I’m one of the pioneers in the world of website design. My company was one of the first 12 web design companies on Yahoo!. I’m responsible for a lot of Internet and web firsts- the first rock concert on the web (Moist, Matthew Sweet, Hootie & The Blowfish, and Blues Traveler at the 99X Chinese New Year concert in Atlanta, 1993), the web’s first live news event (Freaknik news coverage, 1994), the web’s first large-scale corporate rollout of multimedia technology (BellSouth, with Shockwave), groundbreaking virtual reality web projects (The Olympics, Major League Baseball), and so on. It’s been a wild and often wonderful ride, helping to create some of the best websites in the world.
And this week, my agency dropped ‘website design’ from our list of services.
Why? Because I don’t think websites in and of themselves matter so much, anymore. What matters is content, and connecting with customers. A website is just one way to do that, and it’s not even a very effective way nowadays. Moreover, the vast majority of website designs bore the heck out of me. It’s like we stopped innovating years ago- “put the logo at the top, put the navigation across the top or down the left side…” etc. The only cool thing lately has been the movement to embrace web standards. But it’s not enough to hold my interest. Web design has become, with some notable exceptions, a commodity.
And we all know commodities suck.
The one exception I am making: I love working with startup companies on their digital strategies. It’s been a lot of fun working with positive-minded people to help get their ideas off the ground. And designing a killer website is usually part of that, so we’ll keep on with that aspect. But general corporate website design and redesign projects? No thanks. I need more, to stay interested. And I need more, to make a difference to a company’s success. And I like making a difference. I like helping clients do good things for their businesses and their communities. Helping clients create great digital content that tells their stories gives me that.
In the past year, we’ve had an absolute explosion of projects here that are still web-based, but which are more content-related: things like creating quality digital video, and interactive content and applications for use on mobile devices. It’s been a blast helping our clients tell their stories these ways, and thanks to things like YouTube, I get to reach a lot more people this way than I ever could with a website.
I still believe in the web as a medium, of course, it’s just that I’ve found better ways to work with clients and make a difference than by designing websites for them.
Many of you won’t be surprised at this shift away from website design. After all, we started positioning ourselves as digital storytellers over three years ago.
I’m thrilled that storytelling has finally taken its rightful place in the online world, and in a big way, this shift is less of a retirement, and more of a re-focusing, it’s a return to my roots- I began my professional life as a multimedia designer with clients like The Cartoon Network, NASA, and the Department of the Navy. I’ve always liked to tell stories and help clients tell their stories, in a variety of media and platforms. So I’ve decided to refocus my agency on doing exactly that.