Nowadays, if you ask anyone about building a website, they'll most likely say "oh, you should use (Wix, Squarespace, etc.), I saw an ad for them on TV!"
Yes, when it comes to getting a website designed, the freelance designers and small agencies of the world are suddenly losing ground on one of their bread-and-butter assignments.
Granted, web design isn't just a "plug-and-play" field as there's a lot of requirements curtailed to a client's needs. Whether they want something really minimalist or outlandishly beautiful, the nuts and bolts of their dream site usually aren't served by these web builders. So, why do people still use them?
Of course, those that are looking for something like a redesign know why hiring a web developer is important; but the ones just starting out, going the cheaper route always seems like a good temporary fix. I don't blame them, but establishing a foundation for your web presence goes way beyond your page.
And believe it or not, this puts design agencies in a great place to cash in.
The Unexpected Disruptor
When website builders first started to gain popularity, people in the web design world had somewhat mixed feelings. Some folks felt like the builders could never match the capabilities of agencies, thus making our shops the eventual go-to. Others felt like these things might push them out of a job.
What really was the driving catalyst for this debate came down to functionality. Could these things one day do everything an agency does? Do customers understand that 'you get what you pay for'? I (as well as numerous other designers) can say that we've had at least one client say "Well, if a Squarespace is $10 a month, why would I pay you so much?"
I always shook my head at this notion, thinking they just didn't understand what we did, or if it was even worth the hassle to explain. But eventually, I'd give in, which made pitching my services much better. In short, I knew if I wanted to survive, I had to step my game up.
Survival of the Fittest
At a certain point, I started to embrace the 'website building' clients. Of course, there was a little bit of a communication barrier regarding what exactly they wanted, but this was a quick way to build up an extensive range of 'business card' clientele. Even though I now had competitors that knew little to no code, I wasn't too worried, as the market would sort itself out.
The thing I knew over the other folks that were just entering the market is that clients always ask for more. Yes, they'll usually be happy with the one-pager you built out, but sooner or later the phone calls are going to start coming in:
"Hey, could you do X to our blog or change this page to be more branded? Is there any way you could set up a photo gallery for us? How about an e-mail signup?"
Almost every single person who's worked in this industry has dealt with this, which is what makes us worthwhile. With how much people see online and then ask for it on their site, there's no way a Squarespace or Wix could keep up with demand. Plus, web design is an art, and that's just something you can't replace.
Beyond just having something look beautiful, there's a lot of elements to a website some clients overlook. Things like how your UX works, what's the end goal of the design, and even going after an actual brand aesthetic instead of the same cookie-cutter look. Also, a lot of the interactive functions clients look for require a lot of coding, which is another avenue to making it work.
Website builders have no doubt left an indelible impression on the web design world, and quite frankly, their impact is here to stay. However, this is a gift and a curse to the industry, as it's made a lot of shops either step their game up or change direction. If anything, this is one of the most exciting times to be a web designer as competition will only get more fierce, producing sites that are innovative in both design and functionality.
Yes, it's the survival of the fittest world, but for some us, that means the spark of a new era.