Web design isn't dead, but the term is dying

A website isn't just pages of code and images rendered in the browser. It forms a small part of a larger digital strategy.

When I first started designing websites, you designed and built a website and that was that. There was little thought for SEO, performance and mobile user experience. Smartphones didn’t exist. Getting online with the phones that could access the web was excruciating. Responsive web design was a long way off and big social media was in its infancy. Advances in technology allow us to solve these challenges with digital strategy, of which digital design is a part of.

Picture of post-it notes outlining the group of challenges that cannot be solved by design alone

We now have a whole group of challenges that cannot be solved with design alone.

Grabbing a $50 template will get you a website, but code and images alone won’t get you over the line. Clients need the flexibility of a custom built digital product that suits their objectives, customers and content.

Designers obsess over tools and scripts to make their lives easier. Over the last year we have integrated Grunt into our workflow. Grunt is great at handling a whole host of monotonous tasks. This is where automation comes into its own. Our designers and developers now have more time to refine their work knowing time isn’t against them. An average designer will sit and compress a bunch of images by hand in Photoshop. A good one gets Grunt task to do this for them.

Picture of popular task automation tools

Automation tools are great. But not the only answer.

Automation isn’t contributing to web design’s downfall. We limit how much automated tools encroach on our workflow. Telling your client the website looks and acts the way it does because you let the automated web builder do the hard work might not go down too well. Unless specified early in the project, clients want a personal touch. We also like clients to have an input into how what the digital product looks like. It’s a great way to keep the client involved and engaged with the project. Strategy, rather than automated tools, inform the visual look and functionality of digital products.

The art of designing a website is far from dead. But the term is dying. We like to think of it as digital design, that acts as part of a the wider digital strategy. We cannot use the term web design to describe the vast range of skills needed to create a successful website.

A website isn’t just pages of code and images rendered in a browser, there’s a lot more to it than that.