The web design industry is booming with more and more individuals becoming entrepreneurs or launching startup companies. The days of listing your company in the phone book are gone; today it’s all about ranking in Google and having a website that looks good on a smartphone.
This means that web designers and developers should be in high demand and making premium salaries, right? That may be the case for some, but not the majority. There are a lot of disruptions within the web tech and design space at the moment. Some of these innovations mean that it is easier for the average consumer to get an online presence up and running without needing the services of a web designer or developer. But, as you’ll see, these developments in web tech aren’t necessarily detrimental to the web design industry; indeed, they can offer even more new possibilities for web designers.
Adobe Muse and WYSIWYG Editors
When it was released, Adobe Muse garnered some fairly harsh criticism from the web design community. Coders seemed to hate it passionately and cited a long list of limitations of the application. It has come a long way since then, and it has overcome many of those objections and limitations, even if it hasn’t yet won over die hard coders.
However, this product was not made for coders, but for anyone who has a sense of visual design and wants to build a simple website with very basic functionality. Today, Adobe Muse can incorporate blogs, eCommerce and adaptive web design for mobile devices.
This tool means that graphic designers, photographers and even small business owners can leverage the power of Adobe Muse to create websites that allow them to market themselves effectively. Despite what HTML enthusiasts say, it can in fact take advantage of SEO and allow your site to rank in Google Searches. While it may be no substitute for a robust website developed in HTML or PHP, it is a great starting point for those who want to do it themselves, or hold to a budget.
PageCloud and Browser Based Web Design Tools
If you haven’t heard of PageCloud, it’s currently the buzz of the internet—and for some web designers, a sign of the apocalypse. PageCloud is a browser-based web design tool, and probably one of the most advanced ones to date. It’s not just a text editor; it allows you to do true drag-and-drop and even directly incorporate online media, such as YouTube videos, with just a click.
One of the most interesting features is a function that allows you to drag assets directly from your working files in Photoshop directly into PageCloud with no additional work, tricks or effort on your part.
Tools like these eliminate the technical barriers to web design and enable anyone who knows what they want to execute on it. No technical expertise or understanding is required. This empowers non-designer to market themselves, and cuts the learning curve and expense associated with getting a business or publication online. In short, it allows writers to be writers, and designers to be designers, without their websites having to suffer for a lack of coding skills.
Crowd Sourcing Websites
Crowd sourcing can be very good or very bad, but in either case it is a reality of the design landscape now. With that being said, it’s hurting many people in the web design industry who have not positioned themselves to be competitive in value rather than price.
The volume of inexpensive web designers is devaluing what is already a fairly saturated market. On the other hand, there are also many premium clients out there looking for value and not just a bargain.
Positioning yourself as a web designer to compete on value is more important than it has ever been, but part of that is learning to market and brand yourself as a designer. This could mean leveraging content like building a design blog in order to establish your authority and knowledge and therefore justify your pricing. Clients will often pay what you’re worth to be in the hands of an expert if they want the best results. You have to qualify that in some way by marketing yourself; staying in your shell won’t bring in new business.
WordPress and Other Content Management Systems
WordPress and other content management systems are nothing new. What is new is how the web design community is embracing the platform and leveraging it to add value to their business and career opportunities, instead of dismissing or resenting it.
Many diehard coders will still insist that proprietary platforms are better for companies and businesses, coded in native PHP and HTML. They often cite security issues in WordPress as their reasoning. But this logic doesn’t hold up considering some the largest online publications in the world (including this one) have been using the platform for years—and that those issues can be overcome with a few simple plugins.
Web designers and developers who have embraced WordPress have been developing templates or plugins and selling them in online marketplaces. Some of these resources have tens of thousands of sales. Others have begun specializing in WordPress customization and support and have even built successful businesses around the platform.
While WordPress is the most widely-used platform among content management systems, it isn’t the only one. Ecommerce platforms like Magento and Prestashop are growing in popularity as well.
SquareSpace and Hosting Company Web Builders
SquareSpace is becoming very popular among new businesses and bloggers. For one thing, there is no credit card required for a 14-day free trial of SquareSpace, making it easy for new users to get comfortable with the platform or even build the beginnings of a working website with no commitment or cost. If they like what they have built, it’s a simple matter to purchase their domain and have a site up and running immediately.
The drag-and-drop and fill-in-the-blank functionality of SquareSpace and its mobile-friendly capabilities make it ideal for business owners and bloggers who aren’t as familiar with web tech. It’s fast to learn, easy to use and does everything they need.
The main arguments against using the platform (according to web designers) are SEO and the lack of flexibility with the website templates. Both of these problems are not native to the platform, and you simply have to take advantage of the features and tutorials available to get around them.
SquareSpace may not be the perfect platform, but it may be perfect for what you’re doing at the moment. A great example would be if you’re a new graphic designer with a focus on logo design and print work. You need a clean, functional and attractive online portfolio that can show off your work and drive new business, and you may need to use a blog to help market yourself and rank in Google. SquareSpace allows you to do that without having to learn the intricacies of web design. You can get a solid portfolio site up and running in a weekend if you need to. Many other web hosting companies have their own site builders, but so far SquareSpace is the best one I’ve seen.
Some Final Thoughts on the Web Design Landscape
There isn’t a single piece of technology on this list that should threaten web designers or the web design industry—not if web designers position themselves well, build their network relationships and market their personal brand to drive new business and career opportunities.
If leveraged effectively, each of the web tech developments discussed here creates new opportunities for web designers, whether that takes the form of supporting these platforms with resources like templates, or potentially consulting or customization, all which might allow web designers to do less work while making more money than if they were only writing code for individual websites. Disruption of any market always brings new players and new potential. The ability to embrace change when it happens is what makes the difference between becoming Blockbuster or Netflix.
Design has become a multi-platform activity that requires expertise in a variety of topics including aesthetic, creative, and technical subjects. Becoming a Graphic and Digital Designer shows readers that the field once known as “graphic design” is now richer and more inviting than ever before.