Do you need a designer for your website

Do you really still need a designer for your website?

With WordPress launching Full Site Editing in 5.9, is the designer’s role slowly being removed from creating an effective website?

Design is often seen as something everyone can do. Most designers that have been in the game long enough have heard clients say things like ‘we basically designed that ourselves’ or ‘I could have done that myself’.

The main issue here is the lack of, or lack of understanding of the design process.

Designers are more than just people that have an Adobe Creative Suite subscription.

Design is an unregulated industry, and as such, anyone can badge themselves as a designer.

Personally, I have a degree in Graphic Design, so I consider myself qualified.

  • I have three A levels
  • A National Diploma in General Art & Design
  • An HND in Graphic Design
  • BA(Hons) Degree in Graphic Design

That little lot took seven years to achieve, and when I graduated, I still didn’t really consider myself fully qualified, as I had no industry experience.

Now, 25 years later, I find myself working alongside Marketing people that also consider themselves designers.

This is often simply down to the fact that they have some basic understanding in putting a slide deck together or they can use Canva.

No design education, no design qualifications and often less than five years experience on the job.

I am not saying you have to have a design qualification to be considered a designer; many designers are hailed down to the work they have produced and the quality of this work.

However, what I am saying is that without either formal training or experience, design can be a dangerous tool in the hands of the self-styled creative.

You can’t call yourself a Doctor, a Lawyer, an Electrician or a Gas Fitter without the appropriate levels of education and qualification: I don’t think design is any different.

Part of this issue is compounded by employers writing stupid job descriptions.

Marketing people are not designers, they are intelligent organisers of people that they bring together to complete a project. This in itself is a hard enough task without throwing design experience advantageous into a job description where it’s not supposed to be.

Experienced designers bring more to the party than just making stuff look nice.

If you are working with someone that has several years of creative experience, they’ve probably worked across a wide range of projects, from branding to websites.

This experience counts towards every new project they work on.

As I have a background in design for print, I brought this into working on websites.

I know the two are different, but the subtleties of layout learnt when laying out large brochures, annual reports or catalogues are not lost when it comes to web design, and vice versa.

A lot of designers are also freelancers or business owners, so they understand budget and the bottom line better than employees with salaried jobs.

Another point to remember is that if you’ve worked in design for a while, you’ve worked with a lot of marketing experts. Learning works both ways; I’ve been very lucky to work with some really switched-on marketers that I’ve learnt a lot from – but we work from a position of mutual respect. They in my design abilities, and me in their ability to plan and manage large marketing campaigns.

This experience can be shared by a qualified designer with a smaller client that maybe doesn’t have a marketing person on board – it all helps.

The difference between being a creative person and being a designer, and what it means to be both.

Being creative is about ideas; being a designer is making those ideas look nice.

It’s possible to be one, the other or both.

Creative people will look for a solution to your problem and it may not be anywhere near the solution you envisaged.

Designers will look for a visual solution to your needs, usually within the realms of what you may have outlined within the brief.

  • When asked to create a brochure, a designer may ask you: how many pages?
  • When asked to create the same brochure, a creative may ask you: why?

Truth is that you need both, and this is where formal design and creative education come into play.

As creative designers, we are taught to see differently and to think differently. If like me, you are more formally art trained before going onto a design course, it’s about looking – hours spent life drawing, spatial awareness sessions or feeling the contours of a pot you’re throwing on the wheel.

I spent many hours in my warehouse classroom (know as the Punishment Block) at Oxfordshire School of Art drawing life models using a piece of charcoal tied to the end of a 5-foot bamboo cane.

This wasn’t designed to help me draw properly, it was designed to make me be more creative in how I worked, the marks I laid down and the form I was trying to represent: removing the standard way of working and exploring new ways of doing things.

This is where creativity is crucial for whatever project you need doing; from a branding exercise to UX on a website and even WordPress SEO.

So do you still need a designer for your website project?

Of course, you do, but it’s horses for courses, and, like so many things I talk about on this website, it comes down to budget.

Ideally, you want a team that will be creative and come up with some amazing ideas for how your site will work, look and function.

You’ll then need some great designers (probably the same people) to visualise these ideas and craft them into a unique, on-brand and brief-busting design.

This obviously takes time and costs money, but creatives are creative with budgets and stuff too, so a good team will look at what they can do for you within your budget.

Creatives often look at more than just the bean-counting when it comes to projects, if they like your product, service or business, they may even offer to go overboard on the work if you’ll let them in return for lower fees than they may normally charge.

Full site editing in WordPress is certainly going to empower entrepreneurs, marketers and small business owners to take more control over the design of their websites, but if we are not careful, everything is going to become cookie-cutter and look the same.

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