Someone over at UX Mag has declared that web design is dead, and we all need to be UX designers now. Hmm. Now I know how those medieval scribes felt when Gutenberg came out with his fancy new printing press. Or painters when the dagguerotype meant no-one would ever have their portrait painted again, or, much more recently, graphic designers when the introduction of the web meant no one would ever need print collateral again.
Over and over, we hear about the death of one artistic discipline in the face of a new technology, and over and over, the old tenaciously survives. Often, the shift exemplified by the new highlights unsustainable practices in the industry surrounding the old field.
Take music, for example. Record labels built their business model around having control over the expensive technology needed to record and distribute music. Powerful home computers, ever-improving software, and digital distribution gutted the foundation of that model. So for (at least) the past decade, the industry has been in upheaval as it simultaneously tries to patch a desperately broken system and reinvent itself. And yet, music is not dead.
I have friends who work as wedding photographers. A difficult industry in the first place, it’s increasingly hard to explain the value to consumers. As digital cameras have become ubiquitous, everyone’s got a friend with a decent consumer DSLR who they’re pretty sure can just get some pictures for them for free, or “as their wedding gift.” Meanwhile, people who do hire photographers now expect to have full rights to their photos to reprint and redistribute as they please, without coming back to the photographer each time. Yet my friends can still make a living. They’ve responded to the changes in technology and culture, and adapted their business models to work.
What wedding photographers have done, what musicians are doing (and labels are still figuring out), what practitioners of all sorts of disciplines have done throughout the ages is what we need to do. We adapt. This isn’t a big deal. Frankly, we’re better positioned than those who’ve worked in most of these fields throughout history. Web design has always been in flux, and we’ve always been racing to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.
So now there are new trends (template sites, social media), and new technologies (mobile, automation, the ever-elusive AI). What do we do? Adapt. We learn how to work with, through, and against these things as necessary, and we build better websites. We look at the trends and tech that we need to integrate, and we figure out how to do it well. We’ve always designed user experiences. We just do it on the web, so we call ourselves web designers. Web design lives on.