But in the last two years things have changed dramatically.
Got widely adopted pretty cleanly by anyone (but Microsoft). It actually took a long time to get CSS to be able to replace the TABLE-based templates designers used to trick layouts. But now it’s there. There are still some problems, but generally one could rightfully say that design with CSS is a viable path. (Having said that I admit that my own page here does still use tables. It’s on my ToDo list for month now!)
The XmlHttpRequest object (XHR/AJAX)
The Standardized Vector Graphics format has been around for a long time now. It had also some cross-plattform issues to solve in the first implementations. Now SVG is going to be supported directly from the browser and it might be good to replace Flash where ever it is not necessary to author content but to have simple scripts that output the required XML data.
Web services and APIs
It has become somewhat of a habit for web application developers to offer programmable/hackable interfaces to their service logic. So other developers could build on that resource. In other words: if your web application does not offer an API it might not be interoperable enough to withstand competitors that do. Think of a Learning Management System that needs to be integrated into a larger Service Oriented Intranet. No API – no go! Well, sort of… / I remember a project once where we could have used a clever indexing system to automatically create category trees. It would have taken me few hours to attach our weblog system to that logic. But there was no API and the developers of the indexing system couldn’t care less about that (they were focussing on their indexing logic). End of the story: they have a system few people use and we don’t have automatic categorization yet.
The Canvas object (new!)
If you think about these technologies, you’ll easily recognize the potential. It raises the bar for students and educators, because the possibilities are endless. People were staring at Google Maps and thinking this must have been very dificult to implement. But truth is, that it is not as complex as it seems. Actually these technologies straighten out disordered things from the past and add options for developers and designers at the same time. Things become possible that haven’t even been considered before.
It might seem so much easier to simply do the “rich interfaces” directly in Flash. But then you depart from HTML completely. With AJAX you can just add as much dynamic to an ordinary web page as needed. Flipping things here, getting rid of a reload there, save states without submitting a form, etc etc.
Essentially it will turn “web design” into “interaction design” thus the notion of “web design” might diminish one day. If you see a book in the store titled “web design”, you might think: “Oh, that is old stuff, I need the new ones…”