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Podcamp Halifax: Does design even matter anymore?


Jeff White is an experienced and innovative web designer and professor based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. With a passion for social media and an eye for aesthetics, his perspective is one focused on integration, usability and – of course – super cool internet toys.

You can find Jeff blogging, tweeting and presenting at Podcamp Halifax but I managed to catch up with him for a quick chat before his session!

1) How are we seeing design's impact on the internet change as social media grows?

I'm planning to circuitously discuss this on Sunday. I think design has an even bigger role to play in the social web. As tools for interacting with people get more and more complex, we need good quality design and usability experts to make the process simpler, more straightforward and enjoyable. Look at the difference between MySpace and Facebook. Sure, MySpace allows for more personal expression, but you can't even read the damn thing! At least Facebook sets standards for everything that make it relatively easy to figure out what's going on. This is why it has become a tool that almost anyone can get into, no matter their age or computer experience.

2) Of the major players, which are the ones pushing the bar with design?

I really think we can all learn a great deal from Facebook. They have set standards and this creates challenges for app developers, but at the same time it shows which apps are truly pro and which are more fly-by-night. As a recent iPhone convert, I am a serious advocate for the platform. What Apple has managed to do with the iPhone OS puts every other smart phone maker to shame. I'm also really stoked on what Palm is doing with the Pre. RIM, Google and Microsoft seriously have their work cut out for them if they intend to compete on a similar usability level. They're simply not even close. I also have to say I'm blown away by the design work coming out of the Obama campaign and the recently released If the Whitehouse is blogging, what excuse does any business have?

3) New designers coming from school, what do they need to keep in mind to do work online?

Young designers need to learn the basics of how web sites get built while keeping in mind the principles of user interface design. I've spoken about this on my blog recently, but there's a really fantastic article about the shortcomings of design schools in this week's posting.

4) Are they being prepared through school for what they'll see in the workplace?

Not at all. Very few young designers have an understanding of web standards, I'm also shocked by how few of them are engaged in social media (aside from perhaps Facebook), and very few that I've met are blogging. I've blogged about this too.

5) What's the one thing, person, company, tool, or movement to watch in social media for 2009?

I think we really need to watch the mobile space this year. Between Netbooks, smart phones and easily accessible Wi-Fi, the future is the mobile net. Apple is killing it (look at their earnings for Q4 2008!) but RIM will eventually figure it out, Android is looking promising and what's becoming possible in a handheld device is overwhelming. It's a very exciting time to be a designer/developer.

Check out Jeff's blog post covering the discussion from his presentation and keep an eye on for online video of the event's presentations.
They will be uploaded as soon as they become available!


  1. Evelyn So
    Evelyn So January 26, 2009

    Great interview, thanks! Jeff has raised some really key points, esp his advice on those entering the industry.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Evelyn So
    Evelyn So January 26, 2009

    To add….I recently had various convos re: the usability of Twitter and related applications. The design of these tools really need to improve to navigate the maze of social media.

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