Is the Web Design Industry Dead?

Do Customers Really Need Web Designers Any More?

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Every few years you will see a number of articles pop up that ask the question - "Is the Web Design Industry Dead?"

Case in point, I previously had written an articles and asked the question What Are Some Great Ways to Find New Web Design Clients? and one person responded that the web industry was dead because someone could just buy a template website for cheap money.These types of sites and solutions have always existed. There are even platforms today that people can use to build free websites. 

What do you think? Is web design a dead industry? Is it pointless to get started as a designer because all your clients can simply grab a free or paid template from one of the many sites out there? This article will look at the web design industry and what’s ahead for designers.

Web Design Isn’t Dead

It’s very true that people that used to hire me or someone like me to build their website design for them and can now turn to a low or no-cost solution instead. In the short run, this is a cost effective solution for many companies. If they can get a template that works for their site for $60, that would be a lot less money than even a simple site  that a professional web designer would create for them.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on being a web designer. On the contrary, template sites have helped me increase and improve my business. There are many things I can do, even with a client who wants to use a template for their site:

  • Design and sell templates—This is an obvious solution to losing clients to template companies. If I design and sell nice looking and popular templates, I’ll make money and not have to worry as much about client demands. I can build templates that I like.
  • Modify templates—Another place where I get a lot of work is from modifying templates to better fit clients. In most cases, templates are nice, but they don’t solve every problem a site might need. When I start with a pre-built template, I might not have as much design license, but I can focus on problem solving.
  • Convert templates to CMS—While there are many templates out there for various content management tools, there are also a lot of templates that are not built for specific CMS or blogging systems. When a client finds an HTML template they want to use in WordPress or a Drupal template they want to use in Joomla! I can help them convert the templates to their system.
  • Add other features—Most design templates are just that—design. I can get jobs adding ecommerce, social media, videos, and other features that aren’t usually included in templates.
  • Redesign templates—You would be amazed at how many people fall in love with a template and say “I just love this template, all it needs is…” And of course what they usually are asking for is a total overhaul of the template, not just changing a color from blue to red.
  • Put up the template—Many of the jobs I’ve done lately have involved using the template that the client had bought and paid for to put their existing site into. Yes, this isn’t exactly design work, but it pays the bills.
  • Maintain websites—Once the site is live, many clients need someone on call to fix problems, add new content, or just keep the site up-to-date. Maintenance is another less “designy” chore, but it too pays the bills.
  • Train people to build and use websites—I find it very important to make sure that my clients know as much as they need and want to know about how to manage and update their site. I’ve found that by teaching people how to manage their site, they understand better what they do and don’t want to do, so I can get more work from them later.
  • Do redesigns after the template ages out—The last type of work that I’ve done a lot of is redesigning a site that used a template in the past. Many business owners use the template because they think it will be cheaper, but then have to spend a lot of time and money paying for tweaks and customizations. So when the time comes for a redesign, they decide to hire someone to get it done right the first time.

Remember, Freelancing is Hard

Working as a freelancer of any sort is difficult, because you have to compete with all sorts of people and tools and techniques. Freelance writers compete with people all around the world looking for writing jobs. Freelance artists compete with other artists. And freelance web designers have competition from designers and templates.

Don’t assume that because templates are popular that you’ll never get a job as a web designer. Just be aware that you need to figure out how to either out-compete the templates, or use them in your business.

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 2/3/17