Which web designer doesn't know the sinking, slightly helpless feeling when you stumble across ads á la "Your own website - do it yourself for free and fast!". You quickly ask yourself the question "is my profession dying out? Will I even be needed in the future?" I have dedicated myself to this question a bit more intensively and would like to present my findings to you.
A little journey into the beginnings of web design could help us forecast future changes. The profession of web designer hasn't followed a linear path at all. Since the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW) around 1991, the technological, graphic and psychological demands on the web and its users have changed constantly - and with it the demands on the web design profession.
The beginnings of HTML and CSS
In the beginning, for example, no graphic elements were inserted at all. All websites were programmed in HTML. Web designers and web developers were still a single profession. Since 1996, stylesheets have been integrated using CSS. This made individual designs of websites possible.
Being initially created as a tool for displaying written information, the web has now become an important platform for digital self-marketing for many companies. Today, websites have become an indispensable part of our professional and private everyday life.
The demand for quality is on the rise
While a few years ago you could stand out by having a website at all, these have now become standard for anyone who wants to offer their services or share their knowledge and experience. With this change, the role of the web designer has become increasingly important and also divided into new divisions. What one person could do in the past - namely upload limited formatted text to a web server - is now often done by a whole team. New job titles were added, such as UX designer, front-end and back-end developer, graphic designer in the digital field and, of course, web designer. Whereby the areas of responsibility of the individual professions strongly depend on the respective company structure.
Due to the steady growth of the WWW and technological progress, it became essential to make this technology accessible to everyone, no matter their skills.
Nowadays almost everyone has the opportunity to make themselves visible on the web. Information and data has grown so enormously that we almost only know how to use the internet with the help of search engines.
We can now incorporate animations into our web browsers, as well as create videos, photos, motion graphics, parallax and make certain areas accessible to certain users. In addition, we can integrate third-party content, e.g. advertising and let the user decide for themselves what information is stored in their browser. Or we can create complex experiences such as browser games, or display information tailored to the individual user, such as online banking. These are just a few examples of what's possible.
Laboriously writing every line of HTML for every new website is time consuming. As a programmer, I would keep code snippets that I have already written so that I can reuse them. So basically "copy-paste" from my specially created library. The written form of the drag-and-drop tool, with the help of which I can create web pages even as an inexperienced user.
In the meantime, we distinguish between drag-and-drop tools (e.g. Wix or some WordPress Plugins like Page Builder) and templates, or Themes (like those from WordPress ). Another difference here also makes the designation CMS (Content Management System), with being in the lead with WordPress its market share. Followed by Joomla, Drupal, Magento (e-commerce), PrestaShop (e-commerce) and other, less common CMS like TYPO3.
As a user, I often need at least a basic understanding of programming if I want to create my website with a free CMS. Without this knowledge, even though basic functions are available to me, I don't have much freedom when it comes to designing. I can therefore either be satisfied with the limited version, get into programming in detail, or purchase a theme that I just need to fill with my content.
Drag and drop
By using drag and drop tools such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, I can even get more freedom with little to no expertise. At least at first sight. If I want to implement very specific designs or integrate more special functions (online shop, user area, etc.), then I quickly reach my limits, especially when it comes to the free versions. Furthermore, I will need a paid account to have my website displayed ad-free and without a design branding.
From these prerequisites, in turn, new specifications have developed. Now there are specialized WordPress developers who only deal with WordPress and PHP, but unfortunately also such "web designers" who offer low-quality websites for too much money by drag-and-drop.
At first glance, it really looks as if our profession could become extinct in the next few years. You almost get the feeling that our expertise will soon no longer be needed. If now everyone can put together his own website or buy it with small money Themes , how can I as a web designer justify that a website can cost me several thousand euros depending on the scope? And do I have to adjust my prices to stay competitive?
What can we as web designers do that these tools can't?
We create websites that are 100% aligned with the corporate brand. Our websites focus on the user and their experience. We empathize with our users, we predict possible errors and prevent frustration before it arises. We keep websites up-to-date, manage their security and stay in personal contact with our customers.
While a template is tailored to a broader audience, I engage with my client and try to create something that is tailored to them. The websites we create for our clients are unique and free of third party branding in the footer area. With my websites, my client knows exactly what is being tracked and stored so they can create their cookie notice with a clear conscience. Our clients get what they need. Sometimes that includes the creation of a complete corporate identity, sometimes just a landing page, and sometimes just some advice.
Domains, backend & responsive design
We webdesigners are familiar with domain hosting, know how to get dive into code and backend, can find and fix bugs. Very few programs offer a sufficiently mature use on mobile devices, which is of course insufficient in the long run with over 60 percent access from smaller screens.
What else do we pay attention to? SEO-optimized content, fast loading times, web-optimized images and videos, font pairings and sizes, legal backgrounds. Why does the flow of a website look harmonious? How much text is too much? How do we arrange information in such a way that it is easily digestible for the reader - and thus reaches him in the first place?
These are tasks we deal with every day. Tasks, which are foreign to beginners and are not covered by themes and page builders.
How do I personally deal with it?
Do I adjust my prices? No. My time and knowledge have not lost value. Still, I understand that there are clients who can't afford (or don't want) a website created by me. That's perfectly fine with me.
Especially as a new entrepreneur these are costs who might not be included in my calculation. I even recommend these customers to use such modular tools. Sit down for an afternoon, watch tutorials and create the website all by yourself. I offer my advice and explain the advantages and disadvantages: A website created by me That a website created by me first of all represent many costs, but also a payment method in the style of subscription can cause higher costs in the long run. I notice that the technical affinity is missing, I even offer to give short introductions to these tools.
We just have to be aware of the fact that not everyone needs a professionally created website and we can use the ready-made tools accordingly in a positive way.
Websites are marketing tools and - depending on what services I offer with my company - non-customized websites may work as well.
And it is not uncommon that these customers reach out to me later on, when they have the financial means to get a professionally tailored website.
In these times - when almost all information is publicly available and accessible - this does not automatically mean that we have the time and patience to deal with it. The profession of tax consultant is not extinct, despite tools like WISO or Elster exist. Qute the contrary: we still need his professional advice.
Perhaps our profession will develop further away from the practical but advisory function. Maybe our future customers "develop" more websites themselves with the help of our expert guidance.
Anyone who works with technology cannot afford to stand still either, of course. Just as the profession of web designer has been constantly changing since its inception, it will have to adapt again and again in the future. We must constantly consider our value compared to automated programs and continue to expand it.
"Change" also means exciting opportunities for further development
We can specialize in different areas and focus more on the user and his experience, for example. Digital experiences are becoming increasingly individual. Who knows, maybe in the future we will see websites that look different on every device and for every user? Maybe our digital business cards will soon be holograms? VR and AR functions, which will certainly be integrated on the websites in the future, can be actively designed by us as designers. A website still has the basic idea of presenting information. There are no limits to our creativity how we communicate this information in the future. Let's keep this in mind when it comes to automated programs - we are ahead of this.
IT professions are still sought after, offering a promising future as well as good money - not only in Germany, but worldwide. To "actively shape our future" is far beyond an advertisment.