General Discussion

Stephen O'Connor
Stephen O'Connor
22,291 Points

'Is web design a dying profession?' - 1 Year On

David Hughes asked the question Is web design a dying profession? about 1 year ago and I just wondered what people thought about this now.

I have been reading a lot recently about the future of web design and how the front-end design/developer job will be obsolete within the next 5-10 years, and sadly, I think I agree with what is being said.

Yes, sites like SquareSpace at the moment are not brilliant at making custom sites, but in 5 years time they will be, building a site will be as simple as clicking a few buttons here and there and you will probably be able to do it on your phone via some sort of fancy site or app. So in my opinion maybe 50-60% of companies will choose this route, this will leave the same amount of agencies and developers fighting for 40% of the work, which will be a nightmare.

A lot of clients/potential clients I speak to these days have caught on to the fact that they can get a site - and a half decent one at that - on sites like SquareSpace for less than £100, so when we/I quote them £3000 (for example) for a job they ask me why should I pay £3000 when I can get something relatively similar for less than £100, and if I am being honest I do not have an answer for them. I agree some clients will still want something bespoke and for them we can certainly do that, but most SMEs will just go with the cheap option, because it is human nature to go with the cheapest option. Yes, you get what you pay for but I think in 5 years time these cheaper options will be able to do almost everything we can do just now, if not more. And what's more the nature of our industry is that we always strive to make things easier for ourselves - DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) so someone, somewhere will come up with 'something' that codes for us and make that into a very good 'do it yourself' site building business. So where does that leave us?

I just wanted to know what other people thought about this? Am I being pessimistic? Should we be diversifying into other areas? Content Writing? SEO? Back-end Development? App Development? I just don't want to reach 35 and have a huge skill set that has been rendered obsolete ....

8 Answers

The world continues to evolve everyday. Professions live, evolve or die. If we see front end development or web design, in that way and we see every other profession in the same lenses in the future... every worker will have to live under that fear; something else will do everything for us if we keep being innovative and come up with cool ideas that automate things for us or make our life easier. The other areas you say...

Content writing... someday in the future someone can come with a tool smart enough in linguistics, coding, containing a huge database of studies/statistics, having the ability to research all that information and structure it almost flawlessly to do the content writing for us.

SEO ... someone in the future can make a bot/crawler that can figure out algorithms by monitoring ranking trends and patterns, to get sites a better SEO

App Development? Well, there are already online paid drag and drop tools that could be perfected and take the job of app developers.

Back - end development? If we happen to advance in all the rest then for sure this place won't be left untouched lol

I used to get this thought that one day we all might as well have to be entrepreneurs. Some people say that is the "job of the future", but if we are all entrepreneurs competing with each other. Who will buy from whom and who will work with whom. I also saw someone in a conference ask a question that made me think for a while, he said something like... " if we make learning coding so easy and all the kids start learning coding, I am afraid I'll lose my job in some years". That fear seems legitimate if you think of how a good amount of companies like hiring "Millennials" and it creates the fear that if you grow older it will be hard to keep the job or keep up with the job or get the job with all these speedy changes. Also if everyone starts coding... would we indeed have the job openings increment predicted for the fields of computer science in the future or there will be so many programmers that again it will be hard to get a job. It is already hard to get a job but how easier or harder will it get then?

I believe quality of work and constantly educating oneself is very important in keeping up with this field. Things change everyday. No matter where someone's work leads them to.. someone will always have to code or maintain the code of those web builders and for that reason there will always be the human element. Humans invented computers, so for a computer to be smarter than humans and self sufficient is impossible. If that happens then it might as well be the end of humanity.

Take the path you feel you should take, the one that makes you happy. No one can guarantee the future with absolute assurance, but if you keep learning your skills will keep up with the changes.

Luke Buśk
Luke Buśk
21,594 Points

Hand crafted websites will be always better than automated one, ALWAYS. You charge more for Your work because it is tailored to the needs of a client. The client wants customization and flexibility.

There are tons of cheap shoes made by machine's on the market, but the hand-crafted leather shoes are always more expensive because they are better made and tailored to the needs of a client.

And i disagree its "already hard to get a job". There are plenty of offers everywhere.

There are plenty of job offers but that doesn't mean it is easy to get hired. The hard to get a job statement of mine is not in relation to how many job openings we currently have.

Steven Williams
Steven Williams
7,333 Points

FIRST: I apologize if this doesn't make sense. I'm not a writer.

I agree with Gloria in that the world continues to evolve. That being said, it is cyclical. We began with mainframes, then opted for personal computers, and now are back with mainframes (clouds). In 1998 I took my first website design class (High School). We were introduced to Frontpage, which made website design as complicated as creating a Word Document. I migrated to Dreamweaver, then using a CMS.

Sites like SquareSpace make it easier to create a feature-rich website for a business. That being said, SquareSpace will probably not easily migrate to the next solution (which in my opinion will be to create a cross-platform, secure environment). I can imagine a program like Dreamweaver/Frontpage that simply generates both the frontend and backend websites and publishes native apps to the App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, and possibly even Blackberry World. Right now that program would be worth billions, but then the system will evolve as competitors create similar programs.

So the more accurate "death" for web design will just involve burying the current methods. Web developers will need to evolve with the technologies. I promise you that nobody could build Facebook or even TeamTreehouse using the basic HTML (No CSS, no PHP, no databases, etc) that I learned in high school. Would you want to be the "webmaster" who got emailed every question to a forum and had to paste and format that into a static html page?

christopher walsh
christopher walsh
10,763 Points

you said "if I am being honest I do not have an answer for them".

well, you should! ask them about their conversion rates. how much money and business does their website make them? amateurs slap widgets and css together and call it a "website". Your job is to have the web work for them, bring in business and conversion rates. you are trained in how websites influance someones behavior to buy their product, reshare their content on social media, etc.

remember, anyone can slap widgets and templates together. A professional web designer creates solutions to their business problems and brings higher conversion rates. an unprofessional only knows how they want their site to look. a professional focuses on what the website will DO!

Stephen O'Connor
Stephen O'Connor
22,291 Points

Christopher Walsh, I know what my job is, I've been doing it for 6 years. What I am wary about is that my job might be redundant in 5-10 years time because 'build it yourself' sites are becoming very, very good, granted maybe not 100% customisable, but do SMEs really need that? Will they spend £3000 with me to build them something 100% custom or will they spend £100 with a 'build it yourself' company to have something that is very good?

You can already drag and drop a lot of fully standard compliant code to make components of a 'build it yourself' site, and these look and work very well, I just think that in 5-10 years time this might have evolved so much that there will be no need for a front-end designer/developer.

I really (really) hope this is not the case as I love my job, and hate how popular templates and 'build it yourself' sites are becoming, but I think it would be naive not to at least consider the options.

christopher walsh
christopher walsh
10,763 Points

well since you seem so sure it will die out, go broaden your skills, geesh!

Josue Rodriguez
Josue Rodriguez
8,934 Points

Yeah I recently started gaining the optimism, confidence, etc. etc. to learn more about web design and development and then I start coming across statements like "web design" is dying... It makes me feel like that meme: Click here to view it

Anyways I just heard this episode yesterday from thewebahead.net: http://thewebahead.net/93 They touch on this topic along with many other related things. Take a listen and let me know what you think Stephen O'Connor . I came away feeling a little better after listening to it.

**Edit - Previous to the podcast I had come across these two articles as well:

http://www.zeldman.com/2014/01/06/its-2014-is-web-design-dead/

http://stuffandnonsense.co.uk/blog/about/its-2014.-web-design-isnt-dead

Emmanuel Koranteng
Emmanuel Koranteng
19,634 Points

I would rather approach this question from a general point of view.

It is a true that these sites and apps make the web design profession look and feel easier by the day, even to the extent it may no longer seem like a required skillset. However, this is uncommon in all other professions.

There has been seamless introduction softwares and applications, gradually replacing many professions in our world today. Cloud accounting has now completely taken over the role of an accountant today, yet we find so many accounting openings. Think of the many beautiful architectural designs available online for only $50 or even FREE, but we still need architects. Even the prestigious medical professions now have softwares and apps usable by the lay person that is capable of making diagnostics, providing medication recommendations and treatment procedures. Considering all these, we still have a handful of high school graduates who can't wait to go to colleges to read medicine, pharmacy, accounting, and architecture.

Unfortunately, this is the case everywhere. What makes your web design profession useful is the skills you acquire: the programming languages you know and can use, your understanding of the web, etc. These cannot be seen as invaluable, as clients mostly opt for custom designs at the end (as businesses grow bigger and more versatile).

As a programmer, I tend to believe anything is nearly possible with the power of artificial intelligence. It will be no surprise to see these sites evolve in the near future and even be capable of handling back-end developments very easily. Sites like The Grid are already making progress with some of this new technologies.

However it may seem now or in the near future, the human brain always WINS! If it is web design you have chosen, or perhaps front-end/back-end development, be BEST AT IT!

debbieb
debbieb
7,635 Points

At the end of the day you can give anyone tools to do a particular job, however it doesnt mean have the skills and experience of using the tools effectively.

I know people who have used sites like wix, they have great methods.. however the way they build up their websites is by copying the way other websites are laid out which are years out of date - most of which are poorly designed and give poor user experience.

I wouldn't fear about loosing your job, at the end of the day anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer... however it takes more than pushing a button to getting great pictures.