The web design industry is at a crossroads. In fact, given that the web industry is now just over 20 years old, you could say it is finally entering adulthood.
If you’re a small business owner with a website, it’s essential that you understand what is happening. Otherwise, you risk sinking money into a website that is not going to help grow your business. In fact, it might hinder your business and you might as well burn the money.
The reason for this 3-part series is that I have been watching closely what is happening in the web industry – trying to make sense of it. Trying to figure out where it’s all going.
How things have changed in the web industry in 10 years
When I started in web design in 2004, it was mainly focused on two things – creating nice graphic design and then coding the design into a website. It was highly skilled work, a lot of coding had to be done from scratch and you could charge a high price for it. Most ordinary business owners were clueless about the web, it was a world of geeks. Just having a website was enough back then. It didn’t really matter too much what content you put on it.
I came into the web design industry from a journalism background, so I noticed pretty quickly that the quality of written content on most websites was poor. Generally, by the time the business owner had paid thousands of dollars for the actual website, there was no money left to pay someone to write the content as well, so they cobbled something together themselves and put it online.
The rise of the Third World in web development
One of the biggest changes that has occurred in the last 10 years is the huge number of web developers pouring out of universities in India, south-east Asia, Eastern Europe and other low-wage economies. These increasingly skilled and talented professionals are competing for work in what has become a highly saturated marketplace. They are pushing down the value of web design and development.
Furthermore you can buy WordPress themes now that are better than the high end designs of 5 – 10 years ago. These themes incorporate all the user-friendly practices and conversion optimisation that companies in the past paid large sums of money for a specialist web agency to carry out. Now, it’s all built in by default, in a theme that can be installed and customised in a few hours. Even mobile responsiveness is now built into most wordpress themes by default.
SEO, pay-per-click, social media, email marketing, conversion optimisation… where does it all end?
You’ve probably heard all the above terms and quite likely had a web agency try to sell you various of these services. It’s confusing, in fact, mind-blowing for most business owners because of all the jargon and geek-speak surrounding these web marketing disciplines.
Many businesses today have not only a web design agency but also an SEO agency, a Google AdWords expert, someone else helping them with social media and so on. There’s an old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This is what can happen when you have several different experts all helping with web marketing. No one will take full responsibility, they can each blame the other one. It’s all too common.
At the end of the day the business owner is left to pick up the cheque.
The truth is, there are so many changes occurring in the web industry that no one person can really keep up. And yet there is always someone ready to sell business owners the next big thing.
Who can you trust to tell you the truth?
What I am trying to achieve in this 3-part series to get to the real truth about web design, what is important and where it is headed over the next few years. This initial post is a somewhat rambling overview. In the next posts I will get into more specifics.