I’ve been working on my portfolio website (www.stupidhipsterdoofus.com) for quite a while now and doing so has put a lot of things into perspective. As companies like Adobe and Apple, with their software Dreamweaver and iWeb respectively, increasingly lower the barrier of entry for anyone to become a “web designer” some bloggers have cried that the web designer/developer as a professional position is becoming obsolete. While it is true that publishing content to the internet is becoming very user-friendly, I don’t think my peers should worry, their jobs aren’t going anywhere.
WYSIWYG editors like iWeb are popular for new content publishers, and rightfully so, users can simply drag and drop elements into a layout and hit “export” to publish their creations online for anyone to see. Implementing a seemingly rich user experience can take only minutes when using a pre-built template and simply inserting their own content. There will always be a market for these types of programs as it allows anyone who knows how to use a word processor to create, in their eyes, a decent looking and functional website.
iWeb gives users a reasonable number of templates to choose from, and it comes free with every mac.
iWeb is easy to use but has a limited number of ways to customize the actual pages.
The key phrase being “in their eyes” from that last paragraph. WYSIWYG editors and the know-how to use them does not also mean that the content creator has an eye for design. We learned from websites like geocities, and more recently myspace.com, that if a user is given the ability to create their own layout, eyes will bleed, browsers will crash, and cats will die. Although one step up from WYSIWYG editors, geocities and myspace layouts were the aborted fetuses and ugly, helpless toddlers of parents who didn’t understand design, web semantics, or what their copy/paste codes did. And no matter how many times we kill it, those damn animated gifs keep coming back.
A typical myspace page, note the impossible to read text on a busy background.
I think I’ll leave the design element alone now, a much more pertinent reason that we will stay around is because people don’t understand how the web works. Sure, content management systems like Wordpress and Tumblr let a majority of its users accomplish a majority of the functions that the users want, but there are many cases where even CMSs cannot bridge the gap between features and ease of use. Those cases are where the developers and designers come in. Users freak out when spell check misses a word or their email doesn’t send, how in the world could they accomplish creating a multi-page, custom-layout website with updating blog modules and a contact page? They can’t thats why they need us.