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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.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

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 blog, 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 After the contract is sorted, we become researchers, combing through the client’s outdated website, looking at analytics and identifying breakdowns and room for improvement.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 Drawar 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 Garden6.

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 credit8

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 predicts 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 Websites, 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

        Carlos Restrepo

        September 29, 2010 4:50 am

        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

    Lars D. Forseth

    September 27, 2010 12:32 pm

    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

      Andrei Gonzales

      September 28, 2010 6:46 pm

      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

    Andreas Ostheimer

    September 27, 2010 1:16 pm

    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

    Grade A Websites

    September 27, 2010 3:21 pm

    “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

    Jon-Paul Lussier

    September 27, 2010 3:34 pm

    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.

    • 86

      David, just a little correction: Cameron is a girl. ;)

      Nice article, 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

    Ravikumar vadde

    September 27, 2010 7:45 pm

    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.

  31. 95

    You know what? I wanted you to win the debate but you didn’t. You even lost badly too. :-(

    From your opening paragraphs, where you listed the myriad of hats we all have to wear to do a job, it was then when your “ship” started to “sink.”

    Simultaneously, you both missed and accepted the fact that a web designer, to be employed, has to have at least five marketable skills. Now let those last 7-words sink in: “…has to have at five marketable skills.”

    Five, marketable, top-dollar, skills is seriously hard to master.

    You categorically state that we must add so much equity to the concept of being a “web designer” that suddenly we are not “web designers” any more.

    So is web design dead? According to your argument, you inadvertently agree.

    My take: It will be the artists that will be employable – for since half our brains are wired for visual parsing… Good art will be the fastest way to make information fast, beautiful and convincing.

    • 96

      Alison Fay Binney

      September 28, 2010 12:00 am

      Tony. You know what, I think you have a very good take on this here. I was batting for both sides, but if I am honest, then I tend to agree with you. I applaud Cameron’s very insightful view on this. And Michael, you also have some very strong points. BUT. I have been a professional in the communications industry since 1991. Options for making a ‘Good’ living from design are damn hard to manage.

      In 1996 I started steering my journalism (writing) career into predominantly print layout and design. I worked hard. I was excited about the future of design. I quickly grasped new media technologies. I pushed myself into new work environments eager to learn even more from colleagues. I managed a design studio in London. I was employable. I developed over the years such an army of skills that I then decided to go out and work solo. I wanted the full control over everything from which clients I worked for, how much I was paid and how my designs developed.

      I would say I am expert in print and web design. I know the principles of layout and also have excellent technical know-how. And I am a communicator… not only a designer.

      I have freelanced solo since 2004. I built a client base (in the UK and across Europe). I managed accounts. I paid tax. I acquired new clients. I developed pretty good and technically sound designs for the clients that were unique and not out-of-the box. The clients were always happy.

      However, what we need to realize in these arguments here that Cameron and Michael present, and what I have also realized during the past 2 years, is that clients have changed drastically. Expectations of what is possible with new web technologies (and print) is growing at a speed faster than designers can actually keep up. How consumers digest information is drastically changing. I know some of you have argued that media technology is and has always been an evolutionary process. That is true. But the speed of that evolution has parabolically grown.

      Also, a major sad truth is that those of us who prefer to build unique designs are being out priced by those who draw on all the blogging and other website templates to produce websites. I mean, it actually makes sense to start with a WordPress template and build on it with an array of plugins and tinker with the CSS to add a few unique client design elements. Hey presto. Job done.

      It would be interesting to actually examine whether designers who started their career in the past 2-5 years are more design savvy than those who have been in the industry more than 10 years. And, also to see what skill sets differ and success rates.

      The upshot for me has been to draw back from the design industry. I am moving back into writing, as Cameron and Michael actually both pointed out, content is king, always.

      This is not to argue that design is dead. But I think the industry could do with a whole new marketing campaign itself. We need to sell our services differently… all over the world.

      If designers are happy sitting in studios, in TEAMS, then I see a future for designers specializing in niche markets. Not just in terms of offering niche technical skills, but certainly in serving niche client bases. As always, success stems from being exceptional in YOUR field. Jacks and Jills of all trades won’t all win in the future design industry. That is to say, I think that it is not intelligent at all to constantly be trying to keep up with changes in web technology just to stay ahead of the game. I am certainly not prepared to now learn how to design an iApp, for example.

      I would suggest to all budding new designers to NOT fly it alone. Join up with one or two other designers/communicators/programmers at least, and work together. Build a team that is capable of offering a range of skills. And don’t be afraid to say NO to clients who don’t really fit into your business plan.

      • 97

        I read a lot of good comments on both articles, but what Alison points out here is very true. The range of skill is very broad, it’s very hard to keep up with all of them. I can tell first-hand that it is very hard to do this all alone, being the only ‘web/it/multimedia/seo-etc-etc’ at my firm who gets hassled by everybody else to “do this quick, like name-a-site does, you know ?”..

        Webdesign is and was always a bit of a hassle, with all of the different standards/browsers/technologies/compatibilities etc… With mobile web emerging.. the focus is more on the data then it is on the design.

        So you have to adapt, once again..

        In that way, print designers have it a lot easier because what they have to deliver is relatively unchanged over the years. New features arise yes, but it’s still a document with 4 colours, CMYK.

        (web)Design will stay, but it will change, and it keeps changing… and you have to keep adapting too.. to the latest fad (facebook and other social tools..) or to something else, new that also won’t stay ..
        and people who focus on one thing and make it more factory-like will likely outprice you .. but they’re not sure of job security either ..

        • 98

          ” […] New features arise yes, but it’s still a document with 4 colours, CMYK.”

          Don’t forget spot, die, duotone, gloss, matte, metallic, emboss, and die-cut… and that last one takes the whole form follows function to a whole new level. hahaha :)

          • 99

            Thank you Allison: I started out in print in a print shop doing paste-up. It use to take four people to make an ad. When the web hit I was so relieved that I left print and my print skills are a little sloppy. For me print was always so scary and detailed; for others, maybe not so. (I once saw someone have a heart attack when they saw the wrong phone number printed in an ad that would mean nothing two weeks later. He almost died. I also saw a guy at FX Network get fired for not getting his “black” percentages right.)

            I think we all have to confront the fact that our skill-set will have to compress five salaries into an above-average single salary and that includes those with a 9-to-6 job too.

            I guess this is the new normal.

    • 100

      You’re missing that web design has always been this way – as a lot of jobs are. Does the CTO of a company only have one skill? Not a chance, they probably have even more than 5. How about surgeons? Police officers? Soldiers in the army? Same deal.

      My point is that good designers are already practicing multiple skills every day, and those skills help make them more marketable and their job more secure. You’re much more likely to hang onto your job in a recession if you’re helping the sales team close new business than if you were only doing Photoshop work.

      It also makes you more diversified in the event that the industry did turn away from custom design. You suddenly have this toolbox of appreciable business skills to draw from.

      Best of luck in finding your one skilled profession :)

    • 101

      “So is web design dead? According to your argument, you inadvertently agree.”

      No design will become more and more essential, that was never the discussion… the discussion is can you survive as a web designer. I think the article subject is flawed, it should be ‘When I grow up I want to do web design as well as 4 other core skilled professions, and maybe if I can find time grow my experience in the small hours of the morning’.

      Anyone who considers themselves a professional and also applies the title ‘rockstar’ has a little growing up to do. Is ‘rockstar’ the highest level?… so what are you you in 10 years time?

  32. 102

    Cameron’s article equate design to aesthetics which is totally misleading and wrong.

    Everything involves design even technology is a product of design.

    “The absence of good design is chaos.”

  33. 103

    Just want to say “GREAT POST”

  34. 104

    The main thing with ‘content’ is this: No matter how it is transmitted or deliciously wrapped up in CSS or Flash it requires an audience to ‘work’ and mechanisms for sharing to ensure mass (viral) consumption.

    Hence, the reason many big brands are referring to their ‘facebook page URLs’ rather than the ‘traditional’ homepages when advertising on television and billboards.

    The audience is at facebook (etc.) and the content needs to follow the users not the other way around.

  35. 105

    By the time most companies have decided to move their content to Facebook, that platform will be as dead as MySpace. It’s just the way things work.

    OTOH, there will always be the need for well designed and structured content.

    HTML, CSS and JavaScript are simply tools to get the work done.

    BTW, writing “termpapers” is also a 13 year old’s job, but you hardly see any teenagers working as writers or editors for large newspapers corps like the NY Times.

    • 106

      LOL, @ 500Million+ users and drones of talented(yes, very f’in talented) designers/developers I seriously doubt facebook will go away. If anything, they will keep evolving into a bigger monster.

      You forget that Myspace was built and sold to a company that turned it into a pile of poo.

  36. 107

    wow Thanks a lot.
    its kinda motivational article for me after reading cameron’s :(


  37. 108

    A few questions.

    Is facebook becoming the internet? Is the internet facebook?

    One thing i notice about history is that people tend to rebel against evil empires. How many films and political arguements are about this premise. The evil empire, nazi germany, iraq, Total recall, Highlander 2, The matrix and many many more.

    This might sound like a mad list but they all have one thing in common. When people are forced down one road something will eventually give, people will fightback and go it alone. Give other options and try something new. I loved facebook, i love the freedom it gave me and the opportunity to embrace old friendships and keep in touch with people i’d forgotton or lost touch with. Now i hardly ever check-in.

    Apple was an unknown at one point then it’s everywhere. Now people are apple haters and only use google to fight the’oppressive’ OS.

    My point ‘i think it’s in there somewhere’ is that there will alaways be a need to new designs, new systems, other options. These will always need to be designed, not just asthetically either.

    p.s How many magazines are there in the world. You don’t see one template that all magazines print into…just a thought :)

  38. 109

    My 3 Year old son says “I want to be a web designer when I grow up” and it made think long and hard about what the internet will be like in 15+ years time….

    We will laugh when we look back and called it “Social Media” similar to the way we called the internet “New Media” when it was first used. The internet will not be categorised nor will the design be rigid within the constraints of browsers!

  39. 110

    The Job of “Web Designers” will always be there, no matter how hard they try to come up with alternatives such as templates, automatic CSS/HTML softwares or even intelligent design wizards. Great ideas and concepts comes from different designers, and design always evolves. If concepts evolves so as the creators.

  40. 111

    Sebastian Knuell

    September 28, 2010 2:33 am

    Websites and apps are products. Products have to attract customers in order to sell. Attraction in daily use satifies the customer. Great design and usability are tools to deliver content to users in a pleasing way – with the ultimate goal to make them happy. The effort to make users happy in order to increase sales motivates elevation of both technology and design. If your users are happy you gain their loyalty and they might end up being your “fan”. Apple e.g. stands as a living proof of that. And the Social Web works like a multiplier for it.

    So while content is King, design and usability are Queen. Without her shining beauty and maternal care our economic kingdom will be all grey and our children will seek to consume elsewhere. And who wants that after all?

    Just my five cents.

  41. 112

    The other important thing is that not all products and industries are social network friendly. Not everyone sells phones, cars, tv, food clothes or other desirable things by average Joe.
    There is a huge B2B market of things like industrial machinery and parts, credit checks and management etc. that just fails to promote over Facebook, more than that it just looks damn silly. Most of my clients are like that, while their websites work great social networks simply fails.

  42. 114

    Web design, to draw and analogy, is a little like copy writing. You have to take content or a product and present it in the best possible way. To achieve your objectives in the best way. To do this you cannot be a king of just one skill or technology but have to know as much as possible about all that will affect the job.

  43. 115

    I think today, too many people call themselves webdesigner or webmaster… the taking over of facebook as like as software that let’s you “create” a website are slowly reducing the customers of a “real” webdesigner. Anyway there are still some customer that cares about a well made website, but they are less than a couple of years ago.

    What can we do? For me, keep on work on an high level and show what’s the difference between a professional product and a pure marketing action (like many companies on FB).

    Keep in mind that despite the big grow of web users, a big percentage are still people that refresh facebook all day long…

    Fortunately there are web users of another level, like us in this discussion.

    Sorry for my english, I’m Italian (don’t like my country as I don’t like faKebook…)

  44. 116

    Just a little question. How many of you believed in everything Cameron said and yelled the following words in agony: “Holy shit, everything is at stake now! I will lose my job and end up on the street!” If you did just that, then maybe, just maybe, you’re a bit too naive. It’s like television, DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU’RE SAID.

    • 117

      Agreed! I think for those who truly worried about the future of their career after reading Cameron’s article might not completely understand the role of a designer. To design is to problem solve. One can not solve a particular business problem via a set of templates. Even if they could, they still need to customize it.

      Cameron’s article is thought provoking but misguided. She missed a huge point… which is Web Designers ARE also part of the content creation team. Without designers, nothing is organized, nothing is curated and nothing is optimized.

      If you are the kind of designer who only worry about comping a pretty UI rather than a functional UI that provides a strategic visual solution which is consistent with a company’s brand goals then maybe you should be a little worried…

      In my 14 years of working in the design industry, I started out as a web designer but soon found myself yearning to become a better visual communicator. I then taught myself branding, print production, photography in addition to keeping up with web technologies because I realized design is a multidisciplinary profession.

      We are problem solvers first, whatever medium we choose to communicate our solutions is just a means to an end. Become the designer who solve problems, not a decorator who indulges and you will never have to worry about “the state of web designers”.

  45. 118

    Wired says that the web is dead.
    It made me furious, how come, i’ve been into web design for 12 years and now that even the common people is talking about HTML and FTP do you want to take it away from me?
    I hope so, this is called evolution, progress if you like. Gutenberg didn’t kill the story tellers, video didn’t kill the radio and i bet apps will not kill the web.
    iPad sell 3 million pieces, how many pc there are out there? Many more.
    Do you think that an app developer works, research, develop and write code using ONLY an iPad , maybe i’m wrong, but the functionality of the 2 media are different.
    I’m certainly saying that apps are the new trend and we must be aware of it, as good designers i can see only possibility over there, to expand our knowledge , to improve our skills and to get out of our comfort zone.
    That what i think will made us still working as designer in ten years.
    Also, the same concept of apps is what you call repository on a linux machine, so even the concept is not so new, just the fact that people is making money out of it is a new trend, Steve jobbs is becoming what Bill Gates was in the mid-nineties and i’m sure his reign one day will end , someone else will come up and bring on the next big thing. Same thing we could say for Facebook, one day it will be just a memory and we will be talking about new ideas, now functionality, new user patterns that hopefully, we helped to shape.
    After that , you’ll find me harvesting potatoes on a nice valley in Tuscany.
    Take care you all.

    • 119

      I don’t think to be in the street for the next….10 years.
      Anyway (i talk of my country, italy) i don’t work no more like 2 or 3 years ago, maybe due to the crisis, but maybe because many of the potential customers that could grow their business with a wellmade website, prefer a fb page to reach the people.

      I work anyway, but more less

      • 120

        I was born and I used work in Italy, i left three years ago because i realized that most of the companies do not have the proper mind to “fare impresa”. They just see a website like a expensive window and because their competitors have got one, they want to have one too. They don’t realize the potential of a proper website, and that sad.
        I moved to london and since then i’ve always been plenty of work and i’ve worked for some of the biggest global corporation, being treated and payed properly. In Italy you work lot harder (due to the lack of proper management) and get payed nuts. Even though there are (few) great agencies and (few) sensible companies well open minded.
        If I’ll retire to tuscany it would be because i won’t debug for IE6 anymore.
        Stammi bene.

  46. 122

    We so very rarely get people coming to our training centre wanting to be Web Designers, which is a shame. Mostly we get people wanting just some new skills or that they want to build just one site for their company. We hope to start targeting graduates here in Thailand and turn them into international designers. Thai’s have a lot of creativity at times and it is a shame they are taught such dated rubbish at their universities.

  47. 123

    Content will be always king.

  48. 124

    I am really sick of the ‘content is king’ idiom, but beyond that, there will always be growth for internet media. If your skills are limited to grid style blog design, then you may encounter issues, but if you have a wide range of skills in front-end or back-end, there will always be a need for customization of the visual presentation of content. It matters little if it is typography, color theory, interfaces, etc, or what the platform is, everything has a look and a function. There is decent money to be made with facebook customization, for example, just as there was for MySpace before it, because FMBL is annoying and only something pros can really deal with.

    This should really be more about blog design and less about the web in general (also don’t forget all the app platforms that use standard languages to create interfaces). If it is important for a user audience to see a website, it should not be publishing full content to RSS in the first place. If it isn’t, then the design matters little and doesn’t factor into our industry anyway.

  49. 125

    You work for a client who has spent many thousands of dollars/euros on it’s branding. The new fleet livery looks fantastic on the highway. The ads on the subway are getting a lot of attention. Now they want to spend peanuts on a web template.

    No. It’s not going to happen. In my experience it’s the reverse. Businesses often see the website as a springboard for their corporate communication. The corporate website is the hub and social networks the spokes in the wheel.

    What is branding anyway? It’s about creating a difference between you and your competitors. That’s why generic templates are not going to provide a solution for corporate marketing either.

  50. 126

    It’s nice to see the original Smashing Magazine article bring to the table such a deep conversation, and I for one would like to say kudos to Smashing for publishing it! I think most people here are over-reacting out of fear, and while I think this is a reasonable human response to the threat of one losing their livelihood I think it also contributes to people mis-interpreting what the article meant to suggest.

    The web is changing very quickly right now, and a lot of industry experts and venture capitalists are speaking of a web where a lot of trends that have been emerging for the last few years are starting to become cemented and radically alter the field of what we call web design. Here are a few examples that are HUGE and will most likely be around for the next decade plus: Facebook, twitter, mobile web, and content management systems.

    To put this discussion in context lets look at the term “webmaster.” Before the dot com bust in the early part of this century we had a lot of webmasters who could own a good living simply because they could code html. Now tell me when was the last time you saw a position advertised for webmaster. They either learned to adapt and kept developing their skills or they got another job! I am sorry to break it to you but it is very hard to see the term “web designer” not dying out over the next 10 or 15 years. Also what about your ad-hoc ruby or php programmer. Many small to medium sized businesses will probably opt for a content management system such a WordPress or Drupal instead of hiring a full time php programmer.

    The way the web works is rapidly changing, and as a community we must not deny this fact as we are teaching and practicing our trade. We will need to adapt and be visionary and set a course for our endeavors. We can’t deny the future web, instead embrace it, embrace the CMS, embrace mobile web, embrace aggregation, data visualization and modern marketing. Embrace Seth Godin and HTML 5! But remember impermanence is the flavor of life and work–but right now is a very exciting time to be involved with web technologies.

    “then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone”-Bobby D, “The Times They are a Changin”

  51. 127

    I think I started programming when I was about 16 in 1979, and turned professional when I was 19. About two years later I started being inundated with articles in the trade journals and magazines informing me that computer programmers where going to be obsolete in a few short years, because the industry was quickly developing expert tools that could generate code faster and better than any human. These warnings were everywhere in the 1980s, and they went on for several years until people came to their senses.

    Thirty years later I’m still programming professionally, and have been developing for the web for the last ten years. I am reminded of the Arab proverb: “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.”

    • 128

      “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.”
      This is an amazing and very truthful proverb.

  52. 129

    This is the kind of content Smashing and its readers deserve: high quality, thought through, well-written.

    Web creatives (my term) have one extra benefit over a theme or a Facebook page: they contemplate the state of their profession and have strong ideas and visions about it. And they write smashing articles as a result.

  53. 131

    I greatly appreciate your response. Some have said above that this article is an over-reaction, but I think it’s great to clearly hear your passion behind web design.

    It’s funny, many people, who are not in the industry, think a web designer simply sits and designs “stuff” similar to an artist. When I am talking with new clients I like to hear what they think I am doing for them as their “web designer.” The results are usually, “oh, you’ll be making a website for us” or “you’re going to make it pretty, right?” Of course these are true statements, but when I go into my full process: sales, project management, content analysis, design, development, deployment and maintenance they quickly understand the value and price tag!

    Great article! Thank you.

  54. 132

    Good designers, with lots of experience and contacts or those working for big studios will be OK. It’s the small guys, the little freelancers that will hurt the most, because Mom n Pop bakery is getting savvier, the new generation of business owners that grew up with technology are coming up, they know about WordPress and how to use Facebook and to buy templates and show up in Google maps and they will use that until they have enough “dough” to hire an agency.

    So there might be some cleanup going on, but that’s it. We also need to understand that there will always be little companies out there that don’t want to do it all themselves! They need to focus on their business, not updating their “pages”, I tell a lot of my clients: “As owner of this company, what are you worth per hour to the company? Now look at my hourly rate… and it will take me half the time than it will take you… do the math”

    Freelancers and small market designers have to team up (collaboration is the salvation) to offer a full set of solutions and target larger clients that are over the hump, one person alone just can’t do it all anymore and can’t compete with free or low priced automated systems.

    This subject cannot be looked at in BnW, there are just too many shades (clients, industries, environments, specialties, etc.) to draw a conclusion as harsh as total annihilation of our species.

    • 133

      “Good designers, with lots of experience and contacts or those working for big studios will be OK. It’s the small guys, the little freelancers that will hurt the most, because Mom n Pop bakery is getting savvier, the new generation of business owners that grew up with technology are coming up, they know about WordPress and how to use Facebook and to buy templates and show up in Google maps and they will use that until they have enough “dough” to hire an agency.”

      You must be related to Nostradamus, because this is an incredible skill you have to predict future events while also making it sound very gloomy and depressing. I suggest that you stick to your web design business, learn new skills, do well as you can and enjoy your work. ;)

  55. 134

    gr888 post. Thanxxxx

  56. 135

    a web designer that has to code is like an architect who lays bricks…

    • 136

      A web designer that doesn’t have to code, is a photoshopper

    • 137

      An architect still needs to know their materials and how they can be used with their design – even if they are not the ones laying the brick. Otherwise it could all fall down.

    • 138

      Andrei Gonzales

      September 28, 2010 6:07 pm

      My father is a successful architect, having designed buildings, retail shops, and homes in different countries.

      He also does his own DIY, can do carpentry, and sometimes designs the furniture needed to finish off an interior, even having “ironsmiths” build custom TV stands that he designed in order to install his client’s TV on a rock-face wall.

      His other colleagues are well-versed in which materials to use, their pros and cons, and keep up with new technology (electric glass, computer-cut and treated pre-fab wood, etc.)

      Architects know their “code”.

      Designers in the automobile sector aren’t much different. Their work deals with solving quantifiable issues such as drag, interior space, safety zones, accessibility, making a car child-friendly, luggage space, sound isolation, and knowing which parts and materials are the better choice to ensure that they can be shared across platforms to reduce cost, yet without diluting the experience of the car or the brand.

      They too, know their “code.”

      As I’ve said: design is about problem solving. How can you truly solve a problem when your “knowledge” is so severely limited that you don’t even know the pros and cons of your decisions due to your ignorance?

      Anyone who calls himself a web designer and can’t code should just take up scrap-booking.

  57. 139

    We are not just web designers but also pioneers of the internet. A lot of our creative skills are implemented and seen amongst the world. Whether the internet changes in our favor or not it’s because we inspired it and we will adapt to the change like we always have.

  58. 140

    …what if I haven’t a Facebook account (and so it is)?? No company can reach me… World will always need webdesigners, probably we’ll only change name

  59. 141

    Kristine Jubeck

    September 28, 2010 8:57 am

    Thank you, Michael, for continuing this conversation. I believe that right now Web Designers are faced with the daunting task of overcoming the main-stream conception that all we do is decorate. It’s really not surprising considering one definition of “design” is: “an arrangement of lines or shapes created to form a pattern or decoration”. But a second definition of “design” is what we really do: “purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object”

    Changing this misconception is up to us. We must educate and be good representatives of our profession. No more designing for decoration! Design to solve problems!

    (Shameless promotion: :-)

  60. 142

    Also, how do you SEO within Facebook?

    Plus, what about business to business websites? No one is going to build their only site on Facebook for this. They would never be taken seriously.

    I think email newsletters, offering sales & product discounts and then point them to their website to purchase are probably more effective than a Facebook account that drives them to buy virtually nothing.

  61. 143

    Unless we start weeding out self appointed “designers,” the term “web designers” will be phased out.

    The problem that I see is not so much the extinction of web designers/developers, but rather a overflow of bad to mediocre websites built by those who do not understand the foundation of HTML/CSS (I’m looking at you Dreamweaver!)

    I for one agree with the fact that the traditional web designers (those who slices up photoshop mockups) is better of fading away. But if you’re a hybrid (design & development) then you will rule the web world.

  62. 144

    Internet is not social media.

    world population

    world population with internet access

    facebook users (+- 25% of internet users)

    • 145

      I agree, Internet is not social media. I don’t want all my friends knowing every article I view, video I watch or comment I make…. I would end up with no friends and their would be no social media !!

  63. 146

    Cameron Chapman was absolutely 100% right. In fact, all of you should start looking for new career paths right now. I mean it. Get out of the business. But before you do, please send all of your clients to me. Thanks.

  64. 147

    Chris, thank you for your insight. I really appreciate it. As I said I’m not going to give up on it. Mastering one skill then keeping up before it evolves seems to be key and web dev moves fast!

    Peter, No, I do not think that buying CS5 will magically make me an awesome web designer. However, it is a nice thing to have and for the less web savy employer they see knowledge of this stuff as a staple even if it isn’t needed. If someone asks me if I know how to use x,y,z program. I want to be able to say yes, confidently. There is nothing wrong with that. I’ve coded many websites with just notepad and I still do. In fact I did this post in notepad before I posted it! While I -can- code, I am more efficient as a graphic designer so CS5 is also much a toy for myself as it is a design tool.

    I appreciate your feedback but I wasn’t looking to be made an example of. No one wakes up knowing how to code flawlessly. It takes time and effort. People who want to learn are not the problem. If they aren’t qualified or up to their employers standards they won’t be hired. That is how it is and its completely understandable.

  65. 148

    Are web designers becoming extinct? In regards to the web designer of 3 – 5 years ago, yep. But in my opinion so is the web developer, at least the front end developer. It’s not a lack of demand, it’s just a demand for a different skillset, or perhaps a more complete skill set. People become dinosaurs in the industry because they fail to adapt to the changing climate.

    I saw someone above say blah blah blah mobile/iPhone blah. That’s the dinosaur mentality. Ignoring the fact that in Japan over half the web traffic comes from mobile devices, and in the US we’re trending to those types of numbers is like sticking your head in the sand, oblivious to reality around you.

    Most of these posts have the big brand philosophy that consumers will come to you. If we all worked for only big clients, we could continue in our jobs the same way we have for the last 10 years. Unfortunately, all clients aren’t big clients. Just like the door to door salesman of the 50s and 60s, we have to go to consumers (because our competitors will), which means Facebook. Love it or hate it, a company’s reach is a lot farther on Facebook then it is on their own domain name. If the audience goes somewhere else, the business goes there too.

    • 149

      But still, this all seems to be obvious for business to consumer…

      What about the other 50% of the industry, business to business?

      I hardly see companies building their corporate websites on phones, facebook, youtube or even Linkedin.

    • 150

      Andrei Gonzales

      September 28, 2010 7:13 pm

      Don’t forget the very basic Facebook ecosystem: you can’t be accessed by a business unless you allow it. How can a business get you to see their Facebook content if you don’t “like” them, or don’t see them on your feed? Ads can only go so far.

      A website still provides the most complete platform for presenting vital information to the consumer (whoever they may be) for any business. Those who underestimate the importance of branding will take the cheaper routes (whatever they may be), and those who don’t will invest in a unique website.

  66. 151

    in the end it’s the 9 and 10 year old that would decide what good design is, no amount of this high fa-looting trained designer mumbo jumbo matters

  67. 152

    Bravo, really.

  68. 153

    I appreciate the response article to the previous controversial piece. However, like almost everything in life there is truth in what both sides are saying.

    Like it or not, sites like Facebook and Twitter are so prevalent that as more businesses are developing social media strategies, their overall web strategy is expanded beyond their typical corporate website. This isn’t to say they will neglect their website, but it is realistic to assume to say that less time and money will be devoted to it.

    I don’t have a reference, but I think it would be safe to assume that magazine, TV, and radio marketing have taken a hit due to the popularity of the web. However, companies still market through these mediums and are highly successful! Looking back at these older mediums, there is little danger of the web designer role becoming extinct. Like many have said, worse comes to worst it will evolve to fit the market’s needs. Besides, like Michael said, we aren’t strictly “web designers”.

    You have to remember, a website is just one part of the overall marketing strategy a company will utilize. As more mediums become popular, in most cases fewer resources will be dedicated to the rest of them. Templates will likely become more popular as web sites become less of a focus, but there will always be a market for a custom solution that will outshine a pre-packaged solution.

  69. 154

    hmm ,the comments is much better to read :)

  70. 155

    Great excerpt on the topic! I enjoyed reading it, knowing that I am part of the group that is always hungry for more knowledge. Thanks for supplying it!

  71. 156

    This post was great. It’s all the things I have been thinking about but have not seen them on paper. Good Stuff. I wrote some similar stuff on our blog. if anyone would like to check it out.

  72. 157

    Great article. I agree.
    I love this sentence:”Let’s make something very, very clear. Good Web designers know that their job is to present content in the best way possible.”

    Have a nice day folks!

  73. 158

    Very good article indeed

  74. 159

    Seriously, is there any point to this article? The web is evolving and designers will have to evolve as well. Facebook and Twitter are great marketing tools but are also limited. Maybe in the future designers will switch to making Facebook themes for large companies but I don’t think anyone can argue that .com real-estate will always be around and so will web design.

  75. 160

    The idea reminds me of the early days of myspace. Bands jumped on board as it was the perfect promotional vehicle where they could communicate directly with fans, didn’t have any retail needs and their popularity could be tracked. But now we are seeing bands going back to having their own websites. They need a base that is personal and brings together all the other elements.

  76. 161

    When I first read the previous article, I also felt a bit disturbed. And, just like many, my first reaction was: “wait a minute! I’m a designer, first of all! I do NOT build websites. I build communication, relationship, brand recognition, innovation. My clients come to me NOT asking for a PSD and XHTML or whatever acronym we may use. They ask for commercial results and revenues!” You see?

    And that’s extensible to almost any kind of product, service, object in our daily lifes. Why cars aren’t all equal? Why smartphones aren’t all equal? Why even cigarette lighters aren’t all the same? Why there are still designers and engineers all around the world, working day after day, to build cool new stuff, if we could simply stick with what we already have?

    Cameron, the author of the previous article, simply started with a completely distorted idea of what we and our profession are. And from there on, nothing else more made sense.

  77. 162

    excellent article ..
    this is the perfect reply for those who support the article “Does The Future Of The Internet Have Room For Web Designers?”

  78. 163

    *Stands and applauds

    uh, yeah. That other article posed a series of interesting concepts and notions, however it was disconnected from reality a little bit. Much like the article about designing without PS.

    whats with these chicks?

  79. 164

    I was a designer before there even was webdesign,
    Since 10+ years I’m doing webdesign.
    If webdesign should disappear,
    I will still be a designer.

  80. 165

    In the beginning of the “Does the Future of Internet Have Room…” article, there is sentence that should have kept many readers from worrying about their future careers in web design:

    “And the truth is, none of us really know what will happen with the Internet in 10 or 15 years.”

    As more of these types of articles start popping up, we need to be critical of their content and realize that nobody really knows whats going to happen and even the most informed people on the topic cannot accurately tell the future of web design.

    Also, I think also its important for writers on these topics to be careful with strong authorative statements that many people will read as concrete truth instead of conjecture.

    Having said that, I think myself and other love reading these articles. Recently, Wired Magazine’s article called “The Web is Dead, Long Live the Internet” touched upon many of the same topics as this article. In it they give a balanced view of how the Web has changed since its inception and how this will effect business online in the future. Instead of trying to predict what the future of the web will look like, its gives a complete look at where we’ve been.

  81. 166

    There are over a billion websites…Facebook is one of them, and every page looks the same! It’s ironic how often sites like Smashing will often feature the “50 most beautiful, fashion websites”, “25 Cool Coffee Websites”, etc. and yet harbor opinions about these very things being virtually irrelevant.

    Yes the web is all about content but it is a supreme stretch of sensationalism to say that the visual manner in which it’s presented is a moot point. A car takes you from point A to point B but yet the auto industry flourishes with a splendid range of designs, price points, features, shapes, sizes etc. Books are strictly about the content they offer, so how come when we walk into Borders every single book doesn’t look exactly the same (save the title)?

    Design (be it web or otherwise) is engrained into our culture and our lives as humans far beyond web or technology. It’s why we have museums, artists, it’s an integral basis of world commerce, its in the toothbrush you decide to buy at CVS (but aren’t they all just bristles that scrub your teeth?)!

    I don’t want to live in a world where the look and feel of the environment is standardized to maximize the efficiency of the contextual message…and apparently neither does Tokyo, Paris, Chicago, Sydney or any other place in the world that looks and thinks different than any other place. People, all people, creative or otherwise, are emotionally stirred in some manner from design…that will literally NEVER change.

  82. 167

    Psshhhhhhffffttttttttt. Puhlease.

    While my current day-to-day activities involve web browser-delivered applications – I am NOT a “Web” designer. I am an application/UI/Workflow designer.

    I don’t care what you’re delivering your snazzy new application in. Sure, I can code for browsers with the best of them – but, I WILL excel in whatever you throw at me. Be it a browser, a phone, or a space-time continuum beebozoolator.

    Human interaction and ease of task completion is our primary focus – don’t ever forget that.

  83. 168

    Wow I was fearing for my career after reading Cameron’s article, but this has reassured me a bit.

    After all, the majority of companies place a high emphasis on ‘communicating’ the nature of their company through design. One of my most recent clients specifically requested his website to have a really corporate look to it. He wanted photos of business people, photos of expensive cars, jQuery slideshows of landmarks around where his company is based, as well as animated phrases that sum up what his business offers. All of this was directly aimed towards his target audience.

    How could you get a message like this across through a Facebook page or RSS feed? You couldn’t, well, not yet anyway. These applications would have to develop so much that they would have to allow the content deliverers the ability to customise how their ‘page’ or ‘feed’ is displayed in these applications. Which would then make room for the ‘Internet Designer’ role identified by Scrivs.

    Still, I can’t help but think that Cameron raises some really valid points. After all, I rarely visit the Smashing Magazine website these days as I tend to just stick to Google Reader, I’m only on here now to write this comment!

    Also, I listen to stations purely through their desktop app, and only on their website when I’m using somebody elses computer that doesn’t have the player installed. I do regularly visit the website anyway as there is a lot of content / interactivity that isn’t available through their desktop app, but if all of the functionality from the website was included in their desktop player, would I really bother going on their website? Hmmm probably not, unless to appreciate the design… but how many none-designers would do that?

  84. 169

    great article.

  85. 170

    I think its time to redefine what a web designer is. I stopped using the term entirely, except as a very loose category. I use it when talking to folks outside the industry. I think it is better to use terms such as:
    Graphic Designer
    User-experience Designer
    Front-end Developer
    Back-end Developer

    Most folks have a range of skills. However, I bet that anyone who calls themselves a “web designer” better fits into one of the above categories.

    I think a Web Designer should be defined as a specialty within graphic design. Until it really redefined, maybe it should be avoided altogether. Does someone want to write up an article on this topic?

  86. 171

    I think that the term “web designer” can mean many things these days. Many of us are hybrids with a bunch of different skills mainly because we need to be in many cases.

    Are you a designer, a coder or a bit of both?

  87. 172

    Arthur Abogadil

    September 29, 2010 11:44 pm

    I consider myself a web developer, or a programmer on that, then a web designer second. I believe in designing for functionality but no one can’t deny that eye candy catches the eye of clients.

    Arthur Abogadil
    Lead Web Developer, philcoders

  88. 173

    sigh of relief. I wondered where Cameron gets “graphic artist” credentials. She has not portfolio to show.

  89. 174

    The comments have gone mental – took me ages to scroll down!
    Great post though, although I have forgotten what its about now Ive finally reached the bottom.

    Personally I call myself a web designer. Been a designer for 11 years the last 2 have been purely on the web… I’m not a strong enough web coder to class myself as developer even though I can do a mean website start to finish.

  90. 175

    In reference to the argument that social networking sites such as Facebook are taking the place of a business having their own proprietary web site, I find it helpful to remember that each of them have their respective roles. At the risk of over simplification, consider this:

    There is no doubt that social networks, such as Facebook have proven their effectiveness in regards to engaging people and providing forums for large numbers of people to rapidly communicate and for businesses to rapidly interact with their particular publics. Yet, metaphorically, we are still talking about comparing “apples” and “oranges”. Using the following analogy, I explain to my clients that both social networking sites and proprietary websites each have unique purposes for which they are best suited, and using both of them correctly is the best way to optimize the customer relationship experience.

    I often compare it to the “brick and mortar” experience of meeting people at cocktail parties, public events, trade shows and other places where people mix and mingle. This is the Facebook experience. You may engage in a lively discussion, industry gossip, talk about the weather or favorite entertainer, exchange business cards, give them a brief elevator pitch…you may even show them pictures of the family, the dog and the cat. But, you are still on someone elses turf. Now…that you have met them, you can extend the invitation for them to come to your place of business…your office. This is your company’s proprietary website. Now you can WOW them by giving them an experience of your business they can’t get anywhere else.

    While the comparisons may not line up exactly, the way I see things, giving up your proprietary website is tantamount to giving up your companies headquarters and doing all of your business at someone else’s locations.

    You can meet and engage prospective customers in a variety of forums, but, potentially, you can get your customers involved in more exciting ways at your own website.

    I am a management consultant/business empowerment coach, however I am very familiar with the work of “top knotch” web developers and designers. There is nothing like a well designed proprietary website. My crystal ball says that web designers who stay current have a bright future ahead!

    Michael, thanks for a great article!

    P.S. Any comments on gamification/game mechanics applied to web design?

  91. 176

    Maybe a good addition on this article, especially in the discussion of content vs design and the use of templates, is a report published by the BNO called Design Effectiveness, this publication conveys the relation between design and firm performance on different levels.

  92. 177

    Fully agree with you on this. To be frank, Cameron’s article was boll*cks.

  93. 178

    Well, said. I wanted to give you a present:

    One down. Now we have to continue teaching the rest of the world what Designers do like we do every day. Sometimes I think THAT is my real job. ; )

  94. 179

    Amazing article!

    “The point” will always be the content and the user, the design will always be there to “enhance” (even that this word doesn’t fit the real extension of Design) the content and make it better to the user.

    We can’t forget a simple fact: we’re all the same species but we’re all differents as individuals with specific needs. A small company can start with a Standrad Theme (Niche Theme/Template) for his website, but in the right moment this won’t be enough to fit their needs, or in the worst case, the bussiness will never grow up.

  95. 180

    Good rebuttal. Some of the arguments were a little silly (like the whole sales person part). But the point is solid. As long as things will be made, there will be a need for designers.


    As far as the form vs. function debate? That will rage on forever.

  96. 181

    Web design/development as a secure profession? I disagree. The market will become more quickly saturated than say, the car industry crying for factory workers.

    We simply don’t need -that- many working with web design/development.

  97. 182

    What a great article, and the very reason my company is not called “XYZ Design Company” but “XYZ Web Solutions”

    Taking a project from conception to launch and beyond requires meetings, research, analysis, strategy, implementation, testing & repeat.

    Thanks for clearing this up for those who think placing text and images in an HTML document makes us a web designer.


  98. 183

    Thank you for writing such a great article. When I read the first part several days ago I was super upset at everything that I read.
    As a new web designer, growing up in a world where social media is growing faster than we can believe, I know how important websites are..and will be for a company. As you mentioned, a website is an extension of a company, not just a content based place to go.

  99. 184

    Thank you for a great article! I’m a new designer working towards my B.S. in web development. Thank you for verifying that I’m on the right path. Templates have and will always be limited in what they can do for a business. My future is very secure.

  100. 185

    Nice article, tho it sounds a bit too dogmatic to my ears.

  101. 186

    the most boring and exaggerated article ever.

    Just because social media is popular you must not have existential fear. If you´re talented you will always have enough work…today web designer, tomorrow app designer and then maybe something else.

    Use your time to get clients if you have not enough to do and stop writing this boring cant.

    • 187


      July 23, 2013 5:41 pm

      “Use your time to get clients if you have not enough to do and stop writing this boring cant.”

      Just because you’re too lazy or selfish to help and/or inform others doesn’t mean everybody else should be.

  102. 188

    wow web designing today is like a business :( they lost it

    i grow up with the love on art, drawings and colors.
    when i got to high school i tried to apply my talent to computers.

    web designing is more like an expression to me, as a form of modern day art.

  103. 189

    “One of the biggest misconceptions about designers (and usually Print designers) is that we’re just Print designers — that the scope of our skills begins with Lorem ipsum and ends with HTML emails. This is ridiculous.”
    Does this sound familiar?

  104. 190

    loosing the face with facebook

    October 14, 2010 8:21 pm

    the article is bullshit, like the article befor about webdesign will be simply replaced by content.

    sorry guys with this attitude all patent office in the world are for nothing, developing a logo is useless since you can use a avatar and just use the name as brand……

    bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

    look at the fashion industry. everybody is fighting to make the brand remakable, new, unique, fresh etc.

    do you think, this would be possible if you are limited by facebook rules, raster and content stealing….? i dont think so.

    i promise you guys. not the designer is replaceabele. it will be the developer. when i started with web design i couldn imagine to create and code websites. now since all this becomes easy with plug ins, templates and thousand tutrorials. the web developer for me becomes useless and i just hire some for special jobs or big jobs. because its nice to have a web 2 aproved raster but the customers dont want to have the same crap like the competitor maybe.

    design is inspiration – facebook and social media is for people who want to have a number tattooed and a barcode on the arm with a facebook logo, no – better. the wish a future with implemented chips in the ass so facebook can strike them with a thunderstorm when they pass a umbrella shop.

    if this is the future. i am out..

  105. 191

    It may be true that most of the users are after the content of a website. Web Designers likewise elevates the user experience not just by fancy buttons etc. They conceptualize how content will be presented on users. Its more likely how big products got successful without considering how their product will be presented in market from packaging to extensive advertisement. That is no more different when we talk about web designs.

  106. 192

    So if Cameron is a “professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience” writing about web design, why do I not see a portfolio that contains something other than blogging and writing?

    Credibility, get some.

  107. 193

    Web designing is really cool profession. I know a little bit about but don’t know complete work.

  108. 194

    Our profession was always one of flexibility and constant learning and upgrading. Web design has grown to such a state that now it is a collection of professions and skills. It’s sales, customer service, relationship management, marketing, branding, design, user experience, copy editing/writing, architecture, info systems, admin, programmer/developer, reasearcher, consultant; and the list goes on and on.

    I’ve been doing this well past a decade now and every year, more and more professions get folded into the role. In 2011, we will see social media experience and marketing as an essential role addition many must learn to stay relevant. More companies are looking for designers who have this experience and thus far, there’s more demand than supply.

    That will only elevate the web designer so long as the designer knows that the social media sphere is *just* a communications platform. Even if much of our work shifts from pure web design, it is supplemented by campaign work; something we should all have experience and skill in.

    In the end, companies will need their own home to operate from. It is never smart to submit control of a company’s destiny to a 3rd party unless that company was built specifically to leverage on that 3rd party platform. Facebook is just a tool. It is one of many, many tools. Smart companies will not/should not surrender their company in this way; And one of our jobs is to let our client’s know that. It simply is not a smart online strategy.

    As long as we designers continue to learn and adapt, the profession will thrive. Even the hoohaa over apps is just another area of expertise we must learn to survive. And in the end, we already have a strong base for this in usability/UI. It’s just one more thing. If anything, our profession is now at a state where many of us can choose to be generalists or find a perfectly servicable niche in any of those combination of roles. Previously, those niches were few. The profession has grown and looks likely to continue to grow as quickly as anything the web has to offer in the future.

  109. 195

    can you post me the list of software one’ can use in designing a web site

  110. 196

    Without reading all the comments of different opionions and getting caught up in arguing others, this comment will relate directly to the article.

    I like this article and relate to it a lot. I do relate to the title even more so. I was 13 (12 years ago) when I started dabbling into building websites on geocities (brings back some fun memories), I actually was horrible at the design aspect, and it wasn’t until highschool that I started designing.

    I like how you say we are not just web designers, and on some level I knew that, but I never really broke it down to salesman, researchers, etc. but that makes sense. How do you let the client know that, or see that?

    Clients that care about their business will invest in a good designer/developer and provide excellent content. Some clients will buy into the templates, but I’ve had clients come to me, with their template and ask me to set it up and add content, and that is unfortunate for me, because my skill as a designer is bypassed to do all the dirty work.

    Website Design is not obsolete, I do not believe websites will get ran over by social media, and I believe Content is King, and design and content work together.

  111. 197

    hey..! how to be a web designer..nd which subject i’ll chose for it..!! ??


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