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Designing for Wireless is Cool!

Designing for Wireless is Cool!

Have you ever wondered what makes a designer tick? Have you ever taken a minute to consider the types of work that make a designer smile? No? Well, luckily, I took a minute to answer these questions. After talking to more designers than you can shake a stick at, some of the answers I heard were:
  • Highly interactive designs
  • Graphically intense Web sites
  • Image montages
  • Engaging Flash animations
  • While I was interviewing these designers, I also asked them how cool they thought designing for the next big thing - wireless - was like. I haven't heard that much whining since my retired neighbor told me his in-depth thoughts on why "Matlock" shouldn't have been canceled!

    "You can't honestly expect me to design an application without a single graphic and my only design element being text! Are you mad?"

    As we move into this new wireless realm, we are faced with a great many challenges. Testing is difficult, devices are incompatible, standards are nonexistent or unclear, and, oh yeah, if we can use graphics at all, they're one-bit black-and-white images. Not exactly the palette of Van Gogh. Web designers have been working for years to move away from the massive limitations they had to work with in the early days of the Internet. Finally we've made some progress, with tools like Flash, increases in bandwidth, and the much cheaper, much faster personal computers.

    "Now that the tour is over, please step back on the bus."

    Designing from the past for the product of the future. The most ironic thing about the cool, new, cutting-edge wireless technologies is that the content we're able to create for them is the oldest form of Internet content available: text. Oh, and you remember the 2400 baud modems? That's the same experience you now have in your wireless device!

    "But Jake, that's all the downsides.Where's the upside?"

    As developers and designers come together to create great wireless content, we're now required to focus on the keystone concepts of Web development: usability and user experience. Although we're not designing with graphics, we are designing for a much higher cause: providing content that is fast, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing.

    We now have five or six years of Web development design experience under our collective belt. Designers and developers alike have made mistakes, learned from them, then created even better solutions than what was originally thought of. As the wireless arena matures, we'll certainly see great advances in the multimedia capabilities of both the devices and the networks. But before we get to that point, we have the opportunity to start not only with a clean slate, but with a great deal of experience.

    This time around we don't have to make the same mistakes we made when the Internet potential was first being realized. Designers have the ability to design great applications, not just pretty pictures, without the uncertainty and confusion that was experienced when moving from traditional print design to Web design.

    I'd love to be a designer in today's wireless Web world. Sure, there isn't much graphic design work to be done at the moment, but this is guaranteed to change shortly. And as it does, designers are in the driver's seat for the way the functionality and user experience is created.

    Design from the past for the products of the future.

    More Stories By Jake McKee

    Jake McKee, senior producer for LEGO Direct in New York City, has
    been developing Web applications for more than six years. He has
    participated in all levels of interactive production, from hand
    coding to high-level strategy. In addition, Jake has held several
    interactive user group positions over the last four years.

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