I’m convinced that web designers are underappreciated. We work in a highly competitive (not to mention stressful) field. Yet it feels like our achievements fly under the radar of clients and the general public.
This seems especially true when compared to other professions. After all, some people send gift baskets to their accountants and lawyers. Web designers? We get another round of revisions!
Now, I don’t think clients are obliged to send us a cake after their site launches. Nor do we need a bag of swag to feel appreciated. But perhaps web designers don’t receive enough recognition, either.
Why is that? I think there are a few factors at play. Let’s examine what keeps web designers from getting their due.
Web Designers Work Behind the Scenes
Web designers don’t typically work in public spaces. And even if we did, most people wouldn’t notice. They may see us as just another person with a laptop.
Instead, we tend to hide away in home offices and back rooms. That’s usually a good thing. Design and code are detail-oriented jobs. Thus, working in front of an audience could have a negative impact.
But that also means that we’re out of sight. Clients can’t see the time and effort we put into their projects. And they’re likely unaware of how many obstacles we must overcome to get their website working as promised.
Plus, there’s often very little face-to-face interaction. Meetings are still a part of the job. But they have increasingly moved to online platforms. That leaves few chances to get to know each other on a personal level.
When you can’t see someone at work, it becomes harder to appreciate what they do.
There’s Little Understanding of What Web Designers Do
Web design is a total mystery to some people. They’re not quite sure what’s involved in the design and build processes. That can lead to some false narratives.
It’s something I’ve experienced since the 1990s. I’ve met people who think that anyone can be a web designer. To them, it’s simply a matter of using readymade tools and filling in the blanks.
True, that could be a path taken by some designers. But it also misses the sheer depth of the field. Websites can be incredibly complex applications. They can go well beyond the capabilities of a page builder or niche theme.
And it requires a good bit of knowledge to achieve great results. Some of us have formal educations and college degrees. Others are self-taught. Either way, a combination of skills and experience is vital to success.
Admittedly, the industry also shares some blame here. When non-designers see ads for DIY website services like Wix or Squarespace, they may get the wrong impression. Even WordPress, in its quest to make design easier, can add to that reputation.
All told, there’s a lack of understanding of what web designers do. Some of that falls on us. But there’s also a gap in technical knowledge. Therefore, it’s hard to blame anyone for not knowing the intricacies involved.
Failure Attracts More Attention Than Achievement
Our society loves to point out failure. This is particularly prevalent in online culture. We’re often quick to call out someone’s “epic fail” rather than celebrate their achievements.
For example, do we give Amazon’s engineers a virtual high-five when their site doesn’t crash on Black Friday? Not likely. We’ll probably point out a page that doesn’t load correctly or some other minor quibble.
The public is simply sharing their frustrations. A feature they want to use isn’t working as expected. And social media is the perfect place to vent those feelings.
In some ways, I think web design is a natural extension of this behavior. Clients tend to contact us when something needs to change. Their website is either broken or in need of a new feature. Or perhaps they want to edit a piece of content.
When things are running smoothly, we’re less likely to get feedback. That’s how communication tends to work.
What Does Appreciation Look Like?
We’ve established that web designers often work behind the scenes. And that many people are unfamiliar with what we do. Oh, and they’re also good at pointing out the negatives.
Therefore, we probably shouldn’t expect these things to change. Web designers can’t afford a big ad campaign to sing our praises. So, that begs the question: what does appreciation look like?
Maybe I need to think smaller. Hearing (or reading) the words “thank you” or “good job” are prime examples.
It can be easy to toss them aside as a common courtesy. And it can be difficult to fully absorb their context – especially in email. But a few kind words can go a long way.
Appreciation doesn’t always take the form of a grand gesture. It can also be understated. Either way, we should be thankful when we are on the receiving end. Even if it’s not as often as we’d like.
The reality is that not every career is widely understood or revered. I mean, who are we to compare ourselves with lawyers???
On second thought, maybe being in the shadows is a good thing.