Web Design And The New Normal

As my partner wife is fond of saying, “there’s a better kind of normal”. We don’t often question our habits or practices, as to us, these have always been the norm. It isn’t until something new comes along that we realise how bad things were before.

I feel like this is currently happening in the world of type design. For a long time type designers have been dealing with software that was either cumbersome, unreliable or both. Software that wasn’t in tune to the way people worked, was buggy and until very recently, wasn’t even compatible with the current Mac OS. Yet this same software is often regarded as the industry standard in type design.

That seems to have changed in the last few months with the introduction of a new type design application, which in a very short time has supplanted itself as the new, or soon to be, standard. How? It’s simply better. A better kind of normal.

Watching this, I can help but look at the state of web design software and wonder when we will see this happen here. For too long Adobe has ruled the roost with a suite of applications that don’t actually work all that well for web design. Although Photoshop and Illustrator can be used to design websites, neither is the perfect fit. Photoshop’s type setting tools are abysmal, and Illustrator doesn’t have any bitmap editing capabilities. But as these applications aren’t specifically for web design, that’s to be expected. Fireworks on the other hand should be the perfect fit. Sadly, it’s but an ageing remnant of the Macromedia acquisition which hasn’t seen any significant development in a long time.

Ironically, Adobe was once that breath of fresh air designers so sorely needed. At the turn of the century, the desktop publishing and design industry was dominated by Quark. It was what I was taught as a student, and was the goto software package for almost every designer across the globe. But for all it’s dominance, it didn’t stand a chance against InDesign. Within 3 versions, Adobe had muscled Quark out of the spotlight with a product that outshone it in every way. I remember even the national Quark rep at the time telling us to jump ship. That there was a better kind of normal, and it was called InDesign.

But that was then. Now, Adobe seem to be loosing their focus the more they try to stay relivent in both print and digital design. Over the last few months I’ve looked at a number of newer design programs by independant developers hoping to find something more tailored to web design. Although there is a lot of promise, I’ve yet to find anything I’d call a ‘Fireworks Killer’, something that just feels right and does everything one would expect as a web designer, something that just feels normal.