Is the iPad Sending Design Back to the Dark Ages?

Jeffrey Zeldman thinks so. In his essay, “iPad As the New Flash,” the author and standards guru argues that designers are now coding up device-centric user experiences at the expense of web standards, accessibility and the advancement of open web technologies.

Everything we’ve learned in the past decade about preferring open standards to proprietary platforms and user-focused interfaces to masturbatory ones is forgotten as designers and publishers once again scramble to create novelty interfaces no one but them cares about.

While some of this will lead to useful innovation, particularly in the area of gestural interfaces, that same innovation can just as readily be accomplished on websites built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and the advantage of creating websites instead of iPad apps is that websites work for everyone, on browsers and devices at all price points. That, after all, is the point of the web. It’s the point of web standards and progressive enhancement.

He takes issue not with apps in general, but with the design choices being made by popular magazines as they rush to embrace the new shiny. His ultimate conclusion: “Masturbatory novelty is not a business strategy.”

The comments are enlightening, too. A few make the point that web standards like JavaScript and CSS can now be used to develop experiences that can be delivered both natively and through a browser. Another suggests this is just the Old World struggling to understand a new platform.

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