People love making predictions for the future. Arthur Ellsworth Summerfield, the Postmaster General in 1959, once hilariously predicted, “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” Steve Ballmer, the then CEO of Microsoft claimed in 2007 that, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” As for me, I like to be critical and there’s nothing easier to critique then a nice juicy prediction and I’d like to thank UX Magazine for publishing an article called, “Why Web Design is Dead,” for me to respond to.
I’ll start by saying that the article makes some good points and I don’t have enough space here to respond to every one of them so I’ll focus on what I think the author misses in his argument. Web Design for business is largely about branding and brand presence. A huge component to effective branding is the goal of establishing a unique and memorable impression on potential buyers. The author argues that social media pages like a Google or Facebook page as well as DIY website builders like WordPress have made professional web design obsolete. In a way, he’s right. You can get a web presence without ever registering your own domain name and hiring a web designer to create a website for you, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s an analogy that might help. At some point in the 80’s camcorders became affordable enough that many households had one but nobody looked at this new availability to create your own video as a replacement to getting a professional advertising company to shoot your business promo or TV ads. Bringing the analogy into today’s market – just because your cell phone can take video, doesn’t mean you should record your sales pitch and submit it to the local TV station for promotional air time. That kind of thing will hurt your brand more than it will help. Here’s a pretty good example:
Most of the DIY websites that I’ve seen leave me with a similar impression.
Consider another characteristic of what DIY templates leads to; a homogenous and uniform landscape of websites or business pages that look and feel exactly the same. Does that sound like effective branding to you? The influence of pre-built templates is already easily felt while surfing the web. There’s very little variety in the types of layouts and the preference for stark, minimalist design is overwhelming (or should I say underwhelming). What this means for anyone who wants to stand out is that if you invest a modest amount on your website (and save yourself a lot of labour cost trying to figure out how to do it yourself), then you will easily set yourself apart from your competition. Think about that opportunity: high exposure and little competition. If all businesses did their own accounting, imagine the advantage you would have by hiring a pro who can point out all the ways you can save and invest your money.
Try to visualise a user doing a search for a product or service that they need. In the list of search results they see several Google business pages and a couple poorly planned and clearly amateurish WordPress websites. But, in one case there’s a website with a very clickable title, smart description, easy to use interface, accessible content, and an impressive and unique design that leaves the user with a positive impression. Of the search results they have to choose from, who do you think they’re likely going to call first?
There was another time when web design wasn’t alive. It was during the early stages of the web. It hadn’t been born yet. In that absence, many businesses saw an opportunity to establish themselves in a way that their competition was neglecting. As the trend to opt out of investing in a proper web presence continues and the more people soak up claims that web design is dead, the opportunity to be found and leave a strong impression on your potential clients will only grow. Is web design dead? If you think so, I’d like to hear your argument. You can send it to me via rocket mail.