Website Design is Alive and Well

I had an article linked to me on Facebook the other day (which you can read here.) that talks about how website design is ‘dead.’ It saddens me to see that this article is gaining traction on the social media circles and has some business owners buying the hype of the writer and making some poor choices. Honestly, the author clearly has no clue what he is talking about. And it has made me quite upset to see UX magazine publish such waste.

The first misunderstanding by the author is that he clearly has a very limited view of what a “website designer” is, and what we do day in and day out. Years ago, web design was simply doing graphic design for the web. You would make a pretty layout, do some simple coding and publish the site and you’re done. But the industry has grown and evolved well past that job description. I don’t know a single person in website design who gets to do just that (and trust me at times I wish that was all I had to do!).

Website designers have evolved into problem solvers. We understand UX theory, we understand UI development, and we exist to help our clients build the perfect all around package. In some cases, will UX be handled by more than one designer to cover it more in depth…of course! But the mom and pop shop who needs a site that can compete with larger stores isn’t going to be able to afford that, and it’s up to the website designer to be able to give them the user experience they need to connect and compete. And if a website designer can’t do that. . .then they are not worth their pay check at that point. Understanding all the disciplines talked about in this article that he lazily ships off onto other people, are jobs any average to above average website designer already does and knows how to do.

So for this article I am going to work with a more complete and proper definition of what a website designer is, and use the below definition for it as my framework for why this article is incorrect…

Website Designer: An individual with moderate to advanced understanding in – web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardized code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization.

Let me start off by simply stating, website design isn’t dead. But generic solutions to internet problems are dead. Soulless layouts, with uninspired designs are dead. In a world consumed by digital media, every business needs a brand that sets them apart and makes them stand above the rest. And it is the website designers job to be better and smarter. This means fewer templates, less frameworks and not placing all our faith in trends. Instead we need to focus in on storytelling, personality and character. Social media like Facebook won’t end website design, but it sure did teach us a lot about what we were doing wrong.

People crave stories. They want to know a business, they want to see it impact people, and they want to be a part of the impact that business is making. When people log on to the internet they’re eager for good visuals and refreshing layouts; they can’t wait for a wonderful and memorable user experience. Websites are not information hubs, they are the doorway to the world a brand can share with people now. The internet is a creative playground, where the only limit to what can be done is your imagination. If it’s not built yet, website designers often build it themselves and create new and exciting avenues for other designers to follow down. In the past few years we have made huge leaps in technology and found new ways to showcase businesses and connect with people, and it’s amazing!

There are too many badly designed experiences out there, and the list of poorly managed templates and self-made websites based off templates spawns new internet list every year. And the notion that a simple template can replace a creative, passionate, knowledgeable website designer is absurd. The author of the article talks about the grid and it’s AI system for design…which is really cool and offer a lot of features to make some of the design process easier, but it still will not create a better user experience than a designer can for a client.

If you’re a local plumber and are tech savvy, a template might get you the website you want, but will you know how to brand it right? How to make it flow with your flyers and business cards, and be able to keep an identity that is memorable across every platform? It’s very unlikely. Or, if your website needs to have a fully designed search page that pulls information from one database, photos from another, and then styles it and serves it to the person looking for it. Will a template be able to do that for you? We just built a real estate website using a RETS database, we had to pull listing information from one spot, the home display photos from a second, and the rest of the photos from a third, and then it needed to update daily in order to grab the most current listings. And they all needed to be styled and responsive… you just aren’t going to find a template or an AI like the grid that can do that for you. And if you have a template and want to pay someone to add those features, you might end up paying more because the code and template just weren’t built to fit exactly what you needed.

Proclaiming our craft to be dead is counter-productive, as time and time again, website designers have shown exactly how imaginative and creative we can be, both in problem solving and in creating a unique voice for a client. Website designers are creative people, who live for a challenge and love to find new, exciting, and jaw dropping ways to present ideas and brands to the world. If all you see when you sit down to create a website is a layout with text, photos, and contact boxes…then you are not truly a website designer. A website is a work of art, where each choice is laid out and tailored to fit and be a part of a solution to a client’s needs.

If you can’t produce anything but generic work, you will praise this author because he has given you a way out, but other creatives will not stop. It’s not who we are, and it’s not what we do. The internet will get better, it’s our job as website designers to improve, expand, and explore how far we can push it. It’s also our job to adapt, change, and reinvent ourselves when the time comes because if we don’t, someone will take our spot. We might change, the code will change, but website design isn’t going anywhere. You can try and call mobile apps, web apps, and responsive design the killer of websites, but really at the end of the day, who designs these things? Website designers do. We can’t be narrow minded and look through the lens of the past. Website design has evolved and changed so much and this article is simply feeding into the fears of those who are under informed, or who get by with cheap, lazy, and uninspired design.

We aren’t always going to have the right solution, or tackle the changes to our art form the first time out. But we will change with it, we will design and the digital landscape will still be built on the shoulders of website designers, just as it always has been. We craft the things this author talks about every day, he just lacked an understanding of what our job really is. Don’t let the uninspired scare you from building a better website. The future is built by website designers, and we are eager and ready to help you build and expand your brand, not just on desktops, but on mobile phones, apps, tablets, and any other digital platform that presents itself to us. Website design is alive and well, is your business ready to see what a truly creative experience can do to help your business grow?

Cy SearsWebsite Design is Alive and Well