Can web design still be considered a “new” industry? Sure, it hasn’t been around as long as tech giants like software development or graphic design. But it’s no longer an emerging career opportunity, either.
The industry is mature. And the job description has evolved as well. Web designers are expected to know much more than basic HTML and CSS. At the very least, we need to understand the tools that help us build with those languages.
But that is only a starting point. The depth of knowledge available is staggering – as is the variety of technologies we can work with. Even the most dedicated designers would have difficulty absorbing it all.
So, maybe it’s time to rethink what it means to be a web designer.
Code is now an Optional Skill
In recent years web design tools have changed dramatically. A wave of no-code editors makes it possible to build without back-end expertise.
WordPress alone offers a variety of options – including a baked-in Block Editor. This allows us to visually create custom page layouts and add functionality. Meanwhile, Site Editor takes things a step further. It extends those block-based capabilities into the site’s theme templates. And we can’t forget about the likes of Divi, Elementor, and other third-party page builders.
That’s just one example of a wider trend in the industry. Code, and coded knowledge is becoming more optional.
That doesn’t mean we should stop learning these skills. They are still critical for features that go beyond what the no-code tools are capable of. And there is still great income potential in building custom solutions.
But code is no longer a hard requirement to be a web designer. Mastering these powerful tools can now launch a career, rather than studying computer science.
Finding Key Areas to Focus on
The age of working with multiple platforms may be coming to an end. It is still possible to use multiple content management systems (CMS) or server environments. But keeping up with and maintaining these skills is a major concern.
Each platform is unique and complex. So, switching from WordPress to Drupal to Shopify requires in-depth knowledge. While some broad concepts may translate, there are so many details that don’t. Finding the time to learn them is not for the faint of heart.
Web designers don’t have to be in the habit of doing one-off projects using a random CMS. The implications of this approach can be burdensome in the future. If you have one client that uses a different setup than the rest, it may affect those clients that are more relevant to your core business.
That’s why specialization is so important. The idea is to find a platform that allows you to achieve project goals and provide room for growth. Give your time and resources to learning and developing alongside him.
It’s still okay to try other options. But by choosing a core focus, you will be able to build a solid foundation for your career.
Workflow is as Important as Technical Skills
Technology allows us to build websites faster than ever before. That’s a double-edged sword, though. It means we can do more. But it might leave us with more websites to keep up with.
And as what we build becomes more complex, so does maintenance. This can be the result of being overwhelmed when managing clients’ websites. Things like security holes, malware, bug fixes, and daily software updates tend to add up quickly.
Developing sound processes for website maintenance helps to alleviate the chaos. Without a system in place, you leave yourself open to risk. For example, making mistakes when rushing to do things or, even worse, forgetting critical steps.
Therefore, you need an efficient workflow – regardless of your level of technical knowledge. It can help you move from project to project with confidence. And when something goes wrong, you will be able to respond to it effectively.
Getting a website up and running is one thing. Keeping it functional and secure is a completely different skill set. Modern web designers must master both.
Web Design is a Progressive Field
When the web was a new medium, the expectations of what it meant to be a web designer were very different. It was the equivalent of being a virtual sheriff in the wild west, struggling with the code and implementing various technologies.
These days, the definition is more flexible. Coding knowledge is not always necessary, although it is helpful. And specialization has been given way by working with a wide range of platforms.
But this does not reduce the amount of knowledge required to be fluent. The tools we choose to work with are more advanced. There’s still plenty to learn – it’s more narrowly focused.
The processes we use to get things done have also taken on a bigger role. This is especially so for those of us who provide website maintenance. Managing multiple websites can easily get out of hand without an efficient workflow.
In fact, web design has evolved a lot. And we’ve changed right along with it.