patience.

Q: There is any way to go back to those times even for a moment?

Błażej: Oh yes, we have the Wayback Machine. This online tool has been saving parts of the websites for many years. Wayback enables access to them from the level of a convenient archive. Yahoo.com sixteen years ago? Here you are. eBay, old Google, CNN.com informing about president George Bush being elected? All is there! And we can learn from it – as UX/UI designers.

Q: Are you saying that we can learn from the past?

Błażej: Exactly. Look at those websites mentioned above. Try to imagine what problems developers must resolve in those times. Example: in the past, every telephone impulse was very expensive. Knowing how long it takes to load a fully functional website (even made in HTML2) they must fight for the website’s size.

Q: But after couple of years it changed, right?

Błażej: Yes, after that there was a little period of time called “file-size-freedom”. Interned sped up. Result? The weight of uploaded files started to be completely ignored, just like the image compression on the page. It was the norm to load a gallery of twenty-four photos, 6 MB each, “resized” simply by adding the parameter img width=”100″ to HTML. Such gallery had a total of 144MB! Nowadays, there is a return to the roots – and it’s good! Remember Google announces its interest of PageSpeed – the page loading rate? Internet changed again. Modern photo formats such as WebP or JPEG XR are used. The defer or inline critical assets type methods are used. Time matters again!

Q: Do have your own conclusions in the field of UX/UI when you look to the past?

Błażej: I think there are tons of things that come into play – first of all, the speed of a changing world. The Internet will not wait for busy people – and as people sped up, digital industry will have to adapt to it. Purchasing decisions will accelerate. An incorrect shopping path will lead to the immediate resignation of the customer who will simply leave the website – or even uninstall the mobile app. In my opinion, the interface plays a key role here – the number of simple solutions will increase. Do you remember what revolution material design introduced? It will happen again and again. We are going towards “smooth” and “light” direction.
Błażej Piątek

Błażej Piątek

UX/UI Designer who loves to creates Figma layouts & WordPress websites. In love with Figma, HTML5, CSS3, Stripo, Litmus, Photoshop, Wordpress and no-code tools like Elementor.

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