For the better part of this year I have been heavily involved in the process of website design. I would prefer to say I have been entangled in website design, which is a more accurate description of such a project for someone like me whose skills are more, shall I say, narrative than analytical, more expository than iterative. But in this dynamic field of technology, where data and graphics collide with mathematics, the preferred term is engaged: I have been engaged with website design, which means for long hours I have been wholly devoted to transporting the work of the past 27 years of FORGING to a new online venue.
While this process has not been exciting, it has been enlightening. It seems that for every experience or function, or effect, that we might recognize from our past work there is a new and more deliberative term. To be more plain about it, the goal of website design is to draw our readers (now known as our “audience”) into our “space” and hold them there, “engage” them.
Of course, we want to engage you by informing you, which has been our purpose all along, but among the differences now is that engagement takes a much more expansive view of what will interest the audience. When I started working in the business press there was much research into the profiles and concerns of particular readers. We believed we knew what they liked, and what would interest them. We had documentation for this.
Now, we are more likely to assume everyone in the world may have some passing interest in the subjects that engage producers of forged and formed parts. For example, recently on our site we reported on the efforts to define the process of producing Damascus steel, an alloy produced between the 3rd and 17th centuries, famous for being light and capable of honing to extraordinary sharpness – and lately of interest to fans of a certain medieval fantasy drama series on TV. If those fans surf by and engage with us our and our audience, everyone benefits.
But, I’ve also found that website design necessarily recreates the speed and confusion of this modern age. In the past, we defined our readership and planned our presentations over the course of weeks or months. Now, every day and every hour shapes our outlook and alters our planning. Many web pages employ a design function called “infinite scroll,” which saves the audience from having to click to the next page but also never stops delivering more ideas, more data, more opportunities for engagement. The information just flows on and on, beyond what you expected, perhaps unsettling your planning but continuing the effort to draw you in, to engage you.
This is a theme I have examined in the past: the disorder of a world that is nominally unified by open communication and advanced technologies and controls. We can recall more ordered times, but we cannot recover that order. There is a real temptation to conclude that this world is out of control, and that certainty exists only within our very narrow understanding. And, for me, all this confusion coexists beside the subjects we are dedicated to: engineering and design, material science, forming, treating, and processing precision parts. There is irony in this, but who has time to reflect on it? We are surfing along an infinite scroll of information and distractions.
Of course, this temptation toward self-involvement is itself an imperative for engagement with each other. And, if we are committed to our work then, amid what may seem to be confusion we will find opportunities.
Of course, like our readers we are committed to examining and understanding forging and forming technologies, as these are now and as they will be, and to engaging everyone everywhere in common venue, where we may explore and express our knowledge and insights, and find our opportunities. And I hope you’ll find that this work of recent weeks and months delivers the right opportunities into view.