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View Full Version : The Web Design Boom is over. Long live Web Design.



Harold Mansfield
06-08-2015, 06:55 PM
I've been pondering this for a little over 2 years now.

The web is quickly moving away from obsession with "Original" designs to continuity. I hear people say all of the time that all websites look alike. That's because we're centering on what works. In many instances trying to do something away from the "normal" structure can be the kiss of death for your site, increase your bounce rate, and have all kinds of unwanted affects.


As a discipline, web design has already exhausted its possibilities
-source (http://uxmag.com/articles/why-web-design-is-dead)

You know what else looks almost exactly alike? Mobile apps. And we accept that, actually expect it, as the norm because it makes them easier to use for everyone.

People are more interested in the information, and how quickly and easily they can consume it, not praising your wonderful website design. Of course it has to be professional..but with the rise of professional templates readily available on pretty much all CMS platforms, easier implementation, and better and better website builders combined with support that attract budget conscious consumers and businesses...fewer people (and small businesses) are forced to call a web designer than use to be.

Of course a website builder is limited, and you can't build anything complex with it, but they still eat into a big portion of a market that we used to get 100% of.

Add to that...the website isn't your company's center of attention anymore, search engines are now voice activated computers, and more people search on mobile than desktops and laptops.

In 2010-2013 my business was 90% new website designs. In 2014-2015 thus far, at least 70% of my business is now support services and consulting.
Not new website builds.

Design is here to stay. But websites? Of course there will always be a need. Not having a website is like not existing. But it's not the center of attention anymore. It used to be everything. Now it's just one element and a lot of people are just going for "good enough".

If all you do is web design and nothing else, it's going to get harder and harder to make a living.


This article hits the basic points on all cylinders.


Things are moving in the direction of digital assistants like Siri, and especially Google Now with the new changes announced for Android M: they aim to provide you the exact bit of information you need, when you need it. This implies a shift from web pages to web services: self-sufficient bits of information that can be combined to other services to deliver value. So if you are looking for a restaurant, you get the reviews from Foursquare or Yelp, the directions from Google Maps and the traffic conditions from Waze.



This switch from web design to experience design is directly caused by the shift from web pages to digital products, tools, and ecosystems. Web pages are just part of something much bigger: mobile apps, API’s, social media presence, search engine optimization, customer service channels, and physical locations all inform the experience a user has with a brand, product, or service. Pretending that you can run a business or deliver value just by taking care of the web channel is na´ve at best and harmful at worst.
- Source: Why Web Design is Dead | UX Magazine (http://uxmag.com/articles/why-web-design-is-dead)

What do you think? Am I calling time of death too soon?

vangogh
06-08-2015, 07:30 PM
Well I don't think web design is going to die. I don't think websites are going to die either. I think web design is changing though and I don't think you're too early. I started blogging about this stuff last summer and I started the year with a series of articles about why freelance web designers need to make some changes or they'll ding themselves irrelevant in a few years.

I think the SquareSpaces of the world have gotten good enough for most, especially as most people think web design is about how the site looks and not how it works. WordPress.com will probably join the list of places to get a site now that Automattic purchased WooCommerce and will likely add it to WordPress.com sites in the near future. I think custom design is still the better option, but I don't think the majority of web design clients really understand the value of hiring a good designer.

Having said that I don't think it means the end of the web design industry. I think larger organizations are finally getting the value of design, though I expect they'll hire internally. I also think that since most people equate design with how pretty it looks, anyone who can design sites that make viewers say "wow" will find work. If you can prove the sites you design convert to sales and leads better, you'll still have work. However if you're current skills are installing and configuring a CMS or making a few tweaks to Twitter Bootstrap or some other framework, you're going to find it difficult to find clients within a couple of years.

I still don't think web design is going to die though or that websites are going away. People might install apps from Facebook on their phones, but people are not going to be installing apps for every site they like. There's just not enough room. Most business will still need a website and more than a few will want custom designed sites. More and more people though will find a site builder good enough, especially as the site builders continue to improve.

turboguy
06-08-2015, 08:59 PM
I am not a web designer and I am not sure how much I can add to this discussion but I will throw out my thoughts anyway. I don't think the web design business is going to die. I have been doing some newsletters for a trade association that I am a director of (actually I was the founder as well). I sent out a newsletter today and it was part of a multi part series on web sites. We have too many members who don't have web sites. One of the statistics I quoted in today's newsletter was that 46% of businesses today don't have a web site. I see a lot of people who want a web site but don't know who to use and don't really know much about a web site. There is a lot of unfulfilled demand.

The internet and web sites have changed a lot over the years and that isn't going to stop. I can remember when everyone wanted a hit counter, when frames were popular and before CSS when people did layouts using tables. Now Wordpress is the big thing and 23% of today's web sites were created using Wordpress. Lots of web designers see that as a good thing since it is much easier for the customer to do his own updates from the control panel. I think it has a negative side as well and that is mostly because the WordPress web sites tend to look so much alike. I can usually spot a wordPress site with my eyes closed. Still I think a lot of web designers have been using WordPress or Joomla. With Google's move towards wanting resposnive web sites that makes WordPress a logical choice

I do agree that some of the site builders are pretty good and someone can create their own web site. At least that is my impression. Since I have never gone that route I can't really say how easy they are to use but I believe that is the case. I have started to play with WordPress. I don't find it that intuitive or easy to use. I would probably like it better if I had never done a web site. I am just to used to putting things in the way I want where I want and how I want them to be using CSS and HTML with a little help from Dreamweaver. I think on of the problems is that WordPress has hindered creativity. It is too easy to just take a template and add the content. Does that really take a web designer?

I have no doubt that web sites will continue to change. I am sure if we could fast forward 10 years the web sites we would see will be very different than the ones today. Good web site designers will have a market for a long time to come.

Harold Mansfield
06-08-2015, 09:31 PM
I think it has a negative side as well and that is mostly because the WordPress web sites tend to look so much alike. I can usually spot a wordPress site with my eyes closed.

You kind of answered your own statement. Just because it's easy to plop down a template, doesn't mean you know how to do anything else. See enough DIY sites and they do look alike because they can only do what's easy or what's in the settings.

I have noticed a change in the last year. People are starting to realize that running your own website isn't easy. That there's more to it than just knowing how to use your admin panel to publish blog posts and it's not for everyone. Probably why I get more support work these days than new builds. But not from Mom and Pops. They don't want to keep spending for technical work. They'd rather go to Squarespace or The Grid, plop up their page and let someone else worry about the technical details.

I may be too far ahead of things. I know there are still a lot of people and businesses out there who will always need the services of a web designer or a CMS specialists. But the article makes a lot of really good points. Websites are not what are going to propel the future of entertainment, information, communications and marketing. They are still needed and necessary, but they're not going to be a source of any great new advancement in technology.

Especially now with mobile and voice search pretty much changing the entire game. No one needs to navigate to your great website design anymore, and they don't care.


What is the latest web design innovation you can point a finger on? Responsive design? That’s digital ages old. Parallax? Useless eye-candy. The web has had all the user interface components and patterns you might need for a while now (and no, parallax is not something we really ever needed). And that’s why you don’t see much innovation in web patterns as of late.

This maturity is good for users: they will find consistency in their daily use of the web. Checkout forms, shopping carts, and login pages should all behave in a similar way. Trying to get creative at this point will probably be pointless or even harmful.

vangogh
06-08-2015, 09:33 PM
It is too easy to just take a template and add the content. Does that really take a web designer?

That's the issue in a nutshell. The thing with a template is it wasn't designed for your site. It's a generic design to hold some content. It's always more effective to have something custom designed specifically for your business. Websites are also meant to be maintained. You build a site, measure how it's working, and make incremental improvements.

Some people don't get that. They see a website as a brochure they can point people to and that's it. That means they don't see the value in what hiring someone for custom work adds. I can understand that too. Good design seems obvious and once seen it's hard for anyone to imagine it could have been any other way. Because of that people don't realize how much work went into make it seem so obvious.

I think the majority of people will find sites like SquareSpace or WordPress.com or a similar service good enough to get started. Some will need help with setting up on these services and registering a domain and similar. I think you'll see some freelancers filling the space and probably some business that hire cheap labor to do the work. The site owners will in time bump up against the limits of whatever service they use and they will want to hire custom work. However I think by the time they want more they'll have more money to spend and look to a larger organization than a freelancer.

Harold Mansfield
06-08-2015, 09:55 PM
Here's another point that is not mentioned in the article.

I watched the Google I/O keynote and other presentations from that conference, and just recently started taking Android development courses. I've also been reading everything I can get my hands on about Material design.

Here's a company that controls 80% of search and 80% of all smart phones world wide. They are setting their universal standard for design and UX. It's going to be hard not to lean into the curve and design in a way that 80% of the world is going to be used to seeing...dare I say expecting. Especially considering that (as they say) the next billion connected people will be mostly doing it through mobile devices, not desktops.

vangogh
06-08-2015, 10:37 PM
The thing with developing apps for mobile devices is that people aren't going to add your website as an app unless you're a well known brand. Most people will still need websites. There's not enough room to install apps for every site you like. It's possible people won't visit your site through a browsers. Most of the content I read online comes through a feed reader.

I'd also argue that if 80% of the world is looking at the same design then you should look different to stand out.

The majority of people will still need websites. I just don't think they'll be getting them from people like you and me in a few years, at least not as often as they do now.

vangogh
06-08-2015, 11:03 PM
And that’s why you don’t see much innovation in web patterns as of late.

I think the article is wrong in it's reasons. You have a few things happening at the same time. One is responsive design and it's a new way to think about designing a website. That takes time, the same way it did when the industry switched from HTML tables to CSS. The technology also changes so quickly. I think a lot of people are rightly focused on things like performance at the moment, things that are more technical.

You also have the reaction to skeuomorphic design. For years everyone designed things to look like 3-dimensional objects. Unfortunately it went too far and things started looking tacky instead of good. The reaction is flat design. It strips out a lot of details and all the depth leaving less to differentiate one design from another. When you have companies like Twitter making frameworks like Bootstrap, it makes it easy for anyone with a little bit of development skill to build a site that looks pretty good even if it looks the same as every other site.

People are already getting tired of the look. Sooner or later someone will design something that brings back the depth and the detail and the stuff that can't be sold as a template so easily. Then everyone else will copy it. It's how we got to flat design and every other trend that's come and gone.

The look of websites is just what they look like today. We live in a copycat world. Everyone is copying the latest trend. The exception are the designers working on what will become the next trend.

Brian Altenhofel
06-09-2015, 04:58 AM
As others have said (either directly or indirectly), there seems to be a stagnation in design styles because the industry has settled on implementing what is known to work well. When I do have a client that needs design work done, they tend to describe their "wants" as "unique", but when you dig into those wants they turn out to be more like "just like everyone else, but with our branding".

The only people who really notice design style differences are designers and artists. Most users want the ability to go to a website, find what they need easily, and go through any business processes on the site (such as shopping carts) easily. The goal quickly becomes to not lose conversions to confusion, and that typically requires to conforming to what is normally expected by users.

In the past, one common goal was to keep users scrolling on a page to locate information so that you could sell them on something else. However, since that time enough data has been analyzed that shows that you pretty much have 3-4 seconds to grab attention and 30 seconds or less to make the sale (just like commercials or even news stories on TV).

Because of that, the focus has shifted from implementing new and unique styles to performance and progressive enhancement - the former because you need to maximize your usage of those initial 3-4 seconds, and the latter because you need to provide users across a multitude of devices the experience they expect.

Another factor has been the need to get to market fast. I've lost count of how many times I've been told (with supporting data) that what a potential client wants done is not currently done in their market. Using frameworks like Bootstrap greatly reduces the time to market and brings along features that meet current best practices. I rarely work on a project without Bootstrap these days because of that.

My revenue sources have also shifted significantly during the last two years. Before, more than 90% of my revenue came from development. Now, it's about 50% hosting, 30% development, and 20% consulting and support. I definitely don't mind because hosting has high margins and requires very little hands-on work thanks to automation.

turboguy
06-09-2015, 07:51 AM
There are some interesting thoughts in this thread. I like what everyone has said and particularly Vangogh's last post. Almost all businesses have a life span and that life span is getting shorter and shorter as time goes by. Who would have thought a couple of decades ago that the film camera and land line phone would become basically obsolete. Look at how short the life span of the pager was or the PDA. Would anyone today believe the cell phone will someday be obsolete. I am not sure what will replace it but I would bet 50 years from now they won't exist at least in anything close to what they are now.

I won't rule out that web designing could be starting to die as a business. I do think more struggling businesses will opt to do their own and I think the really large businesses will do it in house and the market will be the middle range businesses. I don't see demand ending there.

I think one of the problems in the web site design business is the ease of entry. Anyone with a bit of knowledge can be a web designer but those who have talent and knowledge like you guys will be the ones that prosper. I have no idea how many web designers there are but there has to be a ton of them. Yet for someone in need of a web site finding someone good and someone they trust can be tough. Before I found this forum the trade association I am a director of was looking for someone to redo their web site. We had one guy we wanted who was really talented but he was too busy so after waiting for a year for him we gave up. I posted something to the effect that we were looking for a web designer on one web site forum and in the web site section of a giant forum specific to our industry and got very little interest. I think I had about 3 responses from each site non of which were very impressive. We finally did find someone who was a full time designer for one of the companies that another director works for but the point is that there are lots of people whose biggest problem is finding a good web designer and that isn't easy.

I mentioned the ease of entry and I will talk a bit more about that. I got my first web site for my business back in the early 90's or so. Our first one was actually a sub domain of one company who concentrated on customers in my area and for a reasonable fee they basically took our print literature and made it into 5 web pages. I can recall the first time I saw it on a search engine. It was cool to see it there and we were only 268 places from the top. A few years later we wanted more. I was on one forum and casually mentioned I wanted to do a new web site. One person approached me about wanting to do it for me and quoted a reasonable and affordable price. We exchanged some emails. Around the 5th email he mentioned it would take him some time to get it together because he was 12 years old and still in school. As I said, one of the problems with that business is the ease of entry.

Brian Altenhofel
06-09-2015, 08:31 AM
Would anyone today believe the cell phone will someday be obsolete.

People still carry cell phones? I think it's been 7-8 years since I switched over to small-format touchscreen computers.

Harold Mansfield
06-09-2015, 11:18 AM
Another factor for me is the amount of people who call me who've never seen my either of my websites...which to me is pretty striking.

They either saw my reviews somewhere and called the number on the profile information, or in the case of a call I got last week she did a voice search on her phone, saw my result and touched my phone number from the search results. And I'm finding this more and more. Talking to people on the phone who never saw my website or aren't looking at it when they call.

turboguy
06-09-2015, 11:25 AM
And here I thought everyone found their experts on the web these days. I checked out your one web site and I do think anyone who was looking for a web designer would be impressed. You did a great job on your own and I am sure you do an equally good job for your customers.

vangogh
06-09-2015, 12:19 PM
I want to reiterate that nothing is dying and the web design industry hasn't decided they've gotten things right and we never have to change again. Design always goes through trends .Today's trend on the web is flat design. It was a reaction to what came before, which was skeuomorphism. The next trend will be a reaction to flat design and you're already starting to see it.

You'll see depth come back though not to the degree it was before and you're going to see more and more animation. Not Disney like animation, but simple things like a button change color over a couple of milliseconds when you mouse over it, instead of changing instantly. You're going to see more images and text slide in from the side as you scroll and things like that. With each thing someone gets right, others will copy it and in a few years we'll have a new trend and then a year or two after that people will complain about the trend and talk about how web design has stagnated and has nothing new to offer, blah, blah, blah.

How do I know this will happen? Because it's been happening for a few thousand years already. The change happens faster now, because things happen faster in general now, but it's the same stuff that's been going on for a long time. Flat design is basically Swiss design (aka. The International Style of Design) from about 65 years ago. It uses type, color, and grids, and flat imagery. Then the 1960s happened and designed was more illustration. It was more spontaneous. Something will come along soon to replace flat design and it will probably be characterized by a heavier influence on aesthetics for their own sake.

Where this affects web designers is that technology continues to improve and it gets easier and easier to build themes and templates that work well enough. I don't blame someone for choosing a $100 theme over hiring me for a few thousand. I know the site I design will be more effective than the template most of the time, but I also realize my clients probably won't be able to tell the difference, especially not before they hire me or buy a theme.

I think freelancer web designers are going to have problems in the near future because the people who have been our clients for the last 10 years are likely to start choosing SquareSpace and similar over us. There will still be work for freelance designers, but it will be different than it is now and we'll need to adapt to the new reality. I think learning the ins and outs of these services is an area we can make money, though less than what we make now. I think web designers should also quickly improve their aesthetic skills, because those will still stand out, in which case you'll be able to set your prices.

Most people designing websites today have little to know aesthetic skills. Most of us learned how to code HTML and CSS and now we can build websites. What most of us didn't get was a graphic design education. Unfortunately the code is the part that's easy to replicate and automate, making it easy to replace you if that's your greatest strength as a web designer. If on the other hand you can create beautiful looking sites you'll do fine.

Harold Mansfield
06-09-2015, 12:41 PM
My point isn't really that web design is dying. Design itself will never die. It's needed now more than ever.

It's more that the website in particular isn't 100% of your online presence anymore like it used to be 5 years ago. 5 years ago you'd spend 90% of your web budget on the website build. Today you'll spread that money around to different web based marketing efforts. Combined with easy to use, cheaper builders, we don't get 100% of that money anymore like we used to.

Just like the technology, we too must evolve.

billbenson
06-09-2015, 01:18 PM
Everybody that has responded here so far is a web designer. I'll give you a web marketers perspective.

I expect certain things to be in certain places. There seems to be a trend to put navigation in the right coloumn these days. OK, I can live with that. But I would like sites to stick to standards for ease of finding what you are looking for. I don't want artsy fartsy.

I started out doing my own web design. That was because of budget and a lack of knowledge of what web design is. People starting out are still going to do the same thing.

Today I'm going to consentrate on selling and leave the design to professionals. I'm glad I started the way I did though.I know what databases can do and a lot to help me direct my web designer.

I don't want artsy fartsy in my web site. I want 'the facts mam, just the facts'. Having said that, I know the the power of a database. I think this is what will seperate the men from the boys in web design. You can do so much with a database! I will be constantly anoyning my web designer to do custom programs for me.

@Harold. My personal opinion of what you should do is concentrate on the backend of web design. That's not to say that you should ignore the front end, Just that the stuff you can do on the back end is what is going to make me money. Most customers won't realize this though.

Harold Mansfield
06-09-2015, 02:06 PM
@Harold. My personal opinion of what you should do is concentrate on the backend of web design. That's not to say that you should ignore the front end, Just that the stuff you can do on the back end is what is going to make me money. Most customers won't realize this though.

My focus has always been function and UX. Very few clients have the kind of business where "artsy fartsy" is going to help them. If you are a design company, photographer, entertainer, nightclub and so on then that's a different motivation all together. But Small Businesses who are selling products and services kill themselves trying to reinvent web design (without knowing anything about design) instead of concentrating on UX and selling the product.
Style over purpose has always been a battle.

They want design flash yet they have absolutely NO images, their copy writing is a joke, and they really haven't thought out what they want thier website to do other than "look cool".

Most don't get it until I'm done and they make that first dollar from the site.

I used to go through the same thing with new bar owners. So many were so obsessed with what their friends would think was cool that they completely ignored what actual customers respond to and want to see.

I love design and cool stuff. But when it comes to making money I tend to focus on what works, or what I can make work. I don't mean I need to be a drone, but I'm not going to make the navigation a floating button with a drop down of symbols just to be cool when I know clear placement at the top or left side (with actual words) is where it makes more sense to most people.

My music blog, for instance, was all about style. I could take all kinds of design risks with that site because it fit.

Generally of course. There are exceptions to everything I'm saying here.

In the case of my caller that found me through voice search and clicked through from the search engine...she never ever saw my design. All she saw was my page title, description, and phone number and clicked through. After that it was all about my closing skills. She actually never saw my website for days later when I was showing her an example of email captures and redirects.

Personally, I'll definitely keep doing what I'm doing, but I am trying to pivot into different things.

vangogh
06-09-2015, 05:33 PM
It's more that the website in particular isn't 100% of your online presence anymore like it used to be 5 years ago. 5 years ago you'd spend 90% of your web budget on the website build.

Got you. I'm still not sure I agree though. True most people around the world get online through a mobile device. That's around the world. Not every business serves around the world. Here's a Wall St. Journal article (http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2015/05/26/mobile-isnt-killing-the-desktop-internet/) from a couple weeks ago. Mobile use in the U.S. is clearly going up, but so is desktop use, albeit at a slower pace.

People still need websites. Most people are not going to install an app of my website or your website. Space on your phone is limited. People might find ways to visit our sites through an app, but we still need websites to be in that app. Websites will be the default fall back you need to have and for those businesses that can build a big enough brand can develop apps that will people will install.

As far as budgets go, I don't think the issue is because people decided to alter their general budgets. I think it's because cheaper solutions have become good enough. People end up spending less of their budget on their website, but I think they would have before if they could.

Overall I think we both agree. A lot of web designers are going to need to change and adapt to changes in the marketplace.

vangogh
06-09-2015, 05:44 PM
the stuff you can do on the back end is what is going to make me money

Bill that's my point from earlier in this thread about most people not understanding the value of design. How your site works and looks on the front end is just as important and probably more important to how much money you make. Your backend isn't what gets customers to trust you enough to buy from you. Your copy and your design do that. It all works together really.


I don't want artsy fartsy in my web site

What does that have to do with design? Design isn't just how it looks. Design is how it works. How it looks is part of that, but it's not all of it. A well designed site doesn't mean a site with illustration and imagery everywhere, though a site with illustration and imagery can certainly be a good site. My point again about people not understanding the value of design is people seem to think design means artsy fartsy. It doesn't.

There are a lot of layers to designing a website, that include things like figuring out how to organize the content on the site so people can find it. It involves streamlining a checkout process so less people leave in the middle. It also involves visual things like helping people notice the important information on the page. It's about communicating the story of your business and what it stands for through visuals like color and type choices.

billbenson
06-09-2015, 05:56 PM
I think a good analogy is an auto repair shop. Even a yard guy. I know pistons go up and down and may be able to repair my own car. I could buy a bunch of lawn care equipment and mow my own lawn. But my time is better spent making money. The lawn guy knows plants and how to trim them. I don't. My mechanic can fix a car problem in an hour that would take me a day to do.

In general, I use professionals at something because my time is best spent elsewhere.

I will stand by my earlier statement that I'm glad I started out by writing my own website. It taught me what you can do with a website and how to best manage my web designer. I don't want to make a career out of it though!

Brian Altenhofel
06-09-2015, 10:01 PM
My perspective is as someone who rarely deals with the front end directly. That's why I refer to myself as a developer or my work as development. When someone says "web design", and especially in the context of the first post, I think that refers to the folks who design the look and feel of a website or (as many websites are becoming) web application.

I don't expect a web designer to understand business processes and how to implement them. What I do expect them to understand above all is good UX and how to create a thorough style guide. I don't care if they know how to write code because that is a non-essential skill for a web designer that brings little added value to the table.

My biggest pet peeve when hiring designers is when the widespread refusal to be platform-agnostic. Contrary to what many designers believe, the platform has zero influence over whether a proposed design will work. It seems that many have this flawed belief that platforms place certain limits on what can be achieved with design or UX. The WordPress community, for example, has an extremely large pool of talented designers, but 9 times out of 10 if I try to hire one for a non-WordPress project the response is something along the lines of "I'm not familiar with that platform, so I can't design for that."

You might notice from my signature that I'm a Drupal developer. On about 20% of the Drupal projects I've worked on, end-users never even see Drupal directly (except for requests for JSON data). Why? Because there are better front-end platforms available like AngularJS, and the Drupal aspect of the application can be limited to it's strengths (data management, business process implementation, third-party integrations, etc). Most of the ones that do use Drupal as the front end are also set up to spit out the minimum amount of markup required by the front end developer to implement a design style.

It seems a lot of designers like to support those "everyone should learn to code" initiatives. That's great! That helps bring down the cost of people who write code and allows me to spend more time developing technical specifications or conducting pre-merge code reviews (both of which are areas that I can charge a much higher hourly rate with fewer jaws hitting the floor).

Harold Mansfield
06-09-2015, 10:23 PM
My biggest pet peeve when hiring designers is when the widespread refusal to be platform-agnostic. Contrary to what many designers believe, the platform has zero influence over whether a proposed design will work. It seems that many have this flawed belief that platforms place certain limits on what can be achieved with design or UX. The WordPress community, for example, has an extremely large pool of talented designers, but 9 times out of 10 if I try to hire one for a non-WordPress project the response is something along the lines of "I'm not familiar with that platform, so I can't design for that."

In my experience ( and this may not be yours), what people want and what they are willing to pay don't quite match up. It's common for me to regret saying the words "I can do anything with WordPress that you want" and then have them point to Bank of America's website and want 80% of the functionality on a shoe string budget.

The second part of that equation is to hire the right person for the job. It's not about platforms having limitations. It's about everyone not being knowledgeable in every possible thing just because it's online. Most web designers specialize these days. Some are better graphic designers. Some specialize in Drupal, or WordPress, or Joomla. Some specialize in bootstrap designs and CSS. It's not all the same. You know that. You know you can't hire the average graphic designer to build a website using Joomla.

You're versed in Drupal. I'm not going to hire you, nor expect that you know how, to develop and build a marketing campaign complete with a series of landing pages for an ad campaign just because its all also online.

I understand what you're saying. You expect anyone who calls themselves a designer to know how to design for every platform, but in many cases that's unrealistic. I get hired by designers and marketers all the time who are great at what they do, but they don't know how to build with WordPress. It's not out of the ordinary.

And there's sub specialties of WordPress. There are designers and there are developers. Developers don't always know how to design.

I personally think the opposite of "everyone should learn code" because it's unrealistic. I'm the king of telling people not to do something if they're going to complain about it.
If people want to do something, they don't need the opinion of others. They just do it.

Brian Altenhofel
06-09-2015, 11:03 PM
The second part of that equation is to hire the right person for the job. It's not about platforms having limitations. It's about everyone not being knowledgeable in every possible thing just because it's online. Most web designers specialize these days. Some are better graphic designers. Some specialize in Drupal, or WordPress, or Joomla. Some specialize in bootstrap designs and CSS. It's not all the same. You know that. You know you can't hire the average graphic designer to build a website using Joomla.

When I hire someone to design, I'm not hiring them to build a website. I don't expect them to be able to. It's rare to find a great designer that can write good code, just like it's rare to find a great programmer that can make a good. The platform has absolutely no bearing on the design. Making the design work on the platform is not the job of the designer, it's the job of the developer.

The application type, on the other hand, does have a bearing on the design. If I'm working on an ERP application, I'm hiring a designer that specializes in ERP applications. If I'm working on an e-commerce application, I'm hiring a designer that specializes in e-commerce. They need to know how to deliver the appropriate user experience, but they don't need to know how to implement it.

The biggest issue I've run into working with those who insist on doing both has been a lack of separation of concerns. This is usually in the form of putting business logic in the theme itself, such as generating the data that is delivered to the user (typically via database queries) or implementing menus directly in the theme. The front end design should be able to be swapped out at will without any alterations to the application. Most of the designers I've worked with that also wrote the code to implement their design fail to maintain separation between the theme layer and the application.

vangogh
06-10-2015, 12:28 AM
Interesting perspective Brian. I agree and disagree with you in different places. I think the disagreement comes down to where does design cross into development and vice versa. No question a web designer creates the look and feel as well as the user interface. I think everyone who touches the site is involved in the user's experience. I could create poor navigation and you might develop some functionality that performs slowly. Either could lead to a bad experience.

I don't include developing a shopping cart for a client as part of what I do, though modifying someone else's shopping cart or writing light Javascript is. I realize not every web designer will, but I do. I actually think web designers should learn code for two reasons.

The web is the medium in which we work. If I were a print designer, I'd want to understand everything I could about paper and ink and any other material in which the design lives. It helps me make better design choices to know more about the medium. The medium for web designers is code. I think every web designer should be able to code a web page with HTML and CSS and I think most should want to understand Javascript too.

Again, I don't expect web designers to know their way around a database. i don't expect them to program business logic.

The whole process works best when design and development occur together throughout the project. Design informs development and development informs design. For larger companies teams should include both and they should work side by side and each should learn as much of what the other does as they can. Designers and developers don't need to do each other's jobs, but they should understand the problems each has to solve.

When you're a freelancer there is no team so you do more yourself. You learn to code better and you learn to make use of content management systems and open source and sometimes you bring someone else on board. I think that's why you see web designers adding business logic. It's not a design/development thing. It's a I have to do this out of necessity thing.

Web design isn't about developing the business logic, but it does extend beyond a graphics program. In fact I don't design at all in a graphics program. I sketch and I code. I understand separation of concerns, but I don't think too much is good. Too much separation leads to too much separation in the people doing the work. I think it leads to teams not necessarily working in the same direction. I mean separation of concerns in a what each of us is responsible for sort of way.

By the way the WordPress community has been pushing everyone to not include business logic in themes and to generally add it to plugins. I agree with you that you should be able to change the look and feel without having to rework the application at all. That kind of separation of concerns is absolutely important and I agree with there being different layers in the presentation and functionality.

At the same time the design is more than that look and feel. For example you should be able to change the look and feel and still have the content organized in the same way and have the navigation leading to the same pages.

Brian Altenhofel
06-10-2015, 02:01 AM
I agree, especially with this:


I think every web designer should be able to code a web page with HTML and CSS

I do consider markup to fit into the realm of designing, especially since it is often more efficient to design in the browser. (I do draw a distinction between markup and programming.) It's not uncommon for a designer to specify the markup, and that's fine by me. My rant was about designers that limit their prospects by insisting that they also write all of the code for the theme and it be on the platform of their choice. If a designer can provide the HTML and CSS, any decent platform can make sure the outputted markup matches the specified HTML.

Most of the Drupal themes on projects I've been on recently have only had enough PHP to tell Drupal "this file contains the markup template for this layout, and here's it's unique machine name so you can load the appropriate CSS and JS files when this layout is used". Nothing in there says "show this specific content here". To me, that is a very important separation to maintain for ease of future development that I rarely see the designer/developer combo make. After all, when is a web application ever truly finished?


When you're a freelancer there is no team so you do more yourself. You learn to code better and you learn to make use of content management systems and open source and sometimes you bring someone else on board. I think that's why you see web designers adding business logic. It's not a design/development thing. It's a I have to do this out of necessity thing.

I totally understand because I've been there, and I'm still a one-man shop.

Freelancier
06-10-2015, 08:38 AM
Just like every proclamation that something in IT is "over", web design is in a lull until trends change -- and they always change.

I was in the sporting goods store over the weekend looking at free weights, those things you stick on a bar to get different weights to lift. Boring and the same since whenever they were first invented. But then someone thought up an idea where the weights are in slots on each side of the bar and you dial up the weight you want and it locks the right weights onto the bar for you and then you just lift the bar and it has the right weights ready to go. Basically, forever the trend was free weights all over the place. Then someone thought of a better way to do it and that's the new standard the weight makers are now moving toward. Until someone figures something else out.

I was told years ago that programming would all move overseas where it was cheaper and just as good. And that trend held until it didn't. And I marketed against that trend for years and made good money by capturing the people for whom the trend was a mistake. Still doing that, as a matter of fact.

Right now, the trend in web design is to create this boxy-looking design with lots of white space and wasting a lot of space with meaningless stock photos. I'm sure that works for a lot of clients, but that's today's trend. Like guys all walking around with 3-day beards. It'll eventually change to something "better". And there's still a market for people who don't want what everyone else is doing. So you can do what most people want or you can market yourselves as being outside the trend. As long as your customers are happy, you're happy and well-paid.

Harold Mansfield
06-10-2015, 11:40 AM
Right now, the trend in web design is to create this boxy-looking design with lots of white space and wasting a lot of space with meaningless stock photos. I'm sure that works for a lot of clients, but that's today's trend.

Actually, that's less a trend and more necessity now that we are designing for different devices and screen sizes.

And trust me, no one ( at least no designer) likes meaningless stock photos. Stock photos usually mean that the company has no professional photography or marketing materials for their company or brand. And they decided not to create any.

krymson
06-12-2015, 10:42 AM
Here's my 2 cents from another web designer's point of view.

I had a great conversation yesterday with Harold. We discussed this very topic from an industry standpoint. I feel there are going to be less freelancers in the coming years. Everyone knows that the web design world has be come super saturated with people who know how to modify templates or sell web design services while buying templates online and calling them their own work. Many small businesses have lost trust with web designers because of all of the scammers out there trying to play off the boom. I and many others see a shift into consulting. Anyone can code websites now days... Hell, my 9 year old son knows how to code a basic html/css site because i taught him. There's so many web design related resources available and schmuck can learn how to build websites and themes.

The trend and need that I am seeing and this is where I'm trying to focus on is consultation. Building a website (in general) requires very basic knowledge... HTML, CSS, a little javascript, and a little php... That's a summer of study. Where businesses are starting to spend more money is actual knowledge. Those people who have taken the next step and explain how to make a website more efficient, the actual science behind user experience. That's where the money is at. What can I do to make my site rank higher in search engines? What am I doing wrong, why is my traffic falling, why am I not converting? These questions have nothing to do with actually building a website.

Like what's been said already, with services like squarespace, wix, and professional wordpress themes, those are relatively easy to use and add and insert information. Practically anyone that knows how to use a computer can figure out how to do it, and of course there's loads of documentation. Where the money is, is the service of showing people how to improve what their already doing. Content audits, page flow, keyword, user engagement. That's where a lot of web designers' knowledge stop because they just want to crank out websites, or where business owners don't know. Business owners who write their own content, put out content that they think people want to read, not what people actually want to read.

For those web designers that are legitly good and can wear the hats of the web designer, SEO, and know the sciences behind what we do they either do one of 2 things... They start their own company with similar minded people that know how to do more than just make websites, or they get offered and take a fat salary from some big company because they do wear those hats and see the web from a different perspective than the other 99% of the world.

So in my opinion is Web Design dead? I'm going to say yes, but the science as an industry behind it is just starting to ramp up. I predict website consultations are only going to sky rocket in the very near future, there's already a good rise in it but i don't think it's fully taken off yet.

Harold Mansfield
06-12-2015, 11:06 AM
Yep. I totally agree. Just in my own experience I've said many times over the last year on this forum how Consulting and Tech Support Services have taken off for me and new websites are down. I actually shy away from them now because the Consulting and Support work pays more, and is so much easier and enjoyable.

I also have to take a step back sometimes and realize that knowledge wise we are far ahead of where "normal" people are. We work online and in web related services. I watch, read and listen to tech, web, and design related shows and articles every day..all day. So we see things differently than others because we're living it. But I'd also like to thing that gives us the ability to recognize trends, and the where the future of the industry is headed.

There's still a lot of people out there, who even have businesses, that are still have very little understanding of anything technical or web related that realize that they need to catch up, and need help to do it.

It's strange, I'm sitting here talking about my own industry and livelihood but I agree that we need more web designers like we need more personal injury lawyers.

krymson
06-12-2015, 11:32 AM
It's strange, I'm sitting here talking about my own industry and livelihood but I agree that we need more web designers like we need more personal injury lawyers.

Or politicians...

Like Harold said there's better money in the services surrounding web design than the actual service of web design. 50% of front the 50% 8-12 weeks later, not worth it any more.

Harold Mansfield
06-12-2015, 11:41 AM
Or politicians...

Like Harold said there's better money in the services surrounding web design than the actual service of web design. 50% of front the 50% 8-12 weeks later, not worth it any more.

No, it's not. And you can't charge people $6k for a simple 10 page website with a contact form anymore like it's 2002 (although some people are still getting away with it) unless you're providing a ton of additional services on top of it...Logo Design, Copy writing, SEO, Responsive Design, Social Media Profiles, Video, Photography and so on.

The website is almost the free add on by the time you throw in enough services to actually make a profit on it.

InnovationCubed
06-27-2015, 01:16 PM
Web development has certainly changed in the past 15 years, but there will always be some need for a web presence.
Though, from a professional viewpoint, whereas in 1999 you could get a job as an HTML developer, now you need to have 8+ technology skills in your toolbox.

arionixdesigns
07-02-2015, 03:03 PM
There are always creative brains so i don`t think website design will end soon.