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I Want To Be A Web Designer When I Grow Up


Editor’s Note Link

This article is a rebuttal of “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?1,” published in our “Opinion Column” section a couple of days ago. In that section, we give people in the Web design community a platform to present their opinions on issues of importance to them. Please note that the content in this series is not in any way influenced by the Smashing Magazine team. Please feel free to discuss the author’s opinion in the comments section below and with your friends and colleagues. We look forward to your feedback.

— Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine

Last Thursday afternoon, I spent about 30 minutes doing a question-and-answer session over Skype with a Web design class in Colorado. I was given some example questions to think about before our session, which were all pretty standard. “Who are some of your clients?” “What do you like about your job?” “Who is your favorite designer?” I felt prepared. Halfway through the interview, a question surprised me. “So, are there any jobs in Web design?” When a teenager from a town with a population of 300 asks about job security, and the others sit up and pay attention, he’s not asking out of concern for my well being. He’s asking out of concern for his own future.

My response was, Yes, there absolutely are jobs in Web design. “Web design is a career that will take you far, if you’re willing to work hard for it.” And that’s the truth.

Two days later, I go onto Smashing Magazine and see Cameron Chapman’s article, “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?” and nearly choke on my cereal. After reading what amounts to an attack piece on my blog2, and after corresponding with Smashing Magazine’s editors, I suggested that they let me write a counterpoint. They agreed.

We’re Not Web Designers Link

One of the biggest misconceptions about designers (and usually Web designers) is that we’re just Web designers — that the scope of our skills begins with Lorem ipsum and ends with HTML emails. This is ridiculous.

Everyone in this industry fills dozens of roles throughout a given day. On a call with a prospective client, we take the role of salesperson. After the contract is sorted, we become researchers, combing through the client’s outdated website, looking at analytics and identifying breakdowns and room for improvement. Soon after, we become content curators, wading through the piles of content in PDF format sent by the client, identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Then we’re architects, laying out content to get the most important messages across, while ensuring that everything in our layouts remains findable. We design the website itself. We manage client expectations and work through revisions. We write code. We introduce a content management system. We carefully insert and style content. We create and update the brand’s presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We help to create an editorial calendar to keep content fresh and accurate. We check in on the analytics and metrics to see how the website is performing.

Notice that “design” is mentioned only once in all of that work.

You have only to look at the topics covered on websites such as Freelance Switch and Smashing Magazine to see the range of roles we fill. We’re used to adapting and changing; and as the Web adapts and changes, Web designers follow suit. Just as video didn’t kill the radio star, Twitter won’t kill the original website.

Scrivs wrote a great article on Drawar3 highlighting some fallacies in the original article on Smashing Magazine. I think he sums up the “You’re just a Web designer” issue well:

You can’t get caught up in the term “Web designer,” because if you do then you are taking away the idea that a great designer can’t learn how to translate his skills to another platform. If we are designing applications that slurp content off the Internet to present to a user, then soon we will all be Internet designers. That removes the Web designer burden and changes things a bit.

Content Has Long Been The Undisputed King Link

Let’s make something very, very clear. Good Web designers know that their job is to present content in the best way possible. Period. Bad content on a beautiful website might hold a user’s interest for a few moments, but it won’t translate into success for the website… unless you run CSS Zen Garden4.

In her article, Cameron gets it half right when she says:

As long as the design doesn’t give [the user] a headache or interfere with their ability to find what they want, they don’t really care how exactly it looks like or how exactly it is working.

I agree. The user is after content, not your gradient-laden design and CSS3 hover effects. Your job is to get them there as painlessly as possible. At the same time, great design can enhance content and take a website to the next level. Great design not only gives a website credibility, but it can lead to a better experience. Mediocre design and great content lose out every time to great design and great content. It just makes for a better overall experience, where content and design both play a role.

Kristina Halvorson, habitual content supporter, giving one of her famous content workshops. (Photo: Warren Parsons)Image credit6

You Can Always Go Home Link

Cameron makes the argument that feeds are taking over the Web and that, eventually, companies will just use them to communicate with customers.

The idea to simply rely on instead of running an independent website where content originates and filters out simply won’t take with companies. Companies will always need a “home base” for their content. The change will be in the media through which healthy content filters out (such as Facebook, Twitter and RSS).

Scrivs makes this point in his Drawar article:

In essence, what is happening is that sites have to realize that their content is going to be accessed a number of different ways, and if they don’t start to take control of the experience then someone else will. RSS didn’t kill website traffic or revenues because there are some things you simply can’t experience through an RSS feed Just because how we consume content is starting to change doesn’t mean that design itself is being marginalized.

Content isn’t just about press releases and text either. Ford would never give up for content in a variety of feeds and aggregators. lets you build a car: where’s the feed or application for that? Ford’s entire business depends on the functionality of its website. Its Web team has worked hard to create an inviting user experience, unique to the brand’s goals and issues. No company wanting to preserve its brand or corporate identity would give up its main channel of communication and branding for random feeds sprinkled across the Web.

In the same vein, no company would suddenly give up its carefully crafted creative and regress to a template. Templates have been around for years, and no company with any kind of budget would use a $49 packaged solution from Monster Template if it can afford to pay someone to address its particular needs and mold a website to its content. A template doesn’t take needs or goals into account when content is pasted in. A good designer makes choices that a $49 template won’t make for you.

Cameron talks about how businesses will gravitate to standard templates and away from hiring designers:

Companies won’t see the point in hiring someone to create an entirely bespoke website when they can just use a template and then feed all their content to Google and Facebook and Twitter.

Web designers don’t just add borders to buttons and colors to headlines. Web design is as much about problem-solving as anything else. And part of the puzzle is figuring out how best to deliver and promote content. Not everyone has the same issues.

JulesLt lays out this argument in the comments:

[…] But I don’t think any business that would previously have actually employed a designer to create their web presence, brand, will shift over to a standard template. For most businesses, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter may be alternative channels to reach their customers, but they don’t want their brand subsumed into someone else’s. […] The right way to do this is to build a re-usable core, but understand the differences between platforms — and make sure your clients understand any trade-offs.

Nick adds to this argument about templates:

Templates have no business in a world where personalization trumps everything else. Prospective clients are going to a website not just for content, but for the experience that the brand is willing to offer. Not to mention that if you’re in the business of selling yourself, a high profile custom website speaks volumes about your dedication to your chosen niche market.

Andrei Gonzales eloquently sums up the difference between Web design and decoration:

Design isn’t about eye-candy. It’s about problem-solving. If your Web “design” isn’t solving quantifiable issues, then it isn’t design: it’s “decoration.”

And moreover, we’re already in Cameron’s bleak future scenario where web designers should be a thing of the past. Companies today can buy a template and feed their content to whoever they so please. And yet, they aren’t. When the designer created that template eight months ago, he didn’t know that their business was having trouble marketing to middle-aged women. That designer didn’t know they’re a family-owned business in a market where that kind of thing leads to improved revenue and sales. How could he? He’s Andrei’s decorator, solving the issues between lorem upsum and dolor sit.

In Conclusion Link

Web design has changed drastically during its brief existence. The changes in the medium year after year are actually quite amazing. The industry looks vastly different than it did in 2005, and we’ve changed with it. Change is inevitable, and it is the reason you visit websites like this one: to stay current. That hunger is the key to ensuring the survival of our industry.

The bottom line? Web design is a secure and growing job market. Two sources that are something of authorities on jobs and Web design agree on this point. The United States Department of Labor predicts7 that positions for graphic designers will increase 13% from 2008 to 2018, with over 36,000 new jobs being added. It also states that “individuals with Web site design […] will have the best opportunities.”

And in the 2008 A List Apart Survey For People Who Make Websites8, 93.5% of respondents said they were at least fairly confident about their job security.

I’ll sleep well tonight knowing that the industry I love isn’t going the way of the dodo… and that I didn’t lie to a class full of eager young designers in Colorado.


Footnotes Link

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Michael is a designer working in Washington DC to create beautiful and useful web experiences for an array of organizations and their users.

  1. 1

    I’m glad to read this article. After reading “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?” I was a bit worried, though I was also encourage to learn more about development. So thanks for this article.

    One thing my page inside Google page and Google making money with my content. Is that right? So how much access should we give to Google to our content?

    Something that really worries me is the Google Monster and I would like you guys to re-consider the role of Google. In the past we have managed to avoid Coca-cola, not eat in Mc Donalds and resist huge monopolies but can anyone resist Google?

  2. 2

    “The idea to simply rely on instead of running an independent website”

    Adidas is slowly moving all of its sports promotion on facebook, especially for soccer, where unlike Nike, they’ve left their main site almost blank and never updated with media. They also advertise their facebook in every major ad these days. Seems like they’ve given up on the traditional site for promotions and sticking only to social media, namely Facebook. How do you comment those kinds of moves by such big companies. Will we be reduced to creating content and design for Facebook custom tabs?

    Great article in general, hope you’re right!

    • 3

      1) They aren’t abandoning their site. Placing a heavier focus on social media doesn’t mean they have left things alone. Not sure if we are seeing different sites, but the website for me is still fairly active. If they are producing media it makes sense to place it on YouTube/Facebook and Twitter over their own website because who is going to visit the site constantly to check for new media?

      2) If everyone moved to Facebook you don’t think that they will try to differentiate themselves with a custom experience? The best brands on Facebook all have custom designs and they certainly weren’t selected from a Facebook template. Someone has to design it.

      • 4

        Nailed as usual.

      • 5

        1. Don’t know how much you follow Adidas Soccer, but it’s my job. It’s just a shop now. Nike does a lot with their site, to keep it active and interactive. They also promote their site in their ads, not their facebook page. I thought the point of a website is to have good content, keep it constantly updated, optimize the content, and continually reach new users. Facebook should be an addition to the site, not take the place of the main site.

        Why limit yourself to a facebook page which doesn’t optimize content and you can get more from optimizing your site and delivering good content while making it interact with facebook? It’s a bad move from them, and other companies that are following. Nike has virtually the same amount of fans on facebook, while they don’t spend lots of money to promote it in ads etc., they promote their site, and organically grow their facebook through their site and content on facebook.

        2. Of course they’re designed by someone, I was saying that I wish we’re not reduced to doing only that. Life would be less enjoyable. Facebook limits design and creativity. If that’s what you like then there’s no problem. Facebook will have its life and something will replace it anyways, there’s no reason to become too stuck on it, especially for big brands.

        I don’t want to see the day when Barcelona has on their kits as sponsor because that’s what rules the world. ;) A personal opinion mate, keep designing those tabs.

      • 7

        In addition to this, I’m not sure if people are forgetting that although companies might be focusing on social media to reach out to their consumers, they still need that corporate presence to reach out to the big chains, investors, partners and anyone interested in the company as a whole and not just the product.

    • 8

      I’m not the author, but let’s look at the history of Social Media. Yes, Facebook is huge right now, yes, ignoring it is something you do at your own peril, BUT a few years ago, the same was said of MySpace, and look where it is now. Fallen from grace, and struggling to find out how they can become relevant again. If you put all your eggs in the Facebook basket, and they suffer a fall from grace (which WILL happen, even Google will likely fall to another at some point) then where are you? Lost. Alternativly, you create a dynamic, plesant web site, push the content from that site to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc, then when the next new thing comes along, you add to your exisiting base, you’re not left out in the cold.

      • 9

        “…Facebook is huge right now, yes, ignoring it is something you do at your own peril, BUT a few years ago, the same was said of MySpace, and look where it is now. Fallen from grace, and struggling to find out how they can become relevant again…”


      • 10

        Well, with 500Million users (and growing,) I doubt it will go away as fast as myspace.

        One thing for certain is that Google, facebook, etc will continue to evolve into something new rather then like myspace that sold to a big corporation.

        • 11

          Noone knows how this mystical “500 million users” is calculated. My personal opinion is that it’s hugely inflated and in no way represents 500 million unique people using Facebook with even nominal frequency. If Facebook goes public, it’ll be interesting to see if this metric is disclosed and how the “500 million” number is actually measured.

          • 12

            Exactly. Lets not forget how many of us have personal Facebook accounts, and then another Facebook account at work for clients. I personally have 3 Facebook accounts….since Facebook doesnt allow you to delete an account at all. The numbers are obviously skewed.

          • 13

            Really? How in the world would Peter Noone know something like that?

            ( )

        • 14

          Actually, facebook is microsofts slave.

          Microsoft have invested a lot of cash into facebook and now all (or atleast most) of facebooks servers are running windows and IIS. Hence why they developed their “HipHop” PHP software which turns a PHP site into a C++ executable.

          Thankfully microsoft don’t hamper facebooks creativity and let them do their own thing.

      • 15

        I could not agree more.
        Thanks for saying the truth.

    • 16

      Remember AOL keywords?

    • 17

      Good article overall.

      I would like to add one thing that so frequently gets forgotten when talking about social media:

      In many very big organizations all of these social sites are blocked. And as long as there is B2B business (just to name one thing), as long there will be independent business sites that can not be grouped behind one category.

      It sounds so nice to import feeds from twitter, photos from flickr, videos from youtube etc. (and you should) but what good does all of these do, if the target audience can not access them? Never take anything for granted.

      • 18

        While well written, this article is completely redundant, and it sounds like you didn’t even read the original article.

        The original article was less about the role of “Web Designers” as it is more about “Web workers”. Since everyone seems to be so damn convinced that phones (and tablets) are the best way to consume media and culture, the “Web Designer” starts to become a more and more redundant role, when typical modern day UI’s start to roll back to what they used to be: functional and minimal, like an old school oven. How hot? How long? We’ll start automating this process like we have with so many other industries, luckily ours is one that still requires human interaction, but it will be more solidified as an integrated work-flow.


        Apple has seemingly decreed where we should go and why we should follow them and as-per-usual, we follow suit. Let’s be honest, they make wonderful looking, semi-functional products, that indeed do make our friends admire us for getting. Consumerism, hooo!

        Yes yes yes, I know I’m rambling and going off on a tangent of Apple-hating pessimism.

        Anyway, the role of the web-guy (because, as you said, we fill a-many roles) is going to evolve, and to what? We have to decide. Low and behold, earlier this year I decided I wasn’t that big of a fan of Object Oriented Programming, so I fell back to my company’s web-designer. I’m pretty good at it, but I know my role has to evolve and I’m the one that has to dictate what it evolves into.

        I like this as a good reference on how much shit has changed this year:

        His opinion was quite plausible, but his ten year change from 2009-2019 has happened in like 8 months.

        “JUST DO IT!”

        • 19

          Blah, blah, iPhone, blah. Just as with the Apple vs. Adobe debate people keep going on about smartPhones and how they’ll change the internet, just as the cries have long been heard and faded away about dozens of other ‘net killers’. A smart phone will never have a 23″ screen.

          Content is King… but unmanageable content is crap. I don’t care how great the content is, if a reader cannot easily navigate the source they’re clicking the back button.

          A perfect example in my mind is a recent website I re-designed. We changed no content whatsoever, but by implementing an eye-catching design and easy to use interface my client saw literally a 3-fold increase in sales.

          As for simple apps, perhaps many of these apps are simple because the world of smart phones is still relatively new.

          What is going to happen when there are hundreds of news feeds that all use the same template to deliver practically the same news? The smart ones will hire a designer to make their delivery system stand out from the rest… and how will they do that? Why by design of course.

          Seriously, history repeats itself, and looking at the simplicity of mobile apps now is sort of like looking at the simplicity of the web when it first took flight. Then what happened?

          Ahhhh the ‘Web Designer’ was born.

          And something can be said about simplistic “design’ as well. There is a great difference between a wordpress base template and a well-designed simple layout.

          Also, I’d like to say I agree completely with the author here on the definition of today’s ‘web designer’. Heck, the least amount of work I do involves actual graphics, I spend most of my time coding and running servers… and yet I’m a ‘web designer’.

      • 20

        That’s again the truth and only truth. :)

    • 21

      So what happens if Facebook loses momentum and people stop using it and move to something else. I think its a good tool, but it is what it is and its not a branded website that is customized and personalized to fit their brand.

      • 22

        Then those people suffer the same fate as others in the past. Some people never learn and rely on third parties to host all their info for free and then act surprised when they realize, they actually don’t own anything and the site shuts down or re-purposes the data for it’s own needs. The world will always have those types of people and it keeps people like me employed so I hope they never evolve!

    • 23

      No, is your simple answer. Social Networking is overrated only by people who do not understand the way people use social media. People are not “friends” with Adidas or Nike unless they already have an interest, and more than likely already a consumer, of those products. Social Network platforms also do not offer a business what they truly desire, direct contact information. Email address, mailing address, phone number, all things valuable to a company but not something easily obtained on a social network. That valuable information is for the social networking company to benefit from.

      The future will be adding social networking capabilities directly on the corporate website, part of that perhaps might be “Google Me” but only time will tell.

      Companies who choose to leave allow their own website to suffer in the name of Facebook will lose in the end. Some companies attempted that with MySpace, and where are they now? Technology changes and trends change. Facebook is a fad worth jumping into, but allowing your own brand and website name to suffer in exchange for Facebook is shortsighted at the least.

      Facebook should be used to bring people to your website where you control the message of your brand, controlling your message and image among millions of people sharing your company is impossible. There always needs to be a central location controlled by the business to promote the company message.

      I work for Hilton Hotels, American Idol, Showtime, HBO, and many more. And I do not see a change in the way they are using their website, I only see a change in the way they promote their website. Websites are the internet “storefront”, social networks are the magazine ads you buy. Marketing your business in a magazine (i.e. Social Network) without having a storefront (i.e. your own website) is frankly the worst choice one can make for their business. I am sure Adidas is aware of that, but perhaps your perception of what they are doing internally is just not correct. But if your perception is correct Adidas will pay the price in the future.

    • 24

      As a company, they must also consider that not all people use facebook or have an account or an active account on facebook. it would be a poor marketing strategy that one company would only rely on their facebook page. since not all source/traffic revolves on facebook, i for one have an account on facebook, but i rarely visit my account and doesn’t go facebook pages/ads by companies.

      Big Companies are only using facebook as an alternative source of traffic, ways to gain more clients, market their products etc… and haven’t even thought on abandoning their main websites. That’s crazy.

      Maybe many are facebook fanatics/addicts but we must also consider that many are also not.

      Facebook is more like a TV ad/commercial. Its a quick way to get many people know of your product/service. but also like a TV ad, not all people watch TV so you cannot just rely on it alone. So companies also make ads on radio, newspapers, other websites etc.

      Imagine if you would see all the products of addidas on their facebook page. That’s crazy. or maybe like amazon… because they have abandoned their websites and stick to facebook pages alone… then that’s more even crazier. :D

    • 25

      Hi Nico,

      I partely agree on your comment but I also think that the companies you mentioned are companies who mostly rely on young people, which also are users of Facebook (I don’t know the age range of the users but I guess its somewhere between 12 – 40 years old). Only 8% of adidas customers are professional users. So it is normal that they use channels like Facebook to advertise there goods to the end user. They want to use the momentum of the popularity of FB and gain profit from it too.
      I don’t see Boeing or Airbus advertise there products on Facebook.

      I don’t believe that the job of web design will come to an end soon, we will evolve just as everything else does.

  3. 26

    As long as there will be internet there will be web designers as well. History is cyclic, maybe for a period of time the designs will become simple and minimal, but you also need a designer to make it right.

  4. 27

    nice post man..

    when i saw the older post which says “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?”, i really felt very bad about my career.

    i didnt slept for a night, thinking about my career and job security…

    now when i saw this post… i am felling little bit happy :)

    • 28

      Totally agree! :)

    • 29

      I was wondering how much gifts&perks Cameron got from Apple to write that pseudo article. It’s nothing new. Doctors get that type of things all the times from pill makers in order to push their products. Don’t be scared, iPhone is not internet. It’s a phone that can display online content. And quite frankly it’s a really bad phone.

      As long as the internet doesn’t come up with a thing like “native website GUI elements” web designers are safe. Even the ones that can’t code. Even them.

      There is no amount of letter “i” in front of a product or an application that can supplement for a unique, personal, crisp and smart design of a well thought of website.

      And I don’t care how many times one can repeat the word “wonderful” and “awesome” at the presentation of a god damn phone which screen size is 320 x 480 px.

      • 30

        Thats comforting – I’m one of those that don’t do code. When i read the article i thought that it i have to learn to code so i can do what i love – Design. I’m dreaming to design great websites – I m doing all that been written except the code. And i still didn’t found the Code Man that would be my partner. But one day… anyway love this magazine a great source of inspiration and more

        • 31

          If you are one of those stay at home freelance designers then it’s essential to be jack of all trades, master of none…

          I’m really fluent with front-end code including flash (I know, a forbidden word around here) and I have worked at IBM, ESPN, and currently working for the largest agency in my area. Let me tell you this, people’s jaws drop to the ground when they see my designs and the fact that I learned all these other skills to stay competitive go out the window and I still land jobs recession or not…because guess what, most established places have already really talented coders that in the end spend their entire day coding. You will never be as good as them. But not everyone have the talent to create and understand design like you.

          There will always be a job for the super talented designer – and there will always be a class artist that everyone envies…

          The problem with this website is that there’s too many of these failed coders turned web design (because web coding is easier) and proclaim themselves as designer skew this discussion in the wrong direction…

          • 32

            I don’t want to agree, but I think you’re right. Bosses gravitate like flies to honey when they see pretty design or goofy Flash… that there are those who can make excellent pretty design and useful usable content-providing Flash means those folks are always going to have jobs, because they have talent with skill and it is what’s asked for.

            That and bosses don’t look at code and only care if it looks and acts the way they want.

            As someone who can only code and can’t Flash or Photoshop anything nice, I’m very aware of who among us gets the attention.

    • 33

      Felt the same, but still fear.

  5. 34

    Just one word: Thanks! :)

  6. 35

    Great points!
    I often wonder if there is too many new designers coming into the market though, thinking it’d be an easy career.

    • 36

      I’ve often considered the same, but I’ve looked to another creative field that has more age and an equal issue with the flood of amateur: Photography.

      There’s a monstrous field of Photographers advertising their services, trading on friendships and everything in between. But you’ll notice a clear delineation from the amateur working the average wedding to the ‘Dave Hill’s of photography, and the same occurs and will continue to occur with web designers.

      The Wheat always separates from the Chaff.

    • 37

      Bring on the newbies, if they’re serious, and good, they will have business, if they suck and fail and give up, that gives us a bed of clients to tap in to :)

      • 38

        I want to agree with you, but the sheer volume of terrible web design out there makes it tempting to think that bad designers are succeeding left and right.

        • 39

          So Matt, do you think this remark proves the statement that clients don’t care about design?

          • 40

            @Jeroen – You can’t generalize like that. Just as with everything in life, there will be people who who appreciates design more than others and are willing to pay premium price. But at the same time, you got a lot of these small business people that get a web site because their customers asked for it but not able to realize the true potential.

        • 41

          True, but it’s been my experience that clients (eventually) realize what a lousy site they end up with and end up paying more for talented people to create a better one. The inexperienced designers tend to charge less.

      • 42

        Good point,

        However, you should also realize a flood of terrible designers mean that the industry as a whole would be characterized by those designers.

        Yes, time will weed out the bad, but it tarnishes the good in the process.

    • 43

      You’re probably right.
      I’m having an open position at the company I work for a webdesigner and well the average skill level is pathetic. Webdesign is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. You need to read and learn every single day. Most people don’t and that’s why their skill level will never exceed the what the WYSIWYG environment of Dreamweaver offers.

  7. 44

    Amen Brotha, great write up. I believe most of us had the same feelings as you, after reading the original post by Cameron. Thanks for taking the time to write a response post, and thanks to Smashing Mag for putting it up!

    Also, I believe Andrei Gonzales comment that you referenced in your post is part of a quote by Jeffrey Zeldman

    • 45

      Well, in my defense, I didn’t quote Zeldman. In fact, I didn’t even know he said that. (Although it’s amusing and pleasing to know that he and I share the same ideas). Mr.Aleo was quoting me from the original article he was providing a rebuttal for.

  8. 46

    Bigger brands and companies will always need their own site. So there will always be a need in that regard (either in-house or agency).

    But the reality is, most designers that are not working for big companies are going to have a tough time. Looking back 10 years ago, I always thought small businesses was the long tail segment where designers could make a good amount of money servicing that niche. But now, with limited marketing budget in down economy; rather than creating their own website, it’s smarter to leverage social media sites.

    Customer Acquisition Costs are going to be much lower on Facebook and Yelp, then a creating some cool looking site. The customer referral and retention rates are also going to be much higher.

    Add to the fact, the world is flat. I have a team of 6 guys in Vietnam who has experience producing micro sites for WPP agencies and brands like Samsung, Motorola, Unilever, Coca Cola; and the whole team’s monthly salary is less than 1 experienced flash guy in the States.

    The established and super talented designer will be fine. I worry for the middle tier and new kids coming up.

    • 47

      “Bigger brands and companies will always need their own site. So there will always be a need in that regard (either in-house or agency).”

      I was about to pick up on this and comment on it too. The article rebuttal is good and I agree with a lot of it but, like many articles, a point is made using Ford as an example. The trouble is, for the vast majority of us, our client base consists of small to medium sized businesses. Taking a quick look at the budget ranges of other local companies on a site like confirms that most small web agencies or freelancers deal with budgets of under $10,000, and more typically much less than that. It’s these small clients paying $3-$5k that make up a lot of the “bread and butter” work for web designers, while the larger digital agencies (with a branding division) will suck up the clients with bigger budgets, where they act as an extension of the brand’s marketing department.

      So while this is true for someone like Ford or whoever…

      “…no company with any kind of budget would use a $49 packaged solution from Monster Template if it can afford to pay someone to address its particular needs…”

      …smaller companies may well be tempted, and who can blame them; a lot of the templates out there do look pretty good these days, and a business leader from an SME might well be happy sacrificing a few of their online objectives to save themselves $4k or so.

      So while web design isn’t dead, I would say if you’re currently pitching to the SME market, it’s going to get a whole lot tougher in the coming years as we get squeezed from both sides (digital agencies picking up the low hanging fruit and template sites and off-shore outsourcing picking up the SMEs. Not to mention the huge competition there is in our sector ‘cos there’s so damn many of us. ;-)

      Time to panic? No, but just keep your eyes open I would say.

  9. 49

    I am with you on almost every single point in the article but with the following one you are wrong: “The idea to simply rely on instead of running an independent website where content originates and filters out simply won’t take with companies. Companies will always need a “home base” for their content.”
    I just read in “computerwelt” that 2 companies have “moved” to facebook. They generate original content there and will no longer need a website.
    The author of the article and I both think that this won’t fly but still: It is already happening that companies consider facebook their “homebase”.
    Still the future for webdesigners is a bright one I think – but as you wrote and I myself (as a web developer) experienced so far: to be successful you need to do more than “just” design – development skills are crucial…

    • 50

      Good luck to those companies if Facebook shuts their page down or GASP, Facebook dies away one day.

      • 51

        LOL! Good point! Relying on a company like that expecting that it will exist forever is not very secure. Especially, since you won’t be able to move all your databases to another hosting company, another Facebook. Do not put eggs in one basket.

        Besides, not everyone in the world is using Facebook. What they do is simply limiting their audience for no apparent reason! Seriously, if they are trying to save money, why not get a WordPress for free and update their content there as well.

        Oh, I just remembered something… Thinking way back, do you remember what a hassle it used to be to find a free hosting like that would not have annoying 3rd party commercials taking 30% of your screen (like Tripod or Geocities). It’s so great that WordPress doesn’t do that… At least for now =)

    • 52

      Facebook is a content delivery medium. It’s not a complete website replacement solution by anyone’s standards.

      Of course, becoming more integrated and encouraging users to interact with your site through social platforms like Facebook is a *good* thing for most brands.

      • 53

        You are absolutely right.

        And just what kind of ‘company’ or business would settle for their home base website being ? That’s crazy IMO, and looks totally unprofessional. I yawn whenever I visit any Facebook company/business page. I always thought Facebook pages were meant to be an extension of the company’s website and/or online presence, not a replacement for their main www site; as a standalone offering for your customers, that is simply and utterly pathetic.

    • 54

      Maybe some companies are now “home based” on Facebook and leaving their own homepage… and I don’t need to be a visioneer to predict that others will.
      But why are we used to think that this kind of movement is the right one? why are we used to think that all the people who make this company decisions have a crystal ball and they know the market and understand the buisness “reality” like the palm of their hands? and worst of all: why are some (designers) scared about this behaviour? think of the opportunity, not the menace.

      Surely many will make the transition to facebook… some companies will succeed, others won’t, and will be back to their homepages.
      But developers (programmers, designers, etc) will be there to make the facebook apps, and developers will be there to make their homepage again.

  10. 55

    There are way too many non talented web designers coming out of college. Thanks to it being looked upon as a fun course.. I’d say 50% of graduates never even make it into the design industry. Most employers who have any common sense, know good design when they see it. The industry is competitive, which will make it hard for crappy designers to get jobs, employers are looking for talent. I think there is a super bright future for graphic designers if they are very talented and very very good at what they do. In fact they will always be busy and never out of work, if they know what they’re doing and have the right contacts. Simple as that. Works like that in any career – you suck? You”ll prolly be out of a job very soon. You rock and are extremely talented? You’ll be turning down work!

  11. 56

    I agree. Web design is a much maligned branch of design, too narrowly defined and generally derided as poor man’s design. In fact, successful web design is multi-discipline incorporating 8 disciplines- graphic design, programming, branding, UX, usability, behavioural economics, marketing and digital strategy. To say that as long as a site doesn’t give a user a headache it is designed enough is ridiculous – the only barriers to entry on the internet is branding and user experience, and with out design there is neither. The design of interfaces is the key to next 50 years in technology, and web design will be a major part of that. Read my article on the 8 Disciplines of Successful Web Design –

  12. 57

    Excellent post, makes much more sense in the real world of web design than “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?” posted the other day, which was in most part nonsense.

    As a web designer of over 10 years i have seen sites move from basic 3 page layouts to where we are now, sites of rich content and engaging with the audience. Any designer who has designed for a major client knows that company sites will always be around and will never be replaced by templates. We as designers simply have more areas on which to design for, if anything a designer has more work to do now than ever before and this will only grow.

    @nico As for adidas moving much the main adidas site to facebook, this is very much a marketing thing – it is easy to promote small features or new product lines to a mass audience via facebook, however as soon as you start clicking most things take you to the adidas ecom site. This is how most big companies are and will in the future use both sites together, as a result it doubles the designers work which on all accounts is great for the job security.

  13. 58

    Yep.. you’re right.

    The “Template will kill design” argument is old and laughable. Most companies, organizations and corporations, when they aren’t failing or going out of business, have money to spend. When you have $100,000, or even $10,000, to spend on marketing, you spend it on something custom and exciting… Not a $49 template. Those cheap templates are used primarily by “I’ve got an idea for a business!” people that aren’t really committed to their ideas.

    I also keep trying to push the idea that it isn’t about “Web Design.” A designer who refers to herself as a Web Designer is like a Graphic Designer that refers to himself as a Brochure Designer. The World Wide Web is one application that utilizes the Internet. Those that call themselves Web Designers should be able to design almost any type of interface for almost any digital medium.

    In fact, I don’t even like Graphic Designer. I prefer to call myself a Designer. What do you need? I’ll design it: Logo, Website, iPhone app interface, board game, Xbox 360 game interface, Poster, CD, book.. anything. We are living in a world where Everything is Designed. Everything.

    Regardless of the specific application, the need for all things to be designed is only going to increase. The key to being a designer in this world is just that: be a designer. If you apply yourself to one application you will rise and fade along with it.

    • 59

      LOL, if you think the original post means that large corporations are using templets then you missed the whole point.

      The $49 temples are for mid/small businesses. You call yourself a “designer” because you can design all those things? If you want to succeed, you can’t be a jack of all trade. You have to do one thing and do it really well.

      Someone can always ask you if you can do it, that’s not the point. Why should I depend on you for that specific work – is the point.

      • 60

        actually…to succeed nowadays, you really SHOULD be a jack of all trades..

        hence the countless posts all over the place on this article that designers need to be able to code…not just design.

        being a jack of all trades doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t a damn good jack of all trades.

        if you want to be in a huge corporate company, you can probably get away with one thing, really good – as your department probably is pretty large. otherwise, gooooood luck. seriously.

        • 61

          As Hans Landa would say, “We got a bingo!!”

          To be successful in this industry, you have to master all of its areas and have a great understanding of all facets of the web. If you are JUST a graphic designer or JUST a ui developer, chances are you aren’t going to go very far in your career. Web designers need to be constantly learning and growing, and therefore will need to grow into different areas. The only way to grow is UP, and if you’re not doing that, then why even bother?

          • 62

            I guess it comes down to how you define success.

            Yes, agreed jack of all trades master of none if you sit home and work on freelance projects making 25k annually. Or, if making 90k at a corporation as an Art Director is success to you.

            Trust me on this, a superstar designer will not spend his day trying to align stuff in IE and FF…That’s not an efficient use of his time.

            With that said, I agree that designers need to learn the technical aspect of design in order for them to solve some of the issues visually.

    • 63

      This was my thought as well when reading these articles.

      Frankly, I’m also a designer in general, and most of what I do is the actual design of a project. Really my responsibilities are more likened to art direction or project management combined with graphic design. And when it comes to websites I hire a cheap developer from the Ukraine to technically achieve the beautiful designs I create.

      If anyone should be worried I would think it’s the “Web designers” who’s actual skill is technical in nature and not design school based. Knowing programming languages doesn’t make one a designer. These guys always create ugly and ineffective visuals and consider themselves web designers because they can code in multiple programming languages. … The sad truth is I can get one of my Ukraine developers to do the work 10x faster than anyone here for a 3rd of the cost of a north american developer/”web designer” and they probably are more versed on current coding trends and technology in the industry anyhow.

      Real designers will always be needed because EVERYTHING performs better when designed effectively. To succeed in todays market you must be able to translate your skills into multiple platforms or mediums. Have a focus and use that as your market point but you cannot focus on one single skill set or you’ll be screwed when that skill set becomes obsolete. …”Over specialize and you breed in weakness. It’s slow death.”

  14. 64

    Sure there’s a career, but really you have to ask what the progression is… Basically your average web designer is one of the first out of the door when trouble hits. There’s a pretty low glass ceiling as a designer.

    • 65

      Anyone who says “I want to be a web designer when I grow up,” and then becomes an “average web designer” deserves to be the first one out the door, along with all the other average workers. Seek to be great, or don’t seek.

      • 66

        Jesse nailed this.

        If you settle as “random average web designer” and buckle down for a 30 year career as such, you’re going to be the first out the door. Companies want rockstars who are savoring to make better sites, better the company,

        You know why there aren’t many content 50 year old “web designers”?

        Because they’re all art directors, creative directors, VPs of creative, etc. Or they’re out of the business.

        • 67

          “Companies want rockstars who are savoring to make better sites, better the company”

          Rockstars? Dammit! I thought it was all about Ninjas, these days. So confusing! :D

          • 68

            If someone says synergy, I’ve got buzzword bingo :)

          • 69

            Ninjas are reserved almost exclusively by jQuery now a days… you know, “Novice to Ninja” and “jsninja dot com” and all that…

            But remember what rockstars are good at: partying all night, sleeping all day, and doing a lot of drugs. Exactly what I want in an employee : )

        • 70

          Very interesting point. Any insight as to how many “web designers” there are for every art/creative director out there…roughly?

  15. 71

    Web designers unite! They may take our jobs, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!!

  16. 72

    I saw that article the other day and I have to agree with this new post. Sure, some designers will drop off because they cannot or will not adapt to the changing environment, but that is the great thing about this profession. It is an ever changing environment and you get to try your hand in a multitude of different fields. If you cannot adapt you will not succeed. I have found in my fairly limited time in the field that if you work hard and always try to learn and grow, you will always have a job. It just might not be exactly what you were doing a year or two ago.

    A great article. Thanks so much for putting in the time to shed some light on a misconception.

  17. 73

    One of things you mention just briefly is one of the things I like most about the web: it is your enjoyment of reading an individual’s blog. And I believe it is one of the most overlooked aspects of the web, along with pure information sources like Swiss-prot ( used by bioinformatics and genetics research). Many people in this field, including the author of the post you are refuting, overlook that the web isn’t just about commercial products. It contains information in many guises, like wikipedia for us all or pub-med for medical folks. The information is endless and and its display needs graphical and interaction designers to work with developers in order to let us get to it. In the end, I agree with comment you posted by Andrei, content has always been king. I would only add that all of the evidence Cameron cited, all those apps and feeds are also designed both graphically and in terms of interactions.

    • 74

      Exactly. Design can give a certain feeling or an aesthetic that the same content within the confines of a different design would not give. I love that about it.

      Some of the most exciting examples of new blog design have been on Tumblr. Some of those premium themes are beautiful.

  18. 75

    Great pair of articles about future of web design. Not sure what everyone is getting so hot under the collar about though. If you’re a designer with a knowledge of visual design and communication, and care about results, you’ll always be employed no matter what the Internet morphs into. When I started in design the web didn’t even exist, yet I and my colleagues evolved and adapted seamlessly. We’re designing for people, not technology. Same for programmers or web developers – there’ll always be something you can apply logical coding skills to. Lighten up – just keep up with what’s happening and be good at what you do :-)

  19. 76

    “Web designers don’t just add borders to buttons and colors to headlines. Web design is as much about problem-solving as anything else.” That’s one of the main reasons I’m in it, besides the obvious: the internet/websites/electronic media isn’t going away; it’s hurtling at us at warp speed. Content is definitely king. The method of delivery is the sticking point—one that can always be refined.

  20. 77

    A response with regard to the web as it was outlined and rebut in this article:

    So, you have a Facebook fan page, you’re pretty heavy in to it. Over time, you have managed 2,000,000 “unique” users. This is a huge number! Clearly, you have a lot of influence, people love you(or your product) and they need more!

    This is a little false. Having those users is awesome, it allows you to reach customers completely free of charge; with rich media and messages that can create awareness, desire, and loyalty. But what does that really amount to? What can you do to create unity? A common purpose is lost on Facebook, and users struggle(visibly) to fell like they can be heard. It’s not creating relationships, it’s creating a mob; use this as a tool to drive your social user collection, because that’s all this really is — a collection of users.

    The web won’t “move here”, nor will Facebook become the profile for our web. Twitter won’t become the new method of message delivery, either. How could an entire community of worldwide peoples honestly suggest “Content is King” but believe that a presence like Twitter or Facebook will outlive their livelihood as professionals? I vividly remember an era of the web where it seemed like no one would ever communicate outside of AOL.

    The face of communication, and the internet, is changing. But we all have one clear advantage that was outlined here; the term web designer isn’t exclusive. We learn, and grow(if we are successful) and when technologies change, evolve, or die — we adapt, utilize, and find new ways. Do we all have things to learn from human-computer interaction? Are there points in any career when the things you had learned to establish yourself no longer prove relevant?

    Perhaps that is a fair question. But, is it also fair to say that AngelFire or GeoCitites once ruled the web? That any professional organization once managed their online identity with a uJournal? Tools, they come and go in the web, but corporations and business — they lean toward success. There isn’t a time in technology that anybody should stop learning. Web design, application development, and any other profession in the technical community understands there is no terminal date for their education. The intrinsic value of the web stems from this. Communication is a property inherit within humanity that, though out all known history, has never found obstruction. It is in this, we will all find purpose in our passion, and value therein.

  21. 78

    There will be less templating, not more. And the demand for designers will increase, if anything.

    Improving technology will allow us to customise layouts of individual pages, as in newspaper and magazine design. This kind of aesthetic effect will be a point of difference helping content to stand out in a highly competitive global environment.

    Does anyone doubt that branding and marketing, reliant as they are on design expertise, will continue to be the drivers of the online economy?

  22. 79

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! A great article on a complex career of both-brained communications design!

  23. 80

    Honestly, If I had known it was going to be this much trouble to survive in the graphic/web designer field, I probably would have chosen something else. I knew in the mid to late 90’s it is what I wanted to do but I did not graduate high school until 2001. I tried for a year to get employment without a degree since money was tight and ended up going to a small 2 year college for my associates. Low and behold by the time I was done that program, I was told the market was over saturated. Not to mention, my college taught me nothing. The things I wanted to learn, ( Flash and CSS,) I had to teach myself.

    I still love web design and I have no intention of giving up on it, I just recently purchased CS5 in my attempt to re-educate myself and try to get myself up to date, but it sure is frustrating. In the last six years I’ve had one job that could be considered what I went to school for. I had no problem with doing extra work around the office that was not web related but after a year the demands got ridiculous and the workload was not worth $10 an hour. I know the person who was there before me, quit because they refused to do anything but web design.

    I really hope things do change for the better. It is really tough trying to explain to your parents why there are so many job listings but no success in the field. Specially if they are not computer literate. I don’t blame that kid for being worried, it’s a tough game.

    • 81

      I know how you feel, but there is work out there you just have to stand out of the crowd when you go knocking on the door. I graduated High School in 2005. Three months later I quit my job at Target because I knew I was going to be a web designer / programmer. My father kicked me out of my house because I could no longer pay rent. Two months after I quit Target I got a job as an entry level web designer making a whopping $8/hr. A year later, $10/hr. Another year, $15/hr. And now since 2009 I have been making $20.

      There are times that I wish I was just mowing lawns for $14/hr. Or even trying to sell knives over the phone for $15/hr plus commission. Being a “web designer” can suck. The pressure working for a small web design firm can put on you is enormous and at times overwhelming. Sometimes I wake up and dream of quitting and just going back to a Target like job making $8/hr.

      I have tried getting jobs at bigger companies, but so far I have been unsuccessful. They either aren’t hiring or they are looking for someone with talents that I do not have. I have over 5 years of professional experience now, I have built over 200 small business websites and I have programmed several extensive php database driven systems.

      So, what do I do now? I enrolled into college and I am now a full-time worker and full-time student. This time next year I will have my Associates in computer programming (because the web design programs are a complete joke), with a focus in .Net rather then PHP. Personally, I have found it a mistake to learn PHP over c#.Net. It seems “everyone” is a php developer and all of the available jobs are for .NET people. Or the pay difference is substantial.

      Anyways, Yeah. It is a tough competitive job market, but I do not blame that as the reason I have been unsuccessful in getting a better job. I am the only person to blame. If you don’t stand out in the crowd, you will not be noticed.

      • 82

        This comment, and the one before it by MAB was a bit sad to read. If I was more complacent about this career, I think I probably would be in the same position as either of you. To be successful in any field you need to be aggressive in not only your education (whether through schooling or, in my case, self teaching) but in demanding respect from your employer or client. If you’re settling for $10 an hour after six years of employment, it means you probably should have quit your job four years ago, or really done some self reflection to figure out if you’re in the right field.

        I was turning 18 in 2004 when I started in this industry, had just graduated from high school and made $11 an hour as an in-house web designer. After less than a year I figured out that the work I was doing was worth more than $11 an hour and also that I wasn’t learning anything at the company I was with because I was the only designer there, and didn’t have anyone to share knowledge with.

        My next job was at a firm, for $14 an hour and I thought I would be learning from a senior designer but he actually quit the week that I started there – and eventually I quit too, because AGAIN I was the only person there, did all the work, and was getting paid less than what I felt I was worth.

        At my next job, as an in house web designer for a web publication company, I made $21 an hour.

        I then made $25 an hour at a firm and stayed there for two years, before I moved to Boston where the market was better and I now make more or less $37 an hour ($73k/yr), and my goal is to be making over $40 an hour in the next two years.

        If I couldn’t stand up tall in front of my employer and tell them I was worth this much, I probably would still be making $11 an hour.

    • 83

      Question – how is buying Adobe CS5 going to further your career? because you can now use the fancy new feature?

      I think this is the problem that we’re facing. If you want to learn CSS, use a note pad (free) and start coding your head off. You think it’s not going to help with your “design skills?” think again.

  24. 84

    Great description of the day-to-day. Another reason why I am officially titled a “Web Producer”. :)

  25. 85

    Great post. Honestly, I didn’t take Cameron’s article very seriously. His point of view is very limited. He didn’t consider the perspectives of different stakeholders involved in producing a website. You addressed this inadequacy quite well: “no company would suddenly give up its carefully crafted creative and regress to a template”. Indeed, it’s not the matter of perceived convenience or trend of gravitating towards template mobile apps, rather, it’s the matter of achieving the best possible outcome for the businesses/consumers. Design is a way to do that – by producing key differentiators in areas that matter. It’s a very simple paradigm that most people know and practice. However, Cameron’s article seems to promote a logic that runs against the interest of businesses. It assumes a better future where content production is the only channel to individualise. However, as you pointed out, it’s a false assumption, because design is not about adding “borders to buttons and colors to headlines” – it also selects, structures and evaluates content. Again, a very basic point that Cameron seems to overlook. Thanks for pointing it out Michael.

  26. 87

    Your article is a total over reaction to an interesting thought piece.

  27. 88

    Thank you. Designers do more than make things look pretty. We think [a lot about content] for a living, and that information architecture is just as much fun as putting on the bells and whistles, if you ask me!

  28. 89

    Content is definitely king. But at the same time content presentation also important. i feel always web media needs web designers to create things creatively. Even social media , Mobile applications also need designer.

  29. 90

    It’s a kids’ job. Twelve and thirteen year olds are tackling html/css/javascript and could school you in Photoshop. By the time they are in high school have mastered it all thanks to the design community. All of us who grew up on the web will make our money while we can and if we don’t earn our million by thirty actually move into a position that will benefit mankind… Such as engineering or medicine or physics. All the rest of you lazy, good for nothings will stay designing. Hope your scholarship paid for your overpriced design school complete with non-transferable credits, lol. Are you serious!?

    • 91

      Uh, what? No 12-13 year old is “schooling” anyone who has spent years and years working with front end and Photoshop.

      When I wrote my first line of HTML, they were in diapers.

      If you think teenagers as a whole can “master design” from a few years of experience you’re dead wrong.

      • 92

        I concur whole-heartedly with Michael. A lot of these “kids” that are kicking us old dogs’ asses, as you imply, are nothing but content and design copycats. They don’t get the engineering behind all of it: design, development, integrated marketing, etc. We learned that through years of experience.

        Whenever I get that old line from a potential client, “Well, my friend’s son is a “Web Designer” and he can do this for $100.” I reply, very professionally,” Well, if that is the case, I would recommend you go with him. However, when you find that he/she cannot deliver your product as you ultimately envisioned it, then please feel free to give me a call and we can discuss your options.”

        Typically, it works every time. They call back and I get the job. If not, good for them. For me it’s all about representing quality and success for my clients. If a client wants shortcuts, well then I am not the right one for them.

        Working in this industry for nearly 14 years, I have seen a lot both as a freelancer and an in-houser. If someone wants a quality result, they don’t mind spending the money. Freelance clients can be won over by the value add. Something that a kiddo cannot supply.

        • 93


          I think it takes at least 10 years of working at something to be good. Mastering it? Many more. Edward Tufte has a quote on this somewhere…

  30. 94

    Fantastically well written and well thought. Totally agree on everything said here. If you believe that Web Design is dead then you are sadly being mislead.


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