Ever since the dawn of the internet, we’ve had DIY website builders. The web design industry needs to learn to stop feeling threatened from their emergence, and embrace their place within an expanding market.
When I was 12 years old and the millennium bug turned out to be nothing to fear, I had my first taste of web design. It wasn’t coding, it was GeoCities. GeoCities was a Yahoo platform that you might remember from the golden dawn on the internet. It essentially allowed anyone to create a simple, free website, by using a page builder to place graphics, text and photos onto a canvas.
When I returned to web design as a teenager, I went back to tinkering with pre-made templates. My music site, which invigorated my passion for web design and development, started off as a free WordPress theme. As my expertise and abilities grew, so templates and page builders became too restrictive. I started tinkering with the code directly, and eventually I taught myself everything I needed to know to make my own custom themes and pages.
When I tell this story, some other developers sneer at me and explain pompously how their first taste of web design was hand writing HTML in notepad. Great for them – but how we kick off our careers doesn’t define our capabilities. Some of the most talented designers and devs I know also started off their passion for web design in a page builder.
For many small businesses and individuals free templates and page builders serve the amazing purpose of enabling them to get their business online economically and quickly.
But it’s not just as a kick start in a career that these tools serve a purpose. For many small businesses and individuals free templates and page builders serve the amazing purpose of enabling them to get their business online economically and quickly.
At WATB, we’re undoubtedly proud of our offering. We build bespoke, hand-coded and hand-designed websites, because that’s our area in the market and it’s what our clients are looking for, as well as what suits their business and budget.
But we also understand that not every client or small business can afford £££ on a website. If you’re just kicking off your gardening or decorating business, you may only have a limited budget. These tools allow you to create a fairly professional looking online presence.
This kind of talk of sensationalist, hyperbolic nonsense is unhelpful and damages the reputation of all of us. It makes us look like whiny so-en-so’s who can’t accept that we aren’t the be all and end all. Home DIY didn’t kill the decorator or builder and Ground Force didn’t kill the landscape gardener. And so Wix, Squarespace and Theme Forest also won’t kill the web designer.
There will always be a place in the market for developers and designers who can lend their expertise to a client. Imagine you are a large corporation, a page builder isn’t likely to give you the level of control and bespoke design you require. The same can be said of many other businesses.
But even if they could, as businesses grow those running them have to relinquish control over various aspects of that business to staff and other service providers. It’s not economical or a good use of a CEO’s time for them to sit there fiddling about with their website in Wix when they have make or break meetings to attend to.
Many of our clients specifically approach us not wanting to use page builders or free templates because the functionality and design they’re looking for can only be done bespoke. Even if a page builder or template came close, they want something that they know someone has sat there and created out of their head. It is exactly the same reason why some people choose to spend a few thousand on a tailored suit instead of a £500 suit from Marks and Spencer. The M&S suit will be fine, but the tailored suit will fit just that bit better.
It’s not economical or a good use of a CEO’s time for them to sit there fiddling about with their website in Wix
Let’s learn to accept the role in the market that page builders and free templates have. They let small businesses, individuals and those with a smaller budget get themselves online quickly. It allows them to visualise their ideas and have hands-on control. There will always be a place for hand-coded, bespoke websites created by professional designers and developers.
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