Warning: This article may bring up emotions that you didn't know you had. I'm not writing this article to enrage you or insult your profession. I'm writing this article because it is definitely an issue that should be addressed by anyone that makes money from web design services. It is a question that people in the world ask and it is in your best interests to have a good answer for them.
This isn't a rhetorical question or one that I am using to start drama. I thought of it because yesterday I came across 99designs and their new logo store. For just $99 you can get a logo and although most of them are cheesy and generic, there are some gems in there that could be used successfully. If you want an exclusive logo you pay just a little bit more.
Add that to the fact you can buy a design or theme for a web site for less than $400 and you are good to go. We know that award winning design doesn't make or break a website because a website is so much more than that. As long as the content is there and the site does exactly what the user is looking for, the aesthetics of the site could be the 87th most important thing to focus on. So this is why I ask the question are web designers really needed anymore?
How many popular websites out there can you think of that truly display award-winning design? I know the ones I visit frequently don't. They barely have good enough design, but they are successful and make a ton of money.
When a potential client comes up to you and says that they know a designer that can design a site for them for $500 when you are asking for $5,000, do you laugh and turn them away or do you realize that there is a chance your services won't justify the extra $4,500. I hate to see designers get undercut by others because it cheapens the value of our work, but really what is the value of our work?
Zappos.com is a very successful company with a very successful website and they are only now starting to focus on the aesthetics it. Before they implemented their new header and the world's largest footer, their site aesthetics were mediocre at best. They offer a great story and customer service however so what is great design to them?
Do you think it bothers the Gowalla people that they put so much care and effort into the design of everything that they do and Foursquare is still right there with them with a significantly worse design? Do you think it bothers both companies that MyTown has a ton more users than both of them and their website could've been built over the weekend?
It's one thing to say that your company puts a heavy focus on design because you care and another to watch a company care less about the overall design of their product and make a ton of money. How long were Apple employees frustrated to see less innovative technology companies dominant market share, while they were producing some of the best stuff around? They still don't dominant market share in a lot of categories, but they do dominant in terms of revenue and that has helped to justify their belief in total design.
Here is an extreme example. I don't know anything about this site or if people really use it, but is it too far fetched to imagine that customers of this store visit this site to find out the beer of the week? I can see it happening because although the page is horrible in many ways it still works and does the job.
Believe me when I say that I want to live in a world where everything I encounter is designed so well that it works smoothly and is a joy to behold. Unfortunately, I don't live in that world and neither do you and part of the reason is because many people aren't convinced of the value of design and after some thinking I'm honestly starting to have my own doubts as well. I know that great design has the potential to trump horrible design, but we know that isn't always the case so why would a business bother paying for it when they can save money and get something for less that will be just as successful?
Again, nobody believes in the importance of design more than I do, but understand that just because you and I may understand its importance, it doesn't mean others do. Especially when they can point out success everywhere around them that goes against what we believe in. If you really can't answer yourself why they need you to design then you might be in trouble. Do they really need you to design for them? Many times they don't, figure out the one time that they do.
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