Balance and Teamwork

After writing about the blending of design and programming the other day, it really got me thinking. I really think web design, and almost everything in the world is just one big balancing act.

In politics, for every extreme conservative, there’s somebody else that’s just as extreme in the opposite direction. In business, some people like to rush and make things happen while others like to plan and are cautious. In the end though, it all balances out and things take care of themselves.

Extreme Diversity is Good

Web development is no different. Some people think design is the most important thing. They believe it trumps accessibility, flexibility, and sometimes even business goals. Others think that accessibility and usability are paramount and that visual design should just get out of the way. Some people think that 100% Flash sites are the best thing since sliced bread. And still some people think JavaScript is the devil.

That clash of opinions is fucking awesome. In the end, it all balances out, and the ideal solutions are somewhere in the middle. Let’s take Flickr for example. It’s a beautiful blend of HTML, Flash, and just the right amount of design for what it does. Everybody loves it and it’s great. That’s the kind of balance I’m talking about.

The Formula Isn’t Precise

It doesn’t need to be an exact balance or perfect split between all of the factors for every site. The truth is that some need to be a little further on one side or the other for different reasons. In the end though, the best sites out there are the ones that find the sweet spot.

Innovation Often Occurs on the Fringe

While the extreme sites that focus on one thing like a laser beam aren’t always incredibly useful sites in and of themselves, they are usually where the innovation comes from for each area.

It’s the individuals with their extreme focus are the ones who are coming up with the ideas that get integrated into the mainstream. It would be difficult for someone to come up with all of the details that make Flash incredibly useful if they weigh themself down by being concerned by accessibility.

Look at What’s Involved

It doesn’t take just one skill to build good web sites. It takes a lot of skill, knowledge, and understanding to execute successfully. Often, these skills are very different, and not easy to learn. Without possessing a true balance in a large majority of these skills, it would be difficult for someone to call themselves a web designer or developer. They can be good at what they do, but they would instead be experts in their area rather than a web developer.

  • Accessiblity
  • Cross-Browser Awareness
  • CSS
  • Business Knowledge
  • Database Design
  • Flash
  • JavaScript
  • Information Architecture
  • Marketing
  • Photoshop (or other image editing)
  • Server-Side Programming (ASP, PHP, Ruby, etc.)
  • Search Engine Understanding
  • Usability
  • Visual Design
  • XHTML

You don’t always need every one of those pieces, but you’ll never see a really good site that doesn’t balance the ones that it does use. The site might be absolutely amazing in one area or another, but it will be so severly lacking in another that it is dragged back down by it’s deficiencies. Once again, it all equals out.

One More Example

One idea that I have just recently bought into is an excellent example of this. It’s none other than sIFR. It is an elegant combination of Flash, CSS, XHTML, JavaScript, Cross-Browser Awareness, Accessibility, and an appreciation for Typography (Visual Design). It is, in my opinion, one of the ideal examples of this balance.

There have been other image replacement techniques that focused on just one or two of the above skills, and they fall short in one way or another. It took a combined effort by several different skillsets to create what is currently the best solution.

Summary

The extreme fringes help us to create great new uses for skills and technology, but it’s the well rounded sites, the more practical applications, that put it to good use. In the end, the ideas work best when they seamlessly blend together all of the ideas with no prejudice for one technology or skill over another. That kind of balance and teamwork is what makes me excited about the web.

That kind of blending and balance is what I see as the essence of Web 2.0. Everyone is starting to see the strenths and weaknesses of each techonology and how they really can work together to make some pretty amazing stuff.