Is The Web Designer Becoming An Endangered Species?

07/08/2015 8:09 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Web designer's fingers are seen as they discuss a web page of India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial nominee Lal Krishna Advani at BJP's Information Technology Cell, in New Delhi, India, Thursday, April 9, 2009. India will hold general elections in five phases beginning April 16. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Every generation's progress comes at the cost of the existing status quo. When motor cars became the norm, horse-drawn buggies had to call it a day. When computers became commonplace, typewriters died a natural death. Someday when renewable energy becomes viable, fossil fuels will be a thing of the past. As we speak, there is a silent transition that is in progress, noted by few but affecting millions.

The slow demise of the web designer

The internet has, in the last 20 years, been shaped by the mouse clicks of web designers. From flashy banners to material design, we have come a long way in terms of how we see, perceive and interact with the internet. Need a new logo for your business? Head to a free logo designer app like InstaLogo. Launching a new e-commerce site? Build one yourself for free with a DIY website builder like Spaces. Want custom-designed stationary and merchandise for your business? A web to print tool like Design'N'Buy is your pick.

"By honing their talents and using them in more contemporary applications, web designers can elevate their importance and renew demand for their skills."

So, where does that leave web designers? Should they be looking for alternative jobs soon? Are web designers really going extinct, like typists and horse buggy drivers?

Yes and no.

Yes, web designers are soon going to be unnecessary for many of the tasks that they currently perform. If automated tools have developed which can perform the same tasks as web designers at a much lower cost and in significantly less time, it's a sign that those roles don't need specialist attention anymore.

On the other hand, the sensibilities that made web designers click are in more demand than ever today. By honing their talents and using them in more contemporary applications, web designers can elevate their importance and renew demand for their skills.

Apply psychology to design

The way your users think determines the way they will behave on a website or app. Understanding the psychology of your target audience is an essential foundation using which you can build designs that appeal to them and help businesses convert them into paying customers.

People in most parts of the world barring those in Arabic influenced cultures, tend to read from left to right. An F-Shaped or Z-Shaped web layout helps users find key conversion elements quicker and reduces friction on the site. Instead of blindly following aesthetics or convention, use these proven patterns of eye-movements to place the most important page elements in the most visible locations.

Similarly, colour plays a huge role in how users perceive and interact with a website. An organic products website will typically exude green and earthy tones to resonate with its planet-friendly values. Restaurant websites often favour red, as this colour is said to stimulate your appetite.

Ever wonder why most hyperlinks you see are blue in colour? It's because we have become conditioned to expect hyperlinks to be blue. Google conducted an experiment to check what happens when the colour of hyperlinks is varied across the blue to green spectrum. They found that users tended to click significantly more often on the bluer links than the greener ones. They simply did not perceive the green links to be "real links" at all!

As a human being who is privy to these psychological quirks, a web designer has the edge over cookie-cutter websites built by a free website-building tool.

Focus on designing user experience, not web layouts

Understanding how users behave does not only help in the aesthetic aspects of design. Knowing the way people move around websites, understanding why a navigation bar needs to be at the top of the screen and so on, helps you as a designer to help users achieve their goals easier and quicker. People have an inherent inertia that prevents them from fixing things until they are broken. So when a user has a smooth and enjoyable experience with a particular brand's website/app/store, they return for more of the same goodness over and over again.

User experience refers to each touchpoint a user faces while interacting with a business whether online or offline. Store layout and design, whether a store has revolving doors or automatic sliding doors, the colour of the shop floor staff's uniforms are as much a part of user experience as the transitions from one page to the next on a website or the shape of an icon on an app.

" As a human being who is privy to psychological quirks, a web designer has the edge over cookie-cutter websites built by a free website-building tool."

Keeping up with the movement for gender equality and inclusiveness, Facebook recently changed its 'Friends' icon. The original icon had a male icon in the foreground with a female one in the background.

The new icon doffs its hat to its users' growing beliefs in gender equality and brings both male and female icons shoulder to shoulder with each other. No software can gauge these changes in the mood of their target audience and make changes accordingly. You need a flesh and blood designer for such insights and interpretations.

Develop skills for A/B testing and usability testing

Bemoaning technology and its role in taking away web design jobs is so 20th century. A smart web designer knows that there are skills they bring to the table that no software can replicate. Embrace technology and use it as an added strength to offer clients some mind-blowing results. Web design as a rule is driven more by conversions and business bottom lines than pure creativity.

Processes like A/B testing and usability testing allow you to experimentally discover how various versions of a website or app perform in real-time before deciding on the final version. However, to know what to A/B test, you need to have a combination of design skills and business acumen. Spend time learning to use A/B testing tools like GetResponse. With these you offer business owners concrete reasons why your expertise is way more valuable than any free design tool.

In the end, the relevance of every entity and idea depends on its ability to evolve with time. Don't take my word for it, ask Darwin.

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