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Web designers

When I landed in SF back in 2016 I was getting exposed to a whole new set of job titles. Not only did they seem quite hyperbolic but I noticed that there were very few "web designers". This appeared odd since all companies have websites. So who makes and maintains these (increasingly fancy) things?

Most large companies have either outsourced to agencies/studios or embedded web in their brand or marketing orgs. An often awkward in-between leading to inconsistencies and rapid tech debt (to name the two biggest issues).

On the side, there's a growing and very competitive array of tool experts incentivized by certification and embedded marketplaces like Webflow, Wix, Shopify… these guys fill the gaps, rarely providing long-term solutions, feeding the whole "design as a subscription" model.

I believe Web designers became in short supply because of the product design shift (2014–). The definition of "product" varies depending on companies as some consider their website as an extension of their product experience.

The ubiquitousness of websites has driven a lower value perception while apps have been enjoying the opposite trend. Granted, that might have stabilized by now as we all have hundreds of apps installed on phones; but still, there are and will always be a lot more websites.

This situation led to few designers nowadays truly understanding CSS, sitemap, CMS, hosting, LAYOUT, web dev languages, semantic markup... that's a shame considering how the web is going. Specialization and the economy of scale have done their usual thing.

Lower costs, lowering the barrier of entry. More people. More business. More content (so much more). As always the true cost, health, is eclipsed.

The web like any other place needs careful builders. People who code their own CSS and know why it's important to keep it simple and clean (and what clean and simple actually looks like). Based on my experience, the indie web people are the closest to the web designers of the 2010s.

Maybe I missed something? Perhaps my linkedin/dribbble based assessment is flawed? If so feel free to holler at me.

← Index / Published on 2024-02-04