There’s an undeniable satisfaction that comes from doing something yourself—fixing that leaky faucet or building a new bookshelf. And with the Internet, figuring out how to do it yourself has never been easier. There’s an unlimited resource of information constantly at our fingertips, making this “DIY mentality” as prevalent as ever. But when does “doing it yourself” stop being a cheap time-saver and start hurting industries?
It’s not hard to make your own website. With services like WordPress and Squarespace you can be up and running with just a few clicks and a full wallet. And while this could be seen as a threat to our industry, it’s also an opportunity to change people’s minds about design. Because it’s not only this DIY mentality that’s so prevalent, but also the general public’s awareness of design. This is making it easier to get discussions started and let people know that this is a service we provide, not just a one-time “off the shelf” solution.
The big brands have already figured this out. Apple, Google—all the big players in the digital game—have placed a huge emphasis on design. It’s become such an integral part of their business. People are noticing the “clean”, “simple” and “modern” looks of these names and wanting that for themselves. Smaller brands have always wanted to look like the bigger ones and now that’s even closer within their reach.
And that’s just the diving board into the pool. The conversation has already started. People know what design is and the value it can bring—they just need to know that they can’t do it themselves. So this is our chance as designers to jump in and back that up. We need them to know that what they see is just the shiny surface, the final solution—not the process behind it. It’s our job to make a splash and bring value to the process. Because it’s more than just the outcome. It’s the problem solving and creative thinking it took to get there. You don’t get to any destination without first planning the journey. And the process will often have just as much value as the outcome itself. That’s where businesses learn who they are and what they want to say—and only then can they figure out how they want to say it.
But like any other industry, there are ways to sneak around the process. Just as you can easily learn how to fix your leaking faucet and build your new shelf, you can find a template for your company’s website. And sure, that will save you money in the short term, but what about the long-term investment you’re missing out on? What happens when your shelf breaks and topples over? You’re left alone to clean up the mess and make the repairs.
WordPress templates, Squarespace and the endless list of other web services aren’t going anywhere. They’re out there and they can be great tools. But that’s all they are: tools. They’re a means to an end, not the end itself. They’ll give you the pretty face you’re after but not the brains behind it. And without the brains, how does it think? How can it communicate? Sell your product? Without the brains, it’s just a facade. It’s a rickety shelf barely balancing its own weight.
Unfortunately, you won’t notice the shelf breaking until it starts to bend. And by then it’s already too late. But right now we have a unique opportunity to jump in before the damage is done. The big brands touting design have started the conversation and the Internet’s kept the ball rolling. And whether good or bad, people are doing things themselves—design included. As designers, we can either leave them treading water or dive in and keep them afloat. And at the end of the day, coming to their rescue helps not just our business, but theirs as well.