I was reading an article titled Web 2.0 for Designers” today and I ran across a quote that got me thinking:
What does this mean for Web designers? It means designers have to start thinking about how to brand content as well as sites.
Web 2.0 is a shift to web as platform. Take Gmail or Flickr, for example, they both utilize the web to create software that runs online as well as it could run offline (and in some cases better).
To get back to the quote, though, it struck me that there’s really no better way for businesses to brand content than to give it a human voice. Since everyone’s RSS feed looks essentially the same, there’s no real chance for branding there. So you need to figure out ways to connect with you audience in writing. Enter the blog. The human voice of bloggers naturally connects with readers who are so used to corporate speak that they embrace the honesty that blogs offer.
The whole Web 2.0 thing is a very interesting idea, that I’ve though about a fair amount, though not always under that specific title. Here’s one of the most interesting paragraphs from the article, which should give a better idea of just what this Web 2.0 thing is all about:
Enter the Web 2.0 world, which is not defined as much by place and is less about visual style. XML is the currency of choice in Web 2.0, so words and semantics are more important than presentation and layout. Content moves around and is accessible by programmatic means. In a very real sense, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re now designing more for machines than for people. This may sound like weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the Matrix, but in the words of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Web 2.0Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ is about making the Internet useful for computers.Ã¢â‚¬?
It’s interesting to look at in relation to the latest trend of stripped down blog design, specifically looking at Tom Coates’ Plasticbag.org and Ben Hammersly’s Dangerous Precedent. Both have stripped back their design and in turn made their sites all about the content. Both are incredibly readable and simple, somewhat reflective of the early web.
In a way they are supporting Richard MacManus in the “Web 2.0 for Designers” article, showing “words and semantics are more important than presentation and layout.” On the other hand, though, it’s the presentation and layout that is bringing out the word and semantics, so the real answer may be that Web 2.0 is about merging these world together and using the web for what its meant for. The web is the ultimate platform to test McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message. Sites that strip back are realizing that design should reflect and reinforce the message. They are designing for their content, rather than against it. When you see a site like that is there any question that the content is the most important thing? Nope.
For those sites, the medium is the message. I like that.