When I first started designing for the web, it felt like I was joining a field with a lot of common ground. Designers had more or less already won the wars for usability, web standards, semantic code, CSS layouts. A List Apart
was the journal of record, the default destination for the best ideas and movements in web design. Processes, roles, and vocabulary were all becoming specialized and standardized.
This feeling of unity may have been an artifact of my naiveté, but I don't think it's unfair to say that we've experienced some fracturing in the past few years. Increasingly the best designers of our time are not working for agencies, but for in-house teams at startups and tech companies. I think this is an important shift, not just for where the work is done, but how
the work is done.
Looking back at the ideas espoused by the UX community , I find their relevance to my work winnowing by the year. Many of the practices seem forged in the fires of consultancy. Advocacy is a repeat theme in UX writing, but is borderline irrelevant when working for a product- and design-centric organization. Similarly, when you have internal stakeholders who understand the design process, you don't need to worry about constantly building consensus. Deliverables like lengthy specs, comprehensive wireframes, and pixel-perfect PSDs are all artifacts from a time when risk-averse clients needed to enforce progress and limit variability. Inside of a product company, these efforts waste time, create politics, and mask responsibility.
Making your design work usable and beautiful has gone from being the ultimate goal to mere table stakes. Remember when the UX community thought a "unicorn" was someone who did both interaction and
I don't mean to denounce the UX movement — much of my professional development came from consuming all of those learnings. But our field, or some division of our field, is experiencing a transitionary period. I've felt this for a while, but I'm seeing more data points to suggest that common ground is emerging yet again. This post was inspired by the announcement by Randy J. Hunt
that he's working on a holistic book  on product design, the first of its kind and an important mile marker for the maturation of this new strain of design. I'm also deeply encouraged by the work of Ryan Singer
, who was one of the earliest designers to begin writing through this lens. And ultimately, if you'll forgive some bias, nobody has made a bigger impact on me than Rebekah Cox who is the sharpest mind in design that I know. We don't have our journal of record, our vocabulary is splintered and vague, our processes are inconsistent, but this is the beginning of something important.
 I acknowledge that this is a broad, vague term, but I still find it to be useful, at least in the context of this post.
 Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Web Products