Future of WebDev, especially Ecomm?

As technologies become more ubiquitous, and mature, they tend to also become more standardized, and production of the products becomes more automated, and the number of vendors offering the technologies tends to consolidate.

For example, there used to be about 128 car makers in the US. There used to be a time when companies would hand-craft their accounting applications.

I wonder if hand-crafted websites are going to become less common. For example, maybe companies, large and small, will get their ecomm sites from the same SaaS vendor that provides their ERP systems. Maybe in five years, practically everybody will using something like Intuit site builder. I suppose the same company could provide professional design, SEO, analytics, hosting, and so on.

Could it be that the days of a company contracting an independent website designer are waning? Or will there be strong growth in demand for independent website designing?

Perhaps, but not in our lifetime (so we’re safe in our jobs), it’s hard enough to get people to produce decent code that’s accessible and usable and while society is evolving towards the web, their needs and the speed changes happen are too slow for it to be viable within the visible future. WYSIWYG editors and CMS engines are the closest thing we have to mechanical / semantically relevant replacements to hand customised designs. WYSIWYG editors are pretty much next to useless, pumping out crap code with the end user (who’ll have no clue to the complexity or fundamentals of design) making something worthy of the 90’s. And while CMS software does a much better job (higher barrier to entry and more restrictions), there’s no CMS which even comes close to matching the quality of a hand created product (and CMS designs tend to lack originality - which is often a bad thing in trying to get appeal). I’ll remain sceptical when people say the custom coder is toast! :slight_smile:

Speaking of the look of an ecommerce website - I do think that the first impression matters much, especially in competitive niches where customers may look through a number of solutions at once. But the design itself should not be improved for the sake of design, but rather be a part of a marketing in common (i. e. reflect your product, and this includes not only the design work, but also usability, content, business logic etc). So another point here is that solutions are likely to move from separate approarch to SEO, content, sales, design etc - to a complex marketing where it all should work together.

I doubt there will be less of a demand for web designers, perhaps the demand for web developers will go downward (as people turn to pre-made solutions as you stated) but no mechanical device can even come close to the level of craftsmanship a designer will provide. If you speak to any designer they will tell you that a custom design will always work better than a generic template because you end up catering the experience around the content. And as no mechanical medium can resolve the need for people who understand the unique needs of each end user with emphasis towards psychology, sociology, design theory, user-experience, accessibility and usability, the attempts to make such subjective and independent (per design) solutions automated have failed with epic style. A unique design will always hold favour over some generic Wordpress installation which may do the job but doesn’t have any of the personality a brand should offer. :slight_smile:

I think one thing that should be remembered here is that most end users still don’t have the mindset to effectively manage a successful web site

But when your ecomm site is just part of your SaaS ERP, you won’t really have to know how to manage it - at least, not as a separate thing. The back-end will be in some data center. Everything will probably be written in Java, with Oracle for a database. You will have 24/7 call in support, and there will be online help. Any of the office “power-users” will be able to figure it out. There will be minimum demand for small independent web designers. Much less LAMP stack stuff.

All just a WAG, on my part.

I think one thing that should be remembered here is that most end users still don’t have the mindset to effectively manage a successful web site, unless they go to the extent of training staff specifically for the job. So, even providing site building services, they still need the right sort of person to understand how to work with the tools effectively.

The answer to #1 is easy as there
are already several systems out there
that do just this.

The advantage is that you can set up
your website, or blog, or whatever any
way you like for SEO, unique design, etc.

The disadvantage is you need to have a
website rather than counting on a “template”
for a website. It all depends what type of
business you have to determine which is
best for you.

Thanks for all the great replies. A few additional thoughts:

  1. Would it not be possible for the front-end of an ecomm site to be developed by an independent designer, while the back-end was all handled by some SaaS ERP vendor?

  2. How important is the look of an ecomm site anyway? It means nothing to me. Is it really worth it to spend thousands of dollars for super-unique site?

  3. I think hand-held internet devices will continue to gain in popularity. For hand-held devices, you usually want something very simplified.

  4. I think a lot of people feel safer dealing with major corporations. What if the independent developer you hired is not around next year?

There are certain functions that
become standardized because they
just work the way people expect.

It’s like shopping for a house and
entering into a “unique” house where
the “standard” design rules were
decimated in the name of being “custom”.

But the reality is the house is just
“goofy”.

It’s better to leave the standard items
standard and then look for ways to
improve upon the rest of the user / visitor
experience.

Automation is imminent I think. Cost saving and standardization is driving it as with everything else we see in either software or hardware world. Take e-commerce as example. Everybody wants to use an existing shopping cart these days (2-3 columns, header, footer, product filter…).

One would argue that pure graphic design still have to be hand-crafted. History of anything hand-crafted taught us otherwise, though. Content/information overload will contribute to this trend also I think. Do you still visit CNN.com? or rather read all your news in an RSS feed?

I’m sure we will see consolidation in both the high end and low end web markets. I’m sure we will also see a sprint of SMB ready agencies as companies start looking for shops to bring them further into the new age.

On the other hand, web design is not cars. There isn’t a need to be able to find the same models in any city, to service them around the block uniformly or to standardize parts from a few plants to up production. Like most creative services (print, advertising, etc), the industry will evolve and shift on a frequent basis but the fact is you have millions of businesses who need different services, expertise and at different budgets and while the logos may change, the size of the teams they go with my shift, that need won’t stop, it will simply evolve just as the web is an evolution of the media methods before it.

I agree … in fact, the more others “standardize”
the more a unique solution will stand out.

We hired a programmer that prided himself
on “hand coding” his websites as though
manually typing a basic table tag was somehow
making the site better.

Tools will come along and make things easier
but the real art is in the design, usability,
logic, etc. I see many BIG company websites
that are terrible as far as usability is concerned.

The very fact that we need to provide tutorial
videos on locating PayPal API info is a sad statement
to their usability, etc

This is an interesting discussion. Of course, development platforms are likely to be standartized. But, speaking of design and functionality, it is very hard to create common things for all businesses.

An obvious example is a template-based design which you can see on endless promo websites. It works from the functional point of view, but is hardly memorable. So a creativity and uniqueness should remain the same.

It’s hard to say, but it’s an interesting question. The IT world is fast paced so while there is certainly consolidation of platforms/companies/etc there are also new technologies popping up all the time.

When it comes to web, I would expect that the ‘hand made site’ will eventually go the way of the hand-made car :slight_smile:

But that doesn’t mean that web developers won’t exist in some form. They’ll probably have a different title and do generally different things, but the medium will continue and there will always be some need. Technologies will change substantially over time, as they always have.

Design will most likely not change much. Contrary to what many designers believe, I don’t think design is radically different for web than it is for print, TV, etc. Different mediums have different rules, sure, but the basic skills and tools don’t vary all that much.