I’ve always been really interested in web design. In fact, one of my first online businesses was a small web design studio that helped local clients get a basic web presence and start ranking on Google.

But a lot has changed since then, and many are wondering if we still need web designers in an age of free drag-and-drop WordPress page builders, cheap A/B-testing software, heat map insights, etc.

This is a massive topic about a huge industry that employs millions of people and so I want to treat it with a bit of caution and respect. I also want to avoid the ire of designers who are thoroughly sick of the old “Do I need a web designer?” debate.

Let’s jump in anyway.

Why people used to hire web designers

Go back in time 15+ years and you’ll see a very different Internet.

Many companies, for example, didn’t have websites and as they started to realize that business was going to be done online, scrambled to hire a web designer to build a beautiful site that was on-brand and helped customers.

In those days there wasn’t much in the way of free platforms and things like WordPress themes were very limited in terms of how you could customize features and design elements without also needing to know how to write and edit code.

Just take a look at Blogger in 1999…

So, you needed help.

And so a web designer would often build something from the absolute ground up. They’d get a brief, come up with a draft design, get feedback, and then cut and splice it all up and turn it into a functional website. They might then manage it for the client, making changes and edits over time.

That involved knowing how to use things like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and then manage hosting environments, FTP uploading and so on and so forth.

It was a big job.

And then (as always) the technology improved

So what do web designers do today?

These days we’re seeing changes to almost every career in the world, and especially to those on the net.

Web designing is not immune to that and that’s meant freelancers and agencies had to expand or adapt to the technology such that, instead of just designing websites, they now do a whole host of tasks and services that expand well beyond their title might suggest.

If you hire a web designer or web design agency these day they might:

  • Set you up on a template or design a fresh site
    While you might get a fully original design, it’s also possible that your designer will set you up on an existing template or theme. This will usually save you a bit of money and you can choose when you hire them.
  • Work on different branding elements
    Your business might not just need a website but also a color scheme, logo, typography recommendations, and so on. Many agencies will encourage you to do all of this at once so you have a cohesive approach for your business.
  • Helping you with SEO and promotion
    Another area that many web designers have expanded into is search engine optimization which could mean installing plugins like WordPress SEO, helping you with local listings, and then even creating content for PPC campaigns and other promotional activity.
  • Managing hosting, security and updates
    Web designers also will often charge you an ongoing fee in order to keep your site safe, secure and up to date. That might mean just updating software, or it might mean managing things like your emails and any issues that arise with bounces and so on.
  • A fully managed solution
    Some web designers (and often this is done in-house) will also offer a fully managed solution where they take care of your whole online presence or a specific campaign. This might mean designing the graphics, landing pages, websites, adverts, etc. and then implementing the strategy through advertising on Facebook and other platforms. They then watch the metrics to see whether it’s converting and recommend changes.

As you can see from all of this, the job of the web design has not completely vanished into irrelevance. In fact, there are many situations where it’s important to engage web designers in building your business.