Has Web Design Become Too Complex for Freelancers?

Web designers take pride in being knowledgeable. We help clients navigate challenges and establish their little corner of the internet. We guide them toward success. Doing so requires experience and know-how.

The industry has worked this way for years. However, the situation feels different these days. The job is now akin to untangling a ball of wires. We keep pulling strands while continually finding new knots.

Building websites is no longer straightforward. There is no shortage of moving parts to manage. Not to mention the related technologies we work with. It’s enough to keep freelancers up at night.

So, how did we get here? And what can we do to bring some sanity back to our lives? Let’s try and sort this out together.

More Powerful Websites Equals More Responsibility

Building a high-functioning website was once limited to enterprise organizations. They had the resources to build from the ground up. The rest of us had to settle for less.

That’s no longer the case. For example, there are now eCommerce solutions for all budgets. A freelancer can put an online store together with off-the-shelf parts.

Tools like WordPress and its ecosystem have closed the gap. The benefits are tangible. A highly functional site is now within everyone’s reach. A whole market has opened up for solo entrepreneurs and small agencies.

However, these tools also place a great deal of responsibility on developers. We now have to consider:

  • Keeping software up to date;
  • Security monitoring and remediation;
  • Interoperability with payment gateways, etc;
  • Adapting to changes in software;
  • Accessibility;
  • Privacy regulations;
  • Performance;
  • Customer support and training;

Large organizations have staff dedicated to these tasks. They should also have the budget and expertise to do the job right.

As for freelancers? Well, we must do all or most of it ourselves. All on a shoestring budget.

Looking after a single website is hard enough. Now, multiply that difficulty by the number of sites you manage. The whole thing seems unsustainable.

Website Issues Are More Complicated than Ever

Odds are, you don’t have time for a broken website. But break they do. And their issues tend to be complicated.

Sometimes, it’s a software incompatibility. Perhaps that plugin update isn’t playing nicely with the rest of your site. You may have to work with support staff to find a resolution. That could take days or weeks.

Security issues are even worse. A hacked website can leave you scrambling for answers. And it can easily monopolize your time. There’s also the possible hit to your (and your client’s) reputation.

Then there are unexpected changes to the software we use. Themes and plugins may undergo major revisions that require developer action. From there, it’s about researching and implementing the necessary changes.

Fixing these issues takes time and money. They also place a burden on freelancers and website owners.

A broken or compromised website can monopolize your time.

How Do We Simplify This Mess?

Maybe the proverbial cat is already out of the bag. Websites are increasingly complex – and they aren’t going back. Clients aren’t likely to ask us to code like it’s 1999.

Having said that, what are some realistic things we can do to simplify? Here are a few possibilities.

Build Websites According to Need

Yes, modern website platforms are complicated. However, web designers should also share some of the blame.

We often reach for these solutions – even when they’re not necessary. The result is an over-engineered site with a lot of moving parts. Seriously, does a small brochure site need a dozen WordPress plugins?

All of these tools are within our reach. So, we use them time and again. Maybe it’s time to do more with less.

The bottom line is thinking about your current and future needs. Build websites that are as lean as possible – with room to grow.

Take Advantage of Automated Tools

We can’t be everywhere at once. However, keeping track of the websites we manage is a full-time job.

Several automated tools can help. We can employ them to monitor security issues, uptime, and performance. They can also apply software updates.

None of this means we should stop checking these items manually. We still have a responsibility to ensure everything’s working.

The idea is to spot issues and get them fixed more quickly. Automation provides an avenue for busy freelancers to do so.

Shift the Burden Where Appropriate

Web designers tend to take responsibility for tasks outside our expertise. Think email deliverability or information technology (IT) issues. It’s a common problem when working with small organizations.

Advising clients on these subjects is one thing. But maintaining them should be their job. Or they should hire specialists to deal with them.

Too often, we are stuck doing more than we should. Clients naturally come to us for answers. However, each task only adds a layer of complexity to our job. Things can get out of hand in a hurry.

Creating boundaries can help. Define your areas of expertise and stick to them. Inform clients on what you can and can’t do.

They’ll have a better understanding of who to call for specific tasks. And you’ll have more time to focus on the things within your niche.

Find ways to simplify the websites you build.

Web Designers Must Adapt to a New Reality

Being a freelance web designer has never been more complicated. There are so many tools, technologies, and best practices to study. Meanwhile, client expectations are through the roof.

All told, it’s getting harder to do our job. Therefore, we must take advantage of anything that helps us simplify.

Perhaps we also need to take a look in the mirror. How are the choices we make impacting our workload? Where can we make improvements?

The old methods of web design no longer work. Not when there is so much ground to cover. We must adapt to the reality in front of us.

Communication should also be a priority. We need to educate clients about the benefits and drawbacks of a given approach. Together, we can choose what’s right for them with an understanding of the consequences.

The key is to find better ways to assess and manage risk. That will help us transition to the next chapter of our industry.

Has Web Design Become Too Complex for Freelancers? Medianic.

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