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A Call to Arms

Posted by Zane Harnish under Development


The web industry is always changing, and changing fast. Anyone who has worked in any related field knows that you have to be careful when you blink, or you might end up on the wrong end of a major shift. A large part of our industry is trying to predict what’s next and position ourselves to get there first. At times it can be a daunting task, but personally I find it one of the most interesting pieces of the job. At times, you can find great new ideas to begin implementing into your work. Other times you can find something new that you don’t like. Over time as I’ve taken time to look forward, I have seen a certain threat looming in the background. It seems like it’s always been there, although far away, but I think it’s getting close enough that we examine it a bit more carefully. For some people, maybe it has blended in with the scenery and seemingly become a non-threat, but I see it differently. Some might even laugh at the idea that I would call it a “threat”. But what I am speaking of is (generically) the “website builder”, or even worse the “free website builder”.

Now to clarify what I mean when I say website builder, I am speaking of it as Wikipedia defines it. Tools like these have been around practically forever, and at the moment pose no real threat to web developers and designers who construct their sites by hand. Unfortunately, I don’t see that lasting. As the web (and computers in general) become more and more user friendly, consumers begin to find that they are able to do more than ever before on their own, without the help of a paid professional. There is no reason that this same pattern will not take hold of the web industry. At the moment, the main value that we have as web developers and designers is in the fact that website builders are not yet powerful enough or easy enough to use for everyone and every website. However, these website builders will grow more powerful and easier to use and slowly suck away our clientele.

I do want to clarify that website builders are not bad. For someone who wants to quickly put together a very simple website, they are great tools. Why pay someone to make a website you can put together by yourself in an hour or so? However, once they have advanced to the point where their client pool is the same as ours, we’re in trouble. This is an issue beyond the fact that it means that businesses like Identity Island won’t be able to make money on website development anymore. It is also our job to keep the web fresh and sites unique. Website builders are great in that they use templates, but this is also one of their biggest downfalls. If you make a site on a website builder, you can rest assured that there are countless other sites on the internet look exactly the same as the one you just built (besides a minor color scheme change and some different text). Even more importantly, if website builders take over, we can kiss innovation goodbye. Sure, the web will still move forward, but only at the pace that website builders can. This comes nowhere near the way that we as manual designers and developers are able to implement new ideas, designs, and technology.

So, in case you are wondering, the reason I titled this post “A Call to Arms” is not because I think we should start a war with website builders. Instead, I think it is time that we unite and take a stand to prove our value. This also includes doing everything we can to keep pushing the industry forward. If we can continue to show that we are capable of doing things for our clients that these website builders cannot do, then we are doing our job. It’s our responsibility to find new and innovative ways to make sure our work remains valuable, and cannot be replaced by a simple to use drag-and-drop website builder. So, while I was tempted to give this post a title like “Why Website Builders Don’t Stand a Chance”, I don’t think that would be a very accurate analysis of our situation. They do stand a chance, if we become complacent and fail to innovate. It is time to rise up. I bid you stand, men of the web!

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