With the wave of tools like Apollo, Microsoft’s Silverlight, and Sun’s JavaFX coming out, we’re going to have powerful visual design tools in the hands of developers who have little or no idea what works in graphic design.
Tools like widgets / gadgets have already made the whole desktop user experience much more fragmented. Does this matter?
I’d argue that too many application UIs have been built by low-level developers in the past, and have been far too complex. Back in the days when I produced software for UK schools, I used to think we were good at this, but the fact is that we were developers and advanced users, and those kinds of individuals rarely understand what makes a good interface design.
Desktop environments like OS X and GNOME have tried to enforce consistency via user interface guidelines. I’ve read that Vista has a bunch of contradictory interfaces (“standard” buttons in different places with different icons and behaviours in different applications), but I haven’t played with it enough to know. Apple’s interfaces, and tools such as Adobe Lightroom, are far more user and task-centric (in my opinion), which is what makes them nice to use.
Will Rich Internet Applications make the computing experience more confusing for users, or will they be an unqualified success? I think there is certainly going to continue to be a case for understanding good interaction patterns and graphics and UI design.
 15 years ago, fact fans…
 PTW Software, which I’m sure none of my readers will be aware of… we wrote educational software for RISC OS / Acorn computers