A lot of people are pretty depressed about the future of the web design industry. I can understand why. As something that hit a huge boom ten or so years ago, we’ve seen it become slowly more saturated and slowly more competitive every year. No longer is setting up a web site the domain of the technically minded or the artistically talented, no longer is it a product reserved only for businesses or individuals with money and no longer are web developers approached with awe and blind devotion. Indeed, anyone can have a web site now and, in fact, they could probably have one up and running from scratch by the time you’ve finished reading this article. So does this spell doom for the future of the web industry? I don’t think so.
What we’re seeing is evolution and, just like any form of change, it can be painful. To companies that used to charge thousands for static one page sites ten years ago or thousands for WordPress templated sites three years ago, the future is a scary place and one that demands change in order to guarantee survival. Most tech savy people (and that’s a growing number of us) now know how accessible the web industry has become and how relatively straightforward it is to set up a basic web presence and, in that regard, no one is going to be able to milk the web cash cow for much longer. Online site creation tools, cheap hosting, open source content management systems and free design templates will certainly see the end to charging a lot of money for basic sites.
Just because I have a camera on my phone, it doesn’t make me a photographer.
And I think that’s a good thing. Just like survival of the fittest in nature, we’ll see natural selection played out here across the web design industry as the untalented, uninterested and disingenuous get swept aside by the tidal wave of cheap and easy web tools whilst the others survive and grow stronger for it. The barriers for entry into the industry might be lowering every year (if not month) but the skills required to make truly compelling, engaging and valuable online resources are still difficult to achieve and rare to find. Sure, anyone can now get their hands on the tools needed to create a site but only talented and experienced people can actually make turn it into a useful online resource and that fact will never change. Just because I have a camera on my phone, it doesn’t make me a photographer.
But web agencies and web professionals still have to adapt. No longer is the technical side to deploying a web site a challenge any more (nor even the main focus of a web project) so instead we have to find the things that differentiate our services. That might be providing the skills that are still beyond the layman, such as proper SEO or bespoke coding, or it might be by offering a truly creative and engaging collaboration of content and design. Creating online brands that express emotion and embody the message and core needs of a client whilst effectively selling their services and products is a skill that can never be achieved by any amount of off-the-shelf package or free tool.
Of course not every potential client will appreciate this but then that’s their loss. They will always have WordPress.