Yakov Manshin

Where Web Design Is Headed

Web-page code

The internet as we know it holds millions and millions of websites. Each of them (including this one) started its life when someone designed, developed, and placed it on the web.

The business of commercial web design emerged in 1990s—when having something.com stopped being completely geeky and became kind of mainstream. For those who was eager to excel at building websites themselves, there was plenty of books and online guides. For those who didn’t, there was a price tag.

There’s a Price for That

Designing a website is not a trivial task for most of people, except, maybe, tech companies and geeks. You haven’t done it on a daily basis before—and probably will never have to do it again. So if you need a presence on the web, you will most likely contact a specialist. At least that’s how it’s been since the beginning of the web era.

The web design studio you chose to work with will either offer you a standard price list or calculate the price individually. I do have experience with building websites, and, to be honest, those numbers usually have little to do with real costs—especially when it’s a typical several-page resource with text and media content, which does not require sophisticated development.

In the best-case scenario, only 30% of what you pay will actually cover expenses related to developing, hosting and maintaining the site (even if you want it to have a completely custom interface). Website development is an extremely high-margin business.

But customers aren’t as stupid and ignorant as many studios would want them to be. There is strong demand for a cheaper, more predictable in terms of price, solution.

Welcome to the DIY Era

You’ve probably seen those ads. “Create a Website in Just a Few Clicks!” Or something like that. Starting from just a few dollars per month, those website builders offer a set of themes, help you construct pages with discrete blocks (text, photos, video embeds, etc.), and make them available on the internet.

The pros are obvious. You pay a flat price every month and have the tools to build the website as you wish, even if you lack experience in terms of web development.

The cons are obvious as well. You don’t have full control over what’s on your site (and what’s under the hood). You have a limited number of available themes (if you’re lucky, the builder lets you change colors).

As someone starts creating their first website, it’s important to guide them through every control on the dashboard. But later, as the site grows, the basic set of available tools might become not enough anymore. One of the challenges that developers of such DIY platforms face is how to keep balance between simplicity and power.

What’s Next

Two different approaches. Two different price tags. What is the future of commercial web development?

In my opinion, there will always be a part for rich but not very practical clients who are willing to pay whatever they’re asked for in exchange for a complete product. But the majority of customers would like to be in greater control of what they’re getting, as well as have more predictable pricing. This is why I expect the DIY website builders to thrive.

But there’s one more path. As the internet users become more tech literate overall, the number of those ready to spend a few days learning how to develop custom themes for WordPress or build a simple static site increases.

Bottom Line

If you need a website, you have plenty of ways to get one: from learning the basics of web development yourself and writing code line by line to paying a lot of money to some company who’ll take care of the rest. In between, there’s a great amount of automated website builders that allow you to pick a desired look, mix some text and media elements, and host the site seamlessly. I think it’s these DIY builders which have the biggest chances of success in the future.