Are Web Designers & Agencies Dying Out?

The tension increases. It’s almost impossible to surf the internet without stumbling across ads of one of the major website builders. “Do it yourself” is on the come up, it seems. Are web designers and the agencies they work for dying out?

First, the Answer

The question whether web designers and agencies will die out in the near future or not can be answered with a clear yes, and a clear no. It depends. It depends on how you define the job.

In the past, web design was a gold mine, simply because there was barely anyone doing it. It was also nice that there was, and still is, no qualified job, so that anyone could (and still can) call themselves web designer. It didn’t take long until cooks, apprenticeship dropouts, and academic high school students called themselves web designers, and built the internet’s first, terrible, wooden shacks.

Over time, the graphic skillset of many, though not all, competitors improved, and web competencies became a part of studies and apprenticeships. Professionalization set in.

The beginning of web programming was the beginning of the web’s appization. From that point onwards, websites didn’t just have to look good, they also had to be able to do a bunch of things. Content management systems came into play, making content management on the web available to everyone.

Surprisingly, web designers and the agencies adopted the topic CMS under the aspect of theme development, and in no time, there was a vast amount of pretty, and less pretty templates, that clients could apply to their CMS. Pretty coatings were popular back then, and they still are today. 

The Rise of Website Builders

For everyone that can’t, or doesn’t want to deal with CMS technology, or is not ready to commission a web designer, the industry of website builders was created. Their abilities grew quickly. Nowadays, website builders have features that leave little to be desired.

The code quality has shifted from abysmal to top as well; not for all of them, but for the leading builder systems. Partially, the code quality is so good that even a manual coder couldn’t improve it any further. Oh, my.

Designwise, as long as we’re talking about aesthetics, there is nothing left to criticize either. As websites become more and more similar visually, the design doesn’t really allow for a portrayable separation.

This may shock good part of the branch. “If a customer can get a website that’s just as pretty as the one I would make much cheaper by using a builder, why should he even commission me?” At a glance, this seems like a justified question.

“Oh, just offer additional services” is what some people will tell you, and what they have in mind is the technological hosting, like classic web mastering. More and more people also use search engine optimization as a service that’s important to every customer. Others focus on a programming language that basically allows them to read all of a client’s wishes in their eyes. The number of people trying to convince a customer that a custom-made suit is still better than a stock one is decreasing. And so is the number of clients that believe it.

All of these web designers and the agencies they have one thing in common. To them, web design is both a design-related and technological task. Web designers that think this way will disappear from the market. Yes, they’ll die out.

Now, let me ask you a question: “What do you think? Will Mr. Meyer from the post office become just as good of a seller as our top seller Mr. Smith as soon as I buy him the same suit?”

You might think this was a stupid question, and you’re right. And as soon as you realise that, you’ll have realised where the assessment error is when looking at the relation between a web designer, and the website builders. Do you think your customer wants a neat coat for his website, as well as a few SEO tricks, and a reliable hosting?

Of course, he does, but it’s not his primary goal. For most clients, the goal of a website will be selling goods or services. Of course, our top seller can’t be naked when talking to the clients. He does need a representative suit, but his abilities as a seller are much more important.

Thus, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the designer’s future is in the words. Modern websites tell stories of products and services, as well as people that use these products and services. So, looking at the designer of the future, I’d say: “He who writes, remains.”

The path of the customer through the website has to be labeled and signposted as good as possible. A purchase has to feel natural and be smooth and fast. Microinteractions are more important than ever.