Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Web Design Now Too Easy?

The practice of designing a website has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Since web design is all about technology, it is no surprise that technology is driving the change. Here are some of the factors to consider:

1. Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS)

I'm primarily talking about Wordpress here, and to a lesser extent Joomla. The learning curve for Wordpress is so shallow that someone with no background or training in web design can put up a professional-looking website in an afternoon. Here's how:
  1. Open a cheap web hosting account on a site like Hostmonster. You get a free domain name too.
  2. Go into the script library and do a one click install of Wordpress.
  3. From inside the Wordpress dashboard, install the template of your choice, or purchase a professional template for under $100.
  4. Start creating pages or blog posts, uploading images, and typing in content.
2. Website Creation Platforms 

Website Creation Platforms such as Wix or Squarespace require even less knowledge than Wordpress!

3. The Information Super Highway

Also called the Internet, Internets, Interwebs, The Al Gore-Net. Information about Web Design and SEO is so easily available, that is may appear you have everything you need to know to launch a successful business website at your fingertips. Who needs school?

Sounds great, right?

Here are the hidden problems:

1. Ease of Use is Hard

Websites are not only a visual medium, but an interactive one. Websites that look really pretty, may  catastrophically fail in usability and reaching their business goals. Websites that are great in the business sense, may not be the slickest looking things on the block. 

Believe it or not, people go to college to learn this stuff.  Business owners, who generally do not have an education in Web Design, will fixate on visual appearance within the narrow scope of their personal taste when engaged in a Web Design project. If they are lucky enough to have an educated and experience designer working for them, the may come out alright. If they choose a teenager who builds Wordpress sites after school, they are in trouble. The site will probably fail, and they will never understand why.

2. Web Designers Need to Pay Their Dues

If you can pop up a website in an afternoon with no coding or art and design skills, there is little incentive to buckle down and learn what goes on behind the scenes and why. Easy to use Web software has made the barrier to entry so low, that anyone with basic computer skill can put up a website, get some cards printed at vistaprint, and set up shop as a Web Designer. If they have the gift of gab, people will likely hire them, until the project fails to the extent that they can't talk their way out of. 

3. The Information Super Highway isn't Always so Super

There are so many websites and blogs posting information of varying quality and accuracy, if you don't have a basic formal education in the field you are researching, there is no way to filter the good information from the bad. You can spend months building up the illusion that you have gained a firm grasp on a subject, only to find out that you have been dwelling in the realm of BS, and everything you thought you knew is wrong.


Because of the low barrier to entry in the Web Design field, it is imperative that you do your research before hiring a person or agency to design your website.

1. Know what you need. 

This is of utmost importance. If you don't know what you need in a website, you won't know what to look for in a web designer. Read these tips of preparing for your web design project.

2. Actually check references

Was the person or agency fair and easy to work with? Were there a lot of hidden costs? How did the project turn out? Were business goals met? This information is much more important than a pretty looking portfolio.

3. Check reviews.

Everyone should know that good, five star reviews posted online are just as easily fake as they are genuine. By the same token, bad reviews, may just be written by a crank, someone with unrealistic or unreasonable expectations, or someone trying to blackmail the business. Even so, if a business has a lot of bad reviews, it can be a sign to stay away.