Web Design hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur, but User Experience (UX Design) is becoming a crucial adaptation for professionals looking to stay relevant in today’s world of DIY website options.
The online world is always changing. Not too long ago, all websites were static, hard-coded monstrosities. A business either needed a special professional on their staff, or a partner business with great deal of technical knowledge and training to build one and maintain it.
Eventually, tech businesses figured out that if you could offer a proprietary content management system that provided limited ability for site owners to update their own content, it would add steady, lucrative revenue stream that could be far greater in the long run than charging for maintenance work. The problem for the customer was that you they then became tethered to that provider’s software and hosting environment, at the mercy of enormous royalty fees. Not only that, they certainly weren’t very user-friendly.
Eventually, free open-source software platforms like WordPress, Drupal and others came into their own and changed the game. Website maintenance much more affordable and achievable. While the technical aspects of building the site were still beyond the grasp of most, the average person no longer needed to have their local web design shop on speed dial any time they wanted a minor change to their site’s content.
Today companies like Wix and Web.com have created similar web building software and and repackaged it as “free”. They advertise that people with little or no technical skill can take control of the entire process. Business owners can create their websites themselves, skipping the expensive step of paying a professional designer/developer to do it for them. Amazing!
While most larger companies still recognize the need to have professionals create and manage their online brand, the “free” DIY approach can certainly appeal to small businesses and startups.
Of course the reality is that nothing that’s worth anything is ever free, and these companies introduce ongoing fees for features and services that most businesses would want.
Horse Buggies and Whale Oil
So are these DIY website products impacting web professionals’ business? I think most design shops would admit they have. No matter what type of service you offer, when you tell a potential customer that you charge thousands of dollars, and suddenly a TV commercial tells them they can easily do it themselves for nothing, it can have a tremendously negative impact on the perceived value of the services you sell.
Over a long enough timeline, almost any job or industry will be rendered obsolete by advancing technology, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that web development shops around the world shutting down for good.
Some that cling to old business models just might be.
Reports of Our Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
But you may be surprised to find out that for many, business hasn’t dried up on account of these new products. In fact, business is booming, and it’s mostly because many business owners are coming back to us after less than successful forays into the DIY world.
Just like Pintrest Fails, the real-life results from people using these DIY website platforms prove that it’s not nearly as easy as they make it look. People who have they learned the hard way that not only are Wix or Web.com’s products NOT really free, they aren’t the magic website building tool they are advertised to be.
Maybe a better way to put it, these clients have come to major realization; there’s a lot more to creating a successful website than just picking colors on palette or dragging photos and text boxes around the screen. Turns out that being given free software doesn’t suddenly transform you into a successful online marketer any more than a free set of woodworking tools will suddenly make you a master carpenter.
While Web.com and Wix have diminished the intrinsic value of the technical aspects of building a website, smart and successful designers have adapted to add important value in other phases of the online process. We’re not just Photoshoppers and coders anymore, we’ve become behavior analysts and researchers.
These qualities have far more impact on a business’s bottom line than whatever software is used to make a website. We understand how to create an online presence built in a way that its target users will find effective and valuable, based on their specific needs.
Adapting the Approach
Wait, what’s the difference? Well, the Internet is full of millions and millions of zombie websites – sites that don’t provide their visitors with what they need, nor their owners with any return on investment. They exist, but don’t provide any value.
While many business owners are smart people and experts in their profession, they can still go wrong with their online presence when doing things themselves. How many times have you gone to a company’s website and become frustrated because you couldn’t find some sort of basic but important information that should be easy and obvious to find? Or experienced frustration when clicking on an interactive element doesn’t yield the expected result? Probably many.
Of course it all has to be balanced with the business goals. You may have heard the term used to describe this process: User Experience (UX) Design. A good UX Designer is an expert at finding solutions that address both the needs of specific visitors in the easiest way possible, yet also achieves the goals of the business.
A successful website starts long before any software is opened. A good User Experience Designer will spend time early in the process talking with their clients and strategically defining success, both in terms of what the visitor needs, and what the business needs.
The key is always to ensure the website accomplishes three things for the target visitor: It needs to be useful, relevant, and valuable. It’s the User Experience Designer’s job to understand HOW and WHEN to provide crucial information to visitors to ensure an optimal experience while cutting through the irrelevant fluff that most websites fall victim to.
When successful, your visitors will not only have a much more satisfying experience when interacting with your brand, but also be much more likely to convert from visitor to customer.
In the end, your website is likely going to be the most important marketing tool your business has. It’s the last place you should try to skimp on costs. A DIY approach may seem cost-efficient and easy, but in the long run, it’s far more beneficial to your business to hire a professional. A professional who specializes in User Experience Design will ensure that your site meets the needs of both your business and your visitors, and in turn help your business thrive.