If you haven't seen Pierre Francois talk about the essential ingredients for Web 2.0, then you're missing out. But as with the best humor, there's more than a grain of truth to what he says. In this new world, designers are in vogue and the programmers who build the applications are taking a back burner.
While some may scoff at the notion that designers are taking front and center on the web, the signs are there. Adobe has always coveted the designer crowd, but is even now moving towards making it easier for designers to build code. Kevin Lynch gave the example of the Spry Ajax framework that Adobe just released. Meanwhile Microsoft is busily trying to build out the design tools it offers (see Sparkle) and stated many times that one of the primary goals of WPF is to bring together designers and developers in an unprecedented way. Google aquired exclusive rights to Doug Bowman to shore up the design and usability of their applications. A designer who knows the web and can work with programmers is an invaluable asset right now.
So why the revolution? What happened to the kid who could crank out an application on nothing but dreams and Red Bull? Soccer moms and teenyboppers happened. In case you didn't notice, if you're a techie, no one cares about you any more. The web is social, and the people advertisers like are the soccer moms and the teenyboppers. That demographic won't notice well written code, but they will notice a well designed application.
RIAs are an extension of this. The future of software is rich, interactive applications delivered over the web - the RIA. If soccer moms are going to use your application, it has to be pretty, it has to be smooth, and a huge emphasis has to be placed on the experience. The IPod wasn't successful because it was the best product technically. It succeeded because it was the most beautiful product. All of the big players, Microsoft, Google, Adobe and Yahoo, realize this and are incorporating that beauty into at least some of their products. The gateway to success in RIAs is going to be the ability of your designer and your programmer to work together. People are used to a certain experience on their computers, and in order to get the mainstream to flock to the web as a platform, you have to make the experience better than what they have now. The web provides that potential, and if you're a technically astute designer, then now is a great time to ask for a raise.