Web design in 2005 is what Product Design is in 2021

Before Product Design existed in its modern form – back in the days of MySpace and before the iPhone existed we used to refer to the process of creating any website (or web application) as “web design”.

15 years in the world of website design and internet technology may as well be an eternity. What we considered a good website back in 2005 would be far from good now.

Back in 2005 websites were mostly static online brochures that acted as an extension to your business card.

They normally consisted of the following information pages: home, about, products/services, image gallery and content. If you were really advanced you had Google Analytics “installed”.

Us website design professionals called websites that had a database behind them “Dynamic Websites”.

The content in a dynamic website was created/edited using a ‘Content management System’ or ‘CMS’.

CMS was an initialism only “IT people” had heard of.

I say “IT people” because if you did anything mildly related to the internet back in 2005 you were also expected to fix friend’s and family’s computers if they asked you.

Web technology is exponentially advancing at a rate so fast that we can’t predict what the internet will be like in 12 months time, let along fifteen years!

Back when anything that connected to the internet was website design

Terms like digital marketing, product management and ux design were pretty much non-existent back in 2005.

Even if the website being designed was a large website with complex functionality (What we call web applications nowadays) it was still called a website.

Traditional Web design was an all-encompassing term to capture anything created that required an internet connection to access.

Social media was still in it’s early stages. Digital marketing was centered around search engine optimisation (SEO) and a very basic google adwords.

How the website design process evolved to product design

Designers have been designing things for a long time. They find a problem and aim to solve it.

Any good website designer back in 2005 would have used the same process or methodology then as designers use now.

Website design involved the creation of a screen based user interface that humans could intuitively find the information they need and successfully perform key tasks.

Yep, I just described every software application and website that ever existed. And that’s my point. The DNA of website design or product design has not changed.

Website Designers in 2005 undertook the same activities that product designers do in 2020. Those activities include:

  • Determining core problems they need to solve through design.
  • Gain an understanding of the customer or user
  • Sketch out ideas on possible solutions
  • Draw up flow diagrams or user journeys
  • Explore visual styling
  • Prototype mockups
  • Test ideas and get feedback
  • Iterate and improve
  • Measure performance.

With the complexity of web applications in 2020 there are more complex problems to solve but the core of website design remains the same.

Website design has come a long way since 2005

Do you remember using the internet in 2005? It was a world of animated gifs, flash animations and poor user experience. (Granted the profession of user experience designer barley existed.) Here’s a nice post from Nielson Norman on the web design mistakes made in 2005

Back in 2005 we focused primarily on the look of the website. A website was merely an extension of your brand. Somewhere for your customers or prospects to find out more information about your product or service.

Now, in 2020 the internet is fluid, a website has become a single touchpoint within an ocean of digital channels and mediums.

A quality website design is more important than ever but the sourounding tasks and user activities are part of that design.

You need to consider where your users go, what they need to do relating to your service, what information they need to find and design a solution based on that.

Chances are you’ll need to consider you back office process also. When you get thousands maybe millions of people visiting your website through multiple channels. (Facebook, Google, Instagram, TikTok, etc) – What will you do with them?

That will be a block post for another time but you get the idea for now.

A ‘Website’ in 2020 is now a ‘Product’ or at least must be thought of as a product.

I had a website design agency in 2005 so I have first hand experience with this.

It was based on the Central Coast of NSW and we catered to businesses locally as well as businesses in Sydney and Newcastle. Central Coast Web design has come a long way since my time there.