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The Elephant in the Room: Web design work is drying up (sazzy.co.uk)
540 points by acconrad on Feb 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 332 comments

I think there's a fundamental shift in the type of web-skills which are now in demand, due to a number of factors. Here's some things which come to mind:

- A "web designer" or "web developer" used to be a generalist who wrote HTML, CSS, and some jQuery. Now there's a demand for specialization: a UI/UX designer who can prototype, iterate quickly, and use real data if possible, and a UI/UX engineer who can develop large-scale apps with an eye towards security, performance, reusability, and maintainability.

- The need for the generalist web designer/developer seems supplanted by tools like Squarespace and Bootstrap, which make it easy to get acceptable results with fewer skills. It's the "commoditization of design".

- The need for specialized designers/engineers is spurred by a realization that good design can command a premium/competitive advantage (and that good design means iterating quickly and having a deep understanding of what makes fundamentally good UI and UX), and that the front-end benefits from sound engineering practices as much as the back-end, especially if you're building SPAs or large-scale apps with complex UXes.

- A lot of the design problems have been solved already. Questions such as when modals are appropriate, how to design forms effectively, what makes a good call-to-action, and how to structure IA effectively have been answered. Companies no longer need teams of people to work out answers to these questions, just one or two good leaders to evangelize the answers that are already established, and a team of UI engineers that can execute them well.

You nailed it. A large fraction of the work effort which was traditionally branded as web-design has been repackaged into additional roles and/or automated and streamlined via tools.

In reality, 60% of my time is spent on web design, but this effort is repackaged into two broader job descriptions: UX developer (requires heavy Javascript code) and web marketer (requires knowledge of analytics, SEO technique, conversion optimization, and a dozen other skills). Plus my frameworks pick up a lot of the lower level details of setting up and managing a web-page.

Not seeing a shortage of work in those two spaces....

Yeah. What is even web design these days? I consider myself pretty good at making a website look nice, but I don't design it in Photoshop.

From my observations it's a matter of picking a nice wordpress theme and customizing it for your brand.

How many of the websites you love to use are built on wordpress themes?

some large sites using wordpress

1. TechCrunch 2. The New Yorker 3. BBC America 4. The Official Star Wars Blog 5. Variety 6. Sony Music 7. MTV News 8. Beyonce 9. ebay Inc 10. PlayStation.Blog 11. Best Buy 12. Xerox 13. Bata 14. Quartz 15. ESPN Product Blog 16. Nokia Conversations 17. Ford Social 18. Fortune 19. Time Inc. 20. Facebook Newsroom 21. The New York Times Company 22. Marks & Spencer for Business 23. Google Ventures 24. Harvard Business Review Blogs 25. Larry King Liveblog 26. The Official Rackspace Blog 27. Philips DirectLife Coach Blog 28. ExpressJet Airlines 29. Inside BlackBerry 30. Rotary Means Business – Rotary Club 31. The Rolling Stones 32. The Walking Dead – AMC 33. The Mozilla Blog 34. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog 35. Dallas Mavericks 36. Wil Wheaton 37. Snoop Dogg 38. SAP News Center 39. Wolverine Worldwide 40. Reuters Blogs

Smashing Magazine, Techcrunch,... about 25% of them.

I can't say I "love" TechCrunch, but it is built on WordPress... Although, I see your point about generic themes.

As with all design, it's not about making it look nice.

That's true, but I think that's what a lot of people think it is.

I'm also a software dev. I wouldn't say, when designing code, that "I make the code look nice" though, I'd hope that's at least part of it.

However... when someone is looking for a "designer," while it does include UI/UX (again, whatever that is ;) ) I've found they strictly only want someone who is good at making pretty things in Photoshop.

I think your post could do with some bullet points about what design is.

You're right.

The process of making form follow function, maybe?

Definition of design: a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.

So, I guess "web designer" is very similar to "make it in Photoshop" and I should stop complaining ;)

I'd say that definition defines the outcome of design, not design itself. I focused on the "process" deliberately, because most design work happens outside whatever tool you use to externalize your plan/vision.

It's reductive to conceive design as the design outcome, IMHO. If you have a guy doing all the UX work (alignment with business needs, research, gather data, analysis, IA, brand identity integration, etc.) and other guy which takes all this work and produces UI mock-ups in Photoshop, who did most design work?

The point about generalists no longer having a place in the market is something that's becoming more and more apparent every day.

The web was crafted by generalists. People who could think about both technology and design at the same time were hugely valuable builders, and leveraged to rapidly build up the content and tools of web from nothing.

Looking back, it was the wild west. We generalists were the rough and tumble pioneers that swung an axe and moved boulders, dug for gold, founded towns from dirt.

But now, it's built. There's no more frontier left to explore. The roads are cleared, railroads built, the land claims are well established, the towns have paved streets and public services.

10 years ago we web generalists were calling ourselves designers or developers but now we're engineers, product consultants. There's no longer a mad scramble to get a vision onto the screen with a designer, develop a new product from nothing. It's all about engineering to remove the flaws of the rough work done by pioneers, carefully looking at what's been established and tuning it so that it lasts.

I think some of us chronic generalists need to find a new frontier. This is just no longer our place..

Simon Wardley puts it very well in his Pioneers / Settlers / Town Planners model:


If you spot that new frontier do share - it's what attracted me to the web.

VR is my current top pic for a likely new frontier.

It'll either bomb or it'll be huge, the equivalent of the introduction of the smartphone or greater.

I wonder if it will isolate people even more? Everyone is always buried on their cellphones these days...

Maybe people just accept to meet inside the Matrix... http://hypescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/12719113_1...

How does one break into VR without a background in 3D gaming / CG?

Learn how to make a 3D game when you can spare the time with some books and/or tutorials (Unity game engine I believe has plugins for certain VR systems). Make a simple game that works in VR (use Google Cardboard if you need something affordable).

Put it on your portfolio, and contact these companies and show how enthusiastic you are to enter the new VR frontier in your cover letter.

Unity doesn't require knowing how to program low level 3D graphics. You just need to understand how to import models (that you can find on their asset store), and some basics about 3D coordinate space and basic update/draw loops used in every game to move and rotate those objects over time.

You can go as deep as you want with it, but you could probably follow a tutorial on Unity and knock out something that proves you understand the basics in the span of a weekend.

Keep improving and adding new stuff onto your portfolio, maybe blog about what you've learned, and keep networking until someone wants to give you a shot.

That's basically how I broke into the game industry. It took time and passion, but I did it.

'game industry'. Whenever I hear that term, I shudder at the idea of working loong days and nights and weekends the industry seems to require.

I didn't include that bit, but yeah, I only lasted a few years in the industry myself before being burnt out. Now I'm back to making games as a hobby.

Fascinating. Never crossed my mind that this was an area I could break into. Thank you

Thank you so much for that read.

The part about Pioneers of the past being burned at the stake I'll hold on to. That's a truth that hangs on today, albeit with less fire and more firing


Well, I know where I want to go after the web, and am beginning to scheme - space - the final frontier.

> "A lot of the design problems have been solved already. Questions such as when modals are appropriate, how to design forms effectively, what makes a good call-to-action, and how to structure IA effectively have been answered. Companies no longer need teams of people to work out answers to these questions, just one or two good leaders to evangelize the answers that are already established, and a team of UI engineers that can execute them well."

Perhaps I'm taking this the wrong way, but the tasks you listed there don't even begin to scratch the surface of existing design problems a UI designer will face on a daily basis.

EDIT: ex. Consider the design work that went into this product http://www.research.ibm.com/cognitive-computing/watson/watso...

I think you two are saying the same things. The examples he provided are the problems that have already been solved, so you don't need teams of people to figure them out. Instead, you just need two pros who are excellent in specific areas, and "industry best practices" fills in the gaps. 10 years ago, there were no best practices, so this wasn't quite as possible.

It seems to also depend very much on who the website is for. The reality is that many organizations (small businesses basic organizations restaurants schools nonprofits etc.) need sites that do basic, routine things, in which case, the hard problems are solved, and good templates are available. In that case, having an in-house person who understands the company's needs is better than having a sophisticated specialist. It seems like, as the # of websites has increased, one would have expected the demand for web designers to increase proportionately, but it hasn't, because the orgs with the most complex site needs were the first to build.

Website is also a minomer now more than ever. If it's online and you access it via the web is it a website? A product? A web product? A web app? SaaS app? Is it mobile? Is a webkit app a website? Is a website wrapped in a mobile browser ported to a phone a website?

One could certainly argue in either direction for all of those questions. The skills are all very similar, the technologies are mostly the same (foundationally).

I don't think work is drying up nor demand going down. I think designers are more important now more than ever, they just might not be traditional web designers.

Looking at WatsonPaths, I'd say that it it's an "expert system" (very old idea) with one UX gimmick added, the path visualization of Watson's best guess at each stage. It's a totally appropriate application of that type of infographic, but IMO the insight that it could aid visualization to use it is a high level concept. I'd be curious to know whether the idea led to the WatsonPaths project, or if it was discovered in the course of an exploratory initiative (presumably with another name). What it definitely isn't is UX design "as usual". (That kind of diagram is not a new invention: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/05/daily-c... )

Those actually are the design problems a UX designer working on a company's marketing site will face on a daily basis. That's why all the interesting UX work has moved away from "web design," as discussed in the article, into designing the types of tools you link to.

But the tool I linked to was just a prototype. The actual product will be accessed via the web.

The web designers who designed the WatsonPaths diagrams that were probably already intimately familiar with the same type of diagram in Google Analytics:


>a UI/UX engineer who can develop large-scale apps with an eye towards security, performance, reusability, and maintainability.

I've never head this referred to as a UI/UX engineer. You seem to have just described a web developer. If you're developing "large-scale apps" then you're definitely doing more than UI/UX, so why call it UI/UX engineering?

At my company we call this role "UI Development." A UI developer is expected to be good at all aspects of development that are required to implement the user interface, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and server-side templating languages.

The JavaScript skills in question include the ability to write clean code, write unit tests and use client-side frameworks like Angular or React.

Having an eye for design and usability is a plus, but not the focus.

Actually you just described a front-end developer, which I guess you call "UI Development". Which is really a scam by companies to overwork one individual with two jobs. UI and actual development should remain separate as there is a seriously massive workload for each. These "full stack" roles only make sense extremely early on in the company or on a greenfield project, anything where iteration and field testing take priority by virtue of simplicity as a result of time.

Don't forget front end build pipelines and some server code to implement or retool APIs. Front end engineers need to know just about everything all the way back to the db

Think of it like this. Something like Gmail.com is really two things:

1. a frontend, which is a Single Page App, shipped as a blob of JS;

2. a backend, which is a big fat set of services in random languages.

The people who create the frontend are traditionally thought of as web developers, but "UI/UX engineer" is perhaps closer: they're engineering a program, yes, but it's ultimately a program entirely to serve the purpose of being a nice UI/UX in front of an API.

I think the most on-target name for this role would probably be "client-app developer." The client happens to be web-based, but that doesn't much matter. It's still a client that consumes your service.

Traditionally web developer is a more broad term that covers front and back end work.

I agree that there is nothing wrong with evolving the term "front end developer" into "UI/UX engineer". My problem is that the OP is talking about replacing "web developer" with "UI/UX" engineer. Web developer traditionaly includes backend engineers who aren't only working on UI.

I don't think "web developer" has been replaced by "UI/UX engineer". I would still draw the same distinction between the two that you're drawing. But I think demand for "front end developer" has lessened and demand for "UI/UX engineer" has increased.

And back in the last century, 'webmaster' was the term that encompassed front end, back end, and web server administration work. Terms move rapidly in the web world, and as complexity grows, people become more specialized and less aware of details in other parts of the stack.

All of what you said is true, yet none of it has anything to do with what I wrote. If we replaced the term webmasters with Content Engineers, and started calling designers/developers/server admins Content Engineers, you'd have a point.

Web developer is a broad term. UI/UX Engineer is a specific term. Yes many people specialize in frontend or backend, but both of them are still web developers. Calling both of them UI/UX Engineers is dumb.

Google calls us this. Last year the position of "Web Developer" was renamed to "UX Engineer".

Does anyone else feel uncomfortable with calling themselves an engineer without going to school to become a true engineer?

Absolutely. I went to school with (and am close friends) with many engineers. They worked very hard on their studies while I sorta goofed off and didn't finish school. I respect their dedication to process, standards, not reinventing the wheel when not needed, and commitment to projects that last an entire career. Their tasks include making things work better for people in general and not just a segmented community. It's also good to remember "Engineers" make decisions that other people's lives depend on.

I am proud to call myself a programmer or a web developer. Our work is hard, it's dynamic, and it has the potential to impact many lives. But we should be sensitive to the engineering community as lives depend on their work and calculations not falling apart.

It varies. Some developers right the software for embedded devices that power airplanes or medical machinery. Some engineers design speakers.

I agree with both of you, and feel pretty strongly (without any real concrete evidence, but with lots of anecdotal personal experience to back it up) that the vast majority of pro coders are software developers but by no means software engineers. I personally put "Software Developer" on my resume/linkedin for all of my dev jobs, regardless of what my employer/client calls the position.

On the whole engineering vs developing thing I think that dev is still in its infancy. Professional certs that are really meaningful and indicate some level of knowledge on various dev subjects would be a good baseline in the future, IMO. In Canada, to be a P.Eng. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_and_licensure_in_en...) one must, by law, be licensed.

From that link:

> The regulation and licensing of engineers are accomplished through a self-governing body that is given the power to license and discipline professional engineers, as well as regulate the practice of the professional engineers...

> A self-governing body's prime purpose is to protect the public.

The problem is that the line is not as clear as you'd think. Is someone who makes electronic circuits, but is mostly self-taught, an engineer? How about for software? There is usually very little difference between the best self-taught programmers and the best engineering-school taught ones, up an including knowledge of calculus, algorithmic complexity analysis, ML/stats, etc. Finally, there are people like me who did a bachelors in CS inside a school of sciences, rather than a school of engineering, is 'Software Engineer' justified in the later case, but not the former? Why?

Also, this discussion is a bit like asking why you can be a Data "Scientist" without a Ph.D. and without peer-reviewed publications. In reality, most people understand the difference between a scientist working in neurobiology or particle physics, and a data scientist working on ads (a competent data scientist working on a private non-profit in epidemiology might actually be harder to classify, though). So, same goes as to the difference between a civil engineer and a software engineer.

Edit: If anything, I know a few UX designers that reject the engineer label, but only because it makes the process sound more mechanical compared to designer (in my understanding, both are about discovering and satisfying constrains, but constrains are more strongly defined and more externally enforced in engineering than design, even for software).

In certain parts of the world, including much of Europe, the question is less ambiguous than it seems. There are countries where this, for instance, has a very clear answer:

> Is someone who makes electronic circuits, but is mostly self-taught, an engineer?

If he's accredited by that country's authority on the matter (e.g. the Engineering Council in the UK), then yes. If not, no.

Around here, you're only allowed to call yourself an engineer if you have a degree from a technical university.

Sure, the company can give you any title they want (I mean, if they're allowed to give obnoxious titles like Senior JavaScript Ninja or whatever, surely they can call someone an engineer, too), but from a legal standpoint, that's null, with all the consequences that follow (e.g. legal documents that require an engineer's signature have to be signed by someone that the state agrees is an engineer, regardless of what the company thinks).

Edit: FWIW, while I'm legally allowed to claim that glorious title (my diploma says "Instrumentation Engineering"), I tend to avoid it, too. My job has always been to program computers, and if I'll be able to do that until I retire, I will. Consequently, I see no reason to call myself anything other than a programmer. My employers disagree for paperwork reasons, so the paperwork they do says otherwise, but "programmer" is what I want everyone to call me. There is very little of true value to be found in a name; people who chase the title of engineer, rather than the engineering education, are missing the point.

I like the way you've stated this. While in general I am not fond of arguing semantics and don't often think it's worthwhile, in this case I would say it's warranted.

When I think of "engineer", I think of P.Eng., and the licensing/accreditation that goes along with it has useful connotations to it. So I'd say while some of us devs might be doing engineering type of work, and may even be eligible for something like an P.Eng. license in their place of residence, they simply are not engineers, because they are not licensed.

On the other side of that coin, I don't believe there is ever such a hard-and-fast rule that is applied to the word "scientist". As such, I don't believe that Ph.D. or getting published is required - what's required is instead to be someone who practices science.

That ship has sailed. Engineer has been genericized. Some countries still have laws regulating who can use the term, but in most places there is a difference between engineer, and something like Professional Engineer (which requires licensing).

My father is a "true" engineer. He has said to me that the amount of education I have and work I have done would make it easy to be certified as a P.E.

I've been a voip engineer, a network engineer, a software engineer and a devops engineer. I've never taken a CS class in my life.

I don't want to be mean, but I guess this is - jobs that have certifications are not often engineering in the software world. Such as the oldtime way to get big bucks "certified netware engineer", oracle pooh-bah certified admin.

One day there will no doubt be real engineering accrediations, like peng for software, but we aren't there today.

Yes. I went to school to become an aerospace engineer, worked in that field for a while and recently switched to doing game development. Yet even though the title I was given when I was hired at my present job includes the word "engineer," I'm thoroughly uncomfortable using it.

It's generally frowned upon in the UK, where an engineer must be accredited and chartered with the Engineering Council. Software development is considered a very immature discipline that is not yet subject to the same regulation and strict principles that civil engineering for example is.

I can't say I've ever seen dev jobs advertised as 'software engineer' positions here before. It's always 'software developer'.

You don't need a degree to be called a coder.

Engineer simply means it's more code than Photoshop.

I prefer UI Developer.

Nah. If you're going to be pedantic about traditional definitions you get no credit for half measures, and engineering being an academic discipline as opposed to a generic term for an occupation/skillset is a relative novelty.

I completely agree. Its like someone carrying a board up a flight of stairs and calling themselves an engineer. Did you get an typical engineering degree for it? Exactly!

Meh, in France some companies call cleaning ladies "surface engineers" so we're vaccinated. Sign of the times. :-)

It is untrue, they are called "surface technicians". In France engineer is a regulated title like MD or PHD here in USA.

You meant "surface technician", did you not?

I rest my case

I wasn't trying to dimension the challenge and skills needed to be a developer. I'm more so questioning the use a label which traditionally has a certification process attached to it.

No. Engineering is weighing costs, benefits, and risks while solving a specific problem given those parameters.

In Germany, the term "Ingenieur" is still protected so you don't even have that option.

My CS degree is from the College of Engineering at my university (Cal Poly SLO). So, no.

I agree. That's a front-end programmer. A modern UI/UX designer's realm extends to HTML and CSS. The more JS they know the better but is not necessary.

Well a web app is a user interface. Obviously there are backend components to most web apps, but any of the client-side work can still reasonably be referred to as UI work. You just need to specify between UI designer and UI engineer.

Yeah and using UI Engineer as an alias for frontend developer is fine. But the term "web developer" is a more broad term that covers front and back end work, so I think it's a bit weird to start referring to all web developers as UI engineers.

Yeah, the middle is hollowing out. You can get a decent design for next to nothing with a WP template or SquareSpace and the cost of gettting something significantly better is to pay millions to a top-tier design agency. The middle ground is shrinking but the top and bottom seem to be growing stronger than ever.

Agree. Lots of money still being thrown at Drupal agencies.

Drupal at least provides you with a fast prototyping experience. Data fields for everything, and connectors to all kinds of external services, validated in some cases by years of production grade usage. Caching, databases, clustering, high-availability... All solved and mature.

The only thing you don't get for free with Drupal is a backend which you can speak to if you're deciding to go the SPA route later on.

Which, in my personal opinion, is a pretty stupid trend anyway. SPAs tend to grow to Java Enterprise levels of complexity very very fast, and things break All. The. Time. Not to mention you're putting huge amounts of work to the frontend, where you virtually cannot account for cross-browser behavior, people with multiple-year-old browsers... and people with devices older than two years!

Leave a Drupal project idle and unmaintained for a year, and you'll be able to pick up where you left it. Good luck doing the same with an AngularJS SPA - you might get away if you used npm shrinkwrap when you left, but the first npm update WILL kill your code with a billion possible places to fix.

Drupal is mature, and maturity is something that the entire Javascript development and tooling community is missing unless you stick to plain jQuery.

Stability and reliability IS a thing, especially in enterprise.

Go the hipster way when your target audience is hipsters, go the proven, old-school way when your target audience is enterprise.

edit: ad maturity of Drupal and support... D6 got released in 2008-Q1 and support ended in 2016-Q1. That's EIGHT YEARS of continuous support and security fixes, and I expect similar if not better support timeframes for D7.

Good luck finding a Backbone.js or Ember.js (and maybe even AngularJS) developer in four years from now; not to mention that during the entire D6/7 lifetime backwards-compatibility-breaking changes were a rarity in Drupal when all of the mentioned JS frameworks have had more than their fair share of clusterfucks stemming from bad design. Or just the tooling environment, breaking changes everywhere and (gut feeling) every month there's a new tool to learn or best practices revamped.

Wonder why PHP, server-side rendering and SQL is so prevalent? You can rely on buying a solution and having support and developers even in multiple years from now. Enterprise doesn't want ever-changing piles of crap layered in more piles of crap, enterprise wants stability and maintainability. And enterprise is where the money is, not some SV startup only surviving on VC or with 90% of its customers startups only surviving on VC.

I have a turbogears app from 2008 that I still occasionally maintain. It's not officially supported, but it works, and I find Python to be nicer than PHP by enough to be worthwhile. I wouldn't use Javascript because it's awful, but if a small, immature framework suits your needs I wouldn't avoid it just because it's small/immature. Either your app won't be terribly important, or it will be; in either case you're sorted.

If you want to ever have a safe upgrade path that doesn't involve months of testing then you absolutely need a type system, IMO. The only framework I've felt completely safe doing major upgrades on is Wicket - which, not coincidentally, is the only framework I've ever known to make extensive use of final classes and final methods (Java), to enforce that it's only possible to use it in supported ways.

Angular SPA applications ALWAYS seem really buggy for me. Freezes, and spinners that never go away and you have to refresh etc

Maybe I just have bad luck.

Javascript SPA applications get less respect from business owners than they deserve.

People see JS and throw their JQuery & some CSS developers at it. Or they use their backend PHP devs who've never written code that runs for longer than one request.

Either way you end up with code written by people who don't understand some of the fundamentals of UI programming.

Angular gets the worst of it because it's the most popular framework. It's exacerbated by the fact that Angular doesn't offer suggestions for a lot of common problems.

Angular is probably the bees knees if you are a Google employee but it makes little sense for anyone outside to bet the farm on it.

I live and breathe Angular SPA applications -- the vast majority of developers that work with it cannot comprehend a well-designed and usable Angular application.

Proper error handling, sane state management, and keeping the codepaths short and easily grok'd is very difficult with Angular -- especially for larger applications. This results in blackholes where users find themselves in strange spots that are inescapable other than a full page refresh.

These are either developers dipping their toe into the front end after living in the back end of things their whole career, jQuery dudes hastily breaking into SPA development to stay afloat in an environment the submitted article exactly mentions, or simply lazy developers that couldn't be bothered due to tight deadlines/budget/whatever.

Angular is popular enough that someone who could distill a reasonable set of concepts and practices for working with it could probably reap some significant rewards in the education/training marketplace.

But if proper error handling, sane state management, and keeping codepaths short are actually "very difficult with Angular," maybe it's not the comprehension powers of the developers using it that are falling short.

A framework should be actively making those things easy.

That is correct, Angular leaves a lot to be desired. The tooling is just not there and the developer is usually left to do due diligence on their own.

React/JSX and TypeScript are a response to this and it's fair bit more pleasant when either of them are involved.

I'd say it tells more about Angular than about developers.

Exactly. Server-side rendering is incredibly fast with modern browsers which makes a bunch of SPA sites completely infuriating. There are a few things that make sense like little button actions using AJAX but most of the page should just stay as a normal HTTP HTML request.

Or maybe you should not use IE5 for Mac to Dev in. Haha

Leave a Drupal project idle and unmaintained for a year, and a new, non-backwards-compatible Druoal version has been released and you'll need to rewrite everything.


I don't have experience with Drupal, but it says "plan for periodic upgrades of their project to the latest major release (every 6 years or so)". So, even if a new release comes out, you have _literally several years_ to decide when to make a switch. For perspective, Backbone.js was released 5 years ago!

But the "old" major version will still be supported for a very long time frame. In the case of D6, it was supported over five years after the release of D7.

And this is not a theoretical: I've made a lot of money having to fix exactly that. Not very fun work, but definitely paid the bills.

Just coming here to give Backbone.js some credit. It is one of the most mature of the frontend frameworks, because it does almost nothing. It's what I'd call feature complete, its core probably will not change or grow much from here (in a good way). jQuery and Underscore back it, which also aren't changing or going anywhere. And as another commenter point out, it's 5 years old already, still in production all over the place.

What do you suppose you should do when people start demanding interactive features and capabilities that can only be done client side? For a lot of us the alternative of doing things on the server is a significantly worse UX.

> What do you suppose you should do when people start demanding interactive features and capabilities that can only be done client side

You are free to use jQuery in your theme (aka frontend code), or D3 for visualization, or any other JS stuff you may need. On a private project, I'm using a current jQuery, D3, and SCSS and it works quite fine for me.

The only thing in D7 that can be a major PITA is proper multi-language support, because it's a bit sparsely documented.

I agree 100%. What this also means is that, because of these micro-domain specializations, unless a founder has either a lot of time or a lot of money, what they end up building is (usually, if the market opportunity is in the multi-billions) an advanced functional prototype wealthier companies can look at as bellwether to judge the scalable profitability they could generate through acquisition. There's still enormous space for web-based SMBs, but that's not what most people think of when they think "startup."

Pardon my ignorance. What's an SMB?

Super Mario Brothers

Small/Medium Business, usually.

Small/Medium Business

A Samba mount.

Funny to see this downvoted on "hacker news". I think this site is long over due for a title change.

So Many Bloated (apps)

For small companies it is simple enough these days to have someone install WordPress, buy a theme that looks pretty good for $18 USD and you're good to go.

It might be a buggy insecure platform, but for non-tech savvy users it's brilliant. It doesn't make financial sense anymore to develop custom themes and designs from scratch. Large corps with their own branding is a different kettle of fish, but have fun trying to get on their preferred supplier list when you are a four person design agency.

Developing a one off, responsive, standards compliant website, that lookd good too, is expensive and clients don't want to pay for it.

Mid-sized companies too.

We have a large content team and use WordPress across our company (several dozen websites) because it gets the job done for that content team. Our sites are ultimately just landing pages for ads and feed into our sales team as leads.

With our small 3-4 person devteam, we make our own themes and build into our WordPress sites all of the features that you'd want to host a site that's just content and a pipeline into our CRM (lots of handrolled plugins, custom functionality). We use modern ops practices (shoutouts to Pantheon for being a forward-looking PHP host) and write great code on a platform that's honestly not used to it. Some of the most interesting work that I've ever done.

As our team grows and our tools get more robust, we may explore using Wordpress to generate static pages for better performance. We also use other tools (Laravel, Rails, Node) when it makes sense to. Seriously though with good ops practices and developers who aren't lazy running the show, Wordpress can be a fantastic platform. This is absolutely some of the most interesting work that I've ever done.

WordPress runs 1/4 of the internet and not because 1/4 of the internet is cheap (though WordPress and PHP in general have fit that niche for a long time) - it's because training content authors to use custom/other tools costs money.

I work in a small city in Maryland, so I'm not very concerned or familiar with the going ons in major cities. But for us at least, we've seen that when the companies go for the $18 WP theme, they usually come to us when they hit a point where they can't figure out how to expand the site and have us either step in or start over. Same with all of those shitty "build your own site" services. People will inevitably get frustrated with the limitations and want more, and that's when we step in. But then again, we don't have any shortage of people who want a fully custom/responsive website built from the ground up. And there's also a real sense of community here where a lot of small business owners would rather pay a local company to do it than pay out the ass for someone in DC/Baltimore to do it or deal with a faceless online service like Squarspace.

Some 'pure' design jobs may be drying up but there is plenty of work in the front-end developer space. When work becomes thin designers should focus on Sharpening their JS skills and they will find plenty of work.

When someone is bemoaning the lack of work available I suspect the real problem is their inflexibility or technical stagnation. This is especially apparent when a novice roped in from the mail room can out-compete them and eat their lunch. The problem is the designer's skillset, not the industry trend.

The following anecdote is from my perspective as a Sr. Programmer. I've worked with many great designers over the last 10 years and this is an example of my worst experience working with a 'pure' one.

About 4 years ago I once worked with a designer who refused to break up a 60 meg psd file into separate elements I could use for buttons/background etc. I don't even have Photoshop. Her argument was she didn't know which layers/elements should be separated. She gave this to me the day before I had to have the site in prod. So I fired up gimp saw that it had 500 layers and just exported it to a jpg and used javascript imagemaps for the buttons just to get it out in time. This is after a week of work on another site they changed their mind on. I ultimately didn't get paid for any of my work and it was the last time I freelanced.

Primadonnas who do not put in any effort into learning basic technical skills to maximize their effectiveness can take a hike.

I've worked with great designers who were excited about the technical aspects of their craft. They understood that knowing what's possible makes them a better designer. Even when their graphic design degree did not provide them with any CSS training they quickly adapted because nobody has time to pass something back and forth moving elements around a few pixels at a time. I've seen more than one end up as great front end programmers and UX/UI designers. Even the ones who never quite got JS but embraced CSS were a great resource to have and made our sites look great. These are the kinds of people who make projects fun.

If jobs for people who consider CSS "beneath them" are drying up I say good riddance. Nobody has time for the overhead entailed from having programmers move elements around back and forth a few pixels at a time to please the designer who can't be bothered to learn valuable skills of their own trade.

The rule in technology has always been "Adapt or Perish" nobody bemoans the loss of COBOL jobs today for the same reasons people don't know what a "Printer's devil" is.

Nowhere in that article was there any indication that the web designers were people who considered CSS "beneath them". 4 years ago you had a bad experience and now you are projecting it onto an article that is only related due to the use of one word, "designer".

The article was about a move to in-house design instead of agency/freelancer work.

I clarified my comment a bit. The type of designer from my anecdote is becoming less and less common while simultaneously there is far more front end work available and designers who are willing to step up to the task.

So when someone is bemoaning the lack of work available I suspect the real problem is their inflexibility or technical stagnation. This is especially apparent when a novice roped in from the mail room can out-compete them and eat their lunch. The problem is the designer's skillset, not the industry trend.

Agree with your gist completely. I’ve worked in the agency world, and there’s loads of “designers” out there who come primarily from a print background and only have a vague clue how the web medium actually functions. They often try to do something unique or interesting, but the result ends up just being weird or not at all best-practice. (“Lets put the menus on the bottom of the page. Eureka!”) Plus, the client ends up with a website that was designed to be printed out on 8.5x11 sheets of paper. I’m sure a lot of companies have gone through this experience and decided it was a massive ripoff compared to buying a $15 wordpress template and hiring a freelancer to update the content.

Of course, I’ve worked with many incredible web designers as well, and it’s definitely worth it for major brands to have a good design team. But that whole middle-lower-end market is probably just disappearing.

That is definitely the most aggravating thing from both a user and developer perspective. Naive people pushing kitschy ideas caused us to have 100% flash, unlinkable and unindexable websites for quite a while and didn't really get eliminated until mobile killed flash and HTML5 CSS and JS caught up to all the glitzy crap.

And we still see people trying to 'fix' the expected behavior of things like the scrollbar. Stuff like that is a huge waste of time on something that actually hurts the user experience and almost always breaks mobile or cross browser compatibility.

Many of these people have the wrong goal entirely because they think visually standing out is the most important thing. In print that makes sense, because you're trying to capture their attention while they desperately try to ignore your advertisement. On a website you already have their attention because they came to your website. And here's the Key, they came to your website to accomplish something, the designer ought to be trying to help the user reach that goal as effortlessly as possible. It's a bad idea for login links and fields to be anywhere but the top right. You put the cash registers near the exit of your store, Hiding them is a bad idea. Other funny analogies:

Why put those boring gender signs on the bathrooms doesn't everyone do that? It clutters up the doors and doesn't fit with our minimalist design language. Also, if we do that then they won't look like any of the other doors in our store.

We want our customers to feel like they can share everything with us so we removed all the bathroom doors and partitions between toilets. It'll even save you material costs!

Wheelchair access ramps are ugly, we don't need them.

I think an escalator should speed up and slow down depending on how fast someone is walking up. (scrollbar overrides)

I think having signs that announce the products in a particular isle makes the store too cluttered and busy, If we make them wander around aimlessly for the product they are looking for they will see more of our store and end up buying things they otherwise wouldn't have.

Just to clarify, I think standing out is great but not when it comes at the cost of usability.

>A lot of the design problems have been solved already

This is partly true. Design problems have been solved for isolated cases. You still require designers to choose the right combination of solutions that work for particular use cases. And in my experience, all too often those "solutions" start conflicting with each other, resulting in new design problems!

Commoditization is definitely happening in design, but the design problems are not going away anytime soon.

Disclaimer/plug: I work on Squarespace design templates - http://www.square-mart.com

I just realised that all design markets behave in the same way: with maturity they shrink and most designers on that market _must_ adapt to survive.

E.g. on a mature architectural design market, the need for design projects of small scale buildings almost vanishes. It's common that the design project is offered by developers trying to get the building contract. Only on large scale buildings still persiat the need for specialist design. In web design the same trends seem to apply:

designers -> builders

generalists -> specialists

> I think there's a fundamental shift

Yes, there's a shift. But could it also be that, at the same time, work is also drying up? You speak of frameworks. Until recently we needed engineers to build the functionality of those frameworks; these engineers are not needed there anymore, but is there sufficient work left elsewhere? That is the important question, imho.

Did the need for programmers dry up when off the shelf operating systems became mainstream, or when most of us started writing in higher level languages instead of assembly?

Software just get more complex and expands in scope when we can build on top of new abstractions.

Indeed, it seems software is getting more and more specialized, with more and more programmers needed in smaller and smaller areas. I know a guy who makes a good living programming specialized mining tools. I didn't even know such a profession existed before meeting him.

Perhaps he meant data-mining? :)

What kind of mining? For data, cryptocurrency, or ore?

Keeping up with the frameworks is a full time job! Smart engineers don't bother. Find one you like and milk it for 5 years at least.

Milk the framework or the engineer?


I don't think the work is drying up, but shifting to a higher level. The common problems are solved. Ten years ago we didn't use frameworks and development was slower and took more time. Frameworks represent the repetitive parts of development that are common to many applications. I am sure database technology was a similar shift before that. The same people building the parts that frameworks do are now building on top of the frameworks and building more functionality for less effort.

This is addressed on a larger scale by


Engineer salaries keep rising. I think there's still plenty of demand from engineers - after all, you need an engineer to use a framework. More generally, when the price of a commodity drops, that often means the total gross sales of that commodity increase - greater demand more than makes up for the smaller unit price.

Pretty much spot on. The flip side of this is that web interfaces (and mobile) are squarely in the mainstream (shocker :P) which is good to know if you're a software engineer. The biggest indicator of this is mentioned in the article. Companies internalizing web design.

I think there's plenty of work left in UI/UX but the "balance of power" with regards to base design has shifted towards software developers. I'm not very good at designing things and not too long ago I was almost ready to give up before getting started because I knew stuff would look ugly and I'd need a designer (wasn't easy to find good ones easily). These days you use bootstrap and a plethora of other tools and get pretty good results and then you can hire a designer to polish.

> A lot of the design problems have been solved already. Questions such ... how to design forms effectively, what makes a good call-to-action

That's what I thought too until I tried to get the homepage of a web site designed. I'm using a popular "run a design contest" site with a higher bracket prize to try to attract good designers. Unfortunately, some of the crap the designers are turning in should be embarrassing for anyone calling themselves a designer :-(

re " A lot of the design problems have been solved already. Questions such as when modals are appropriate, how to design forms effectively, what makes a good call-to-action, and how to structure IA effectively have been answered."

Do you have a book / resource / something where this information is distilled?

"Questions such as when modals are appropriate"

Can you point me to a document for this?

Thank you.

Perhaps start here:


Then ux.stackexchange.com will undoubtedly have some useful pointers as well....

Although some tailored google searches will also help.

Back in my UX-only days, I used NN Group a lot in supplementing my own A/B testing - it was a bittersweet relationship, as they provide a suite of analytics-based trackers on many of the websites I visit.

Read "The Humane Interface". The short answer is, almost never. Try to avoid them.

I am so glad to see someone write this. I've worked with too many designers who stack modals onto modals.

Agree. I figured the person asking the question was being amusing.

Here's one of many examples I found on the first page of Google.


This is the correct answer.

One of the problems here is that the author is using his/her experience at "conferences" and stories from former "big business" employees to judge the volume of available work.

Not only is that evidence anecdotal, but also comes from a very specific/narrow audience. I'm not going to say "conference goers" are inferior or bad at their jobs, just that there's a whole lot of web designers and developers who never attend conferences and therefore aren't included in his polling. There's also a lot of us (myself included) doing a lot of web design work for small businesses too small to hire in house. Even when our clients hire someone in-house to handle the web, it results in more work for us.

I'm not just using my evidence of anecdotal "conference goers" I have 6 months worth of email to back it up as well. Non-conference goers. People who are just trying to make a living and wondering why they can't.

They can't make a living because Wix, Squarespace, Facebook pages, and Amazon shops are now considered "good enough" by most of the middle market (small and medium businesses), so there is not much need now for custom work in that segment.

This was not the case even 5 years ago. The tools are now out there to make a reasonable-looking website with minimal training or experience. Sure, it looks very much like the other sites made with that tool, but (apparently) most businesses don't care.

Custom web dev will continue to exist only at the low and high ends -- hobbyist websites made by people who enjoy the process, and a few large, complex specialist sites.

> This was not the case even 5 years ago.

People were saying exactly the same thing in relation to FrontPage 20 years ago. After that it was Dreamweaver. WordPress. Wix. etc.

The tools for people to go off and do it themselves have been with us for a very long time, and they've only ever squeezed out the very bottom of the market. The types of organisations that DIY appeals to aren't in the market and don't have the budget for an average developer, and the organisations that spend money on developers wouldn't consider DIY.

But the tools, and the marketing of those tools, have vastly improved in the last ~5 years. Or are you telling me dreamweaver's wysiwyg editor was the pinnacle of development..

Yes, the tools have vastly improved over the past five years – but the whole industry has. The tools a freelancer uses have improved dramatically as well. What a freelancer can achieve in a given amount of time has improved dramatically too. And clients' expectations are growing correspondingly.

The whole industry is moving forward. The bottom of the freelance market 20 years ago was plain static pages and that's what FrontPage competed with. The bottom of the freelance market now is a content-managed dynamic site and that's what Facebook pages compete with.

You just made my point. Not all freelancers choose to improve their tool-set. Therefore they fall behind where, like you said, the whole industry moves forward.

If all you are arguing is that people who don't make any effort to improve their work will struggle to keep up with the rest of the industry, then yes, I agree with that. But that doesn't seem to have been your point until now.

Fair point, I probably jumped the gun with that statement.

I think the fact that we are posting this on a thread about how freelance web designers have had increasing difficulty finding work over the past few years is evidence to the contrary. It's no longer just the very bottom of the market that uses these tools. They're now mainstream and have captured the mid-market.

> It's no longer just the very bottom of the market that uses these tools. They're now mainstream and have captured the mid-market.

I don't see this. Take a look at the Wix testimonials, for instance: http://www.wix.com/stories/ – they are individuals and tiny businesses, not the mid-market.

I think what has changed is that now there is less work, not that there is none, what the article was trying to point out, and what I'm seeing in all these comments if you read through the lines is that a lot of the work has been moved in house.

Previously you contracted a freelancer to put together your website piece by piece, now, thanks to improvements to the tools available you contract a freelancer to customise a cms for you. You then hire a marketer to manage it going forward.

The work is still there, it's just the freelance work has dried up because you no longer need them to put copy on the site.

Right, no-one cares that the website of the plumber in your town looks the same as that of the plumber in the next town, because those guys aren't competing with each other.

I'd go even further. No one cares about the website of the plumber. Full stop. People find the plumber on Yelp!, Google Places, Facebook and other business profile pages around the web. None of those require any design work to bring in business.

There's still a disconnect on the part of some small business owners...they think that their website is important. But a lot of them are realizing that nearly all of their inbound leads are coming from other sources and that the website is just an expense that isn't really necessary.

Just for a counterpoint, about a year ago I did a landing page and accompanying marketing campaign for a friend of mine who runs a small landscaping business in Pittsburgh. With Squarespace and a couple days spent on a branding strategy, his site was head and shoulders above any competitor.

After a small investment on his part in advertising, we were generating many more leads than he could handle at a very good ROI--seemingly because the nice site was doing a good job differentiating him. So at least in his case, having a decent website did bring a real competitive advantage.

FWIW, my observation came from working on a scheduling product used by ~40k small businesses. I think what you've noticed is just how successful advertising can be. We've seen clients have similar success with Facebook and Yelp! ad campaigns, all without a homepage. One customer got over 30 new customers (expected LTV of over $1k per customer) in one month of Yelp! spend.

Exactly, web design agencies should pivot or include (and heavily promote) ad management.

I got to see the numbers of a mid-sized web design agency, and they were really an ad agency, but they didn't realize it (and didn't market accordingly).

Frankly, because "web designer" is, more or less, an obsolete profession.[1]

The web is substantially more complex than it was even a decade ago. There are way more apps, platforms, and experiences to develop for—more and more companies have their very existence tied directly to their digital technology investments.

For those companies, there is no reason to hire a "web designer" (understood as someone who knows design and a bit of programming). They hire UI/UX designers and developers.

On the flip side, for businesses where technology is not fundamental to the competitive advantage the tools have become commoditized. A decade ago, they might have hired a "web designer" to build out a basic WordPress site. Now they can just use Squarespace.

If you can actually do web development, there's more work than there has ever been. Software has just eaten the middle out.

[1] No offense. I've made plenty of money doing web design work in the past.

That maybe true but those who have work won't be emailing asking for help. You are still only sampling a skewed group.

We use freelancers a lot to supliment our inhouse skillset which I think is the industry standard

Totally industry standard. I've been one of such freelancers in the past. If we were going to boil this down to a scientific dip sample, then yes - I'm sampling a skewed group. Since we don't have any means of doing this, I'm simply writing about my experience of what I'm hearing across, what I would consider, a broad spectrum of our industry. Judging by my inbox of relieved freelancers/industry professionals today, my post is resonating with a whole subset of people who have been quietly suffering thinking there is something wrong with what they're doing/their work; when it's how the industry does business now, that's changed.

What I'm seeing in mobile developer meetups is a shift toward freelancing. Basically, web development is shifting from freelancers towards tools & in-house maintenance programmers. Mobile development is shifting from startup founders to freelancers. The startup scene is shifting from mobile to IoT (hardware), VR, and wearables.

In other words, the technology cycle is coming around again. We went through the same thing in the early 2000s, as it became nearly impossible to get a non-maintenance job as a desktop software developer and the web freelance market took off (just on the heels of the dot-com bubble bursting). Also, just as the shift in web-development from well-funded dot-coms to individual freelancers and small startups led to the "Web 2.0" renaissance, we might see a "Mobile 2.0" renaissance with a new generation of technologies (Swift, MBaaS, Dagger, RxJava/RxCocoa) that changes how we do mobile development.

(I'm not sure we'll see a "Web 3.0" renaissance - "Desktop 1.0" was the PC, CP/M, MS-DOS, Apple Basic, etc., and "Desktop 2.0" was Macintosh and Win32 development, but what was supposed to be "Desktop 3.0" - OS X, desktop Linux, and .NET on the client - remained fairly niche specialties. I wonder if React/Polymer will go the same way.)

I don't think anyone is questioning whether your work resonates with a whole subset of people; I think we're questioning whether conferences and a full inbox are all the evidence we need to accept broad pronouncements about the state of an industry.

> I'm simply writing about my experience of what I'm hearing ...

That is the definition of "anecdotal."

Unless she's heard from 384+ people

It's still anecdotal, unless those 384 people were chosen in a statistically rigorous way from the total population.

The number of people that are sending emails asking the author for work is increasing. This could be because more people are working in the industry - but I'd guess that this has been factored in.

The second point backing this up was the reduced number of conferences. Assuming there were more people who have work then there should be more conferences - even if there were more people out of work.

Its not just web designers. Its SEO, custom database, email marketing and other areas related to SME websites. Website content have become more complex and expensive at a time when the western economies are taking a hit. You did not mention the low ball outsourcing which is significant also.

I have the same experience with small businesses, especially since I've given up on fighting bad design decisions by the client. I will tell them why I wouldn't do it this way, but the choice is ultimately theirs.

A whole bunch of 'real' designers work for their portfolio, not the client. I just work hard to make and keep them happy and solve their problems with the least amount of friction. Happy clients have resulted in more referrals.

I have been (forced against my better judgement) to attend a total of 4 conferences in my whole career ... and been politely asked to leave during 3 of them

In all cases, my questions were perfectly valid and reasonable, but this was at a time when "linux" was considered some sort of nutjob conspiracy theory that would go away if ignored.

I think that the total amount of unemployment I have had over all those years adds up to about 2 weeks total ... plus the additional inconvenience of spending about 4 months total in court. (which I managed to successfully bill for, so I suppose that doesnt count.)

The various CIOs, CEOs and other "Eye Tee" experts that I met at these conferences - Hopefully - are no longer involved in the tech industry.

Just sayin ...

Yea, anecdotally there is more work than ever, especially now that everyone is online, and the selling everyone on "the internet" is from what I can tell is over.

No shit. Bottom-tier design work was necessary when the default templates for everything were crap and people were ignorant of the technology.

Also, a lot of "designers" and "design agencies" can't code HTML worth crap and the value they provided was minimal.

To me, a good independent designer codes, knows quirks, and also has the eye for design. If you're a larger company and you want the specialists, it's just better to hire them. And if you don't understand the importance of design, there's an unlimited amount of cheap, quality templates out there.

The trivial work for Photoshoppers with a design degree is up.

I'd add one more thing - if you look at it closer, web designers never tried or managed to be properly original and diverse. There was always some sort of "magical guidelines" that made everything look in essence the same. Everyone was/is copying everyone else and getting paid for it. I think this has to end sooner or later and template popularity is one of the signs that real value of things is being better recognized.

> Everyone was/is copying everyone else and getting paid for it.

Isn't that just a mixture of technical limitations and fashion.

Technical, financial, organisational, etc. yes, but almost the whole point of creativity is being able to come up with something original, new. If you don't you don't get paid or in this case you don't get paid for long. That's just how things work. I personally find it very sad, that a huge amount of (willing!!!) copy cats call them selves creatives and then somebody calls the whole misguided charade fashion.

edit: just in case - I hope this doesn't offend you, somebody=everybody, I didn't mean anything personal

I think you're underestimating how many creative projects done for clients are very much led by something they've seen before. "Make it like the Tesla site. I love the Tesla site!" At some budget ranges, it's not worth the time to fight that.

And beyond fashion, user expectations are a massive influence. People are wary of right-side navigation, designers know that top-left is the common spot for branding for a reason, etc. There are very practical usability and design reasons that things get pushed down a fixed number of creative paths.

As I've said, there are legit reasons, but my point was that they are being abused too often and this will have consequences.

I personally don't buy this argument. It's the same argument that a writing code in a higher level language. Once we have this HLL we don't need as many programmers because the language does all the heavy lifting. But what we've seen is a shift into different kinds of work. People adapt and get different skills.

But coder output is definitely higher now than ten years ago. And a lot of the work that's out there is of a much lower level of complexity, so the experts now are either working on things which need the requisite knowledge or working in places where their productivity is correctly compensated.

The thing is that a few years ago people were willing to pay designers to make Photoshop templates and that's it. Nowadays this simply won't do, so the work is moving up in complexity and the bottom tier is being handled by people with no specific training.

Finally, just because the work has shifted one way in coding jobs doesn't mean it will work that way in design. It is quite possible that the intermediate knowledge gap being created by better tools and more complex work just won't require people in that area, so we'll have both more experts and more newbies.

I find this fascinating actually. Just the other day I ended up talking about this with my lawyer. I met with him for a consult on some LLC/Corp setup and mentioned how I had originally ended up on LegalZoom before contacting him. I said something to the effect of "You must hate them".

He thought about it for a minute and then said how he honestly didn't think about them much at all. It was a completely different industry as far as he was concerned. He was in the business of offering problems to solutions whereas LegalZoom was offering a product.

Whether you agree with that or not (I'm not qualified enough to make that distinction in the legal field), it really resonated with me. If you were to ask me if - as a freelance developer - I hated Wix or Squarespace, my response would be that I honestly don't think about them much at all. I'm actually largely ambivalent about them. I freelance full time and I've never been busier than I am right now. I would chalk some of that up to dumb luck, most of that up to good referrals, but at least a portion of that up to the fact that I don't provide a product for a client. I (try) to provide solutions to their business problems.

He was in the business of offering problems to solutions

Yup, sounds like some lawyers I talk to.

I love Wix and Squarespace. They're perfect for the super-cheap clients that usually end up sucking up far more attention than their bill would imply. Now we send those types of clients to Squarespace, and focus on a smaller group of much higher value clients. No more churn and burn.

Thanks for sharing your lawyer analogy -- I think it's instructive.

There are many freelance-style industries out there, and several must have gone through similar boom/bust periods. It would be instructive to learn from them.

Your last sentence is also very wise: good referrals and providing solutions are the keys to success. Interestingly, they're also two major factors in the sales process.

Am I missing something? My employer is having a hard time filling a single developer position. We have 100 million people within a 10 hour drive and we've posted to HN and SO. We're not an elite startup paying tons of money with stock options, but if there is no work like the author says, it shouldn't be that hard. I have recruiters messaging me about jobs thousands of miles away. I talk to other developers in the area and they confirm the same problem.

I like the audio feature here by the way, I can listen while working, pretty awesome.

Startups have a hard time hiring because they'll only hire ~28 year old white/Asian males with a carefully selected group of 20 resume buzzwords, that can code on a whiteboard with a gun to their head. Not surprisingly that niche is tapped.

Too old for OP. I looked at OP's posts and did some google work and if its the job in what amounts to west Toledo OH, they'll only hire new grads between the precise ages of 23 and 25. 28 would be far too old. Its weird because plenty of people between the ages of 22 and 67 would be capable of doing the job, but OP is only interested in 1/20th the age range. Perhaps that's why they get no bites. My resume would be auto-tossed for ageism reasons unless I filled it with lies, probably not the best way to start a relationship LOL. Presumably the extremely narrow acceptable age range implies you'll be fired in two years and now here you are 25 years old in western Toledo, wondering what to do for the next 50+ years.

I live six hours away and they won't remote, or pay relo. Doesn't matter if 100M people live within 10 hours... I'm not spending 20+ hrs/dy on a commute and the greater Toledo metro area is only half a million or so people.

The laundry list strategy for devops isn't going to work unless there's blind luck due to over 25M people in commute range like NYC. "can learn to do mostly anything quickly", that's me, no need to itemize down to "can lick envelopes to seal them" "can plug in AC power cords". I'm sure next month when the new flavor of the month is released I'll figure it out and use it, just like I've done for decades, and just like you'll expect your employees to master OTJ.

Wow, I don't even know how to respond to so many blatantly false statements. What did I do to tick you off? There certainly is no elitism or ageism with our hiring process, we've had few bites. Your notes on relo and remote I think are objectively valid and I have little influence to change that. It's entirely possible that our offer is not up to current market trends and that's worth objectively considering, your statements about ageism however, are not. I'm sorry if you've been burned by other companies due to age but that's simply not what we do, we hire plenty of talent across the age board.

I don't know VLM's problem, but I wrote to the startup industry in general. Picking on any particular company is somewhat unfair. It looks like you're at a slightly larger Co in OH, not really a tech hub. I suspect your hiring is a bit more inclusive there by necessity.


It looks like they're doing OK, there are number of seemingly 40 year olds, a good sign, only one obvious 50+ year old though, the CEO. I see only one black person, and believe they are a higher percentage of the population out east. There's likely a lack of female programmers, but I'm too lazy to count them up from the list.

shrug, as I mentioned an industry-wide problem, don't take it personally.

P.S. I forgot about the beards! Preferred Qualifications: BEARD, hehe.

First of all sorry for my way too late apology. Based on the most reasonable way I can interpret your response, I think the situation is I (incorrectly) thought I found your unspecified job posting, and that posting which is apparently not yours, had a strict age requirement. My search result was made in good faith, certainly not an intentional error. Although ageism is in general an industry wide problem, worthy of theoretical discussion, even if it doesn't involve you, etc. Likewise my comments about someone else's devops job posting that I found, likely made no sense at all if that's not your posting. Best of luck to you in the future, etc etc.

Thanks for that. We certainly do not have an age requirement for the job. Not sure what job you found but I'm pretty sure age requirements are largely illegal in the U.S.

Oddly enough, working at a startup is pretty similar to coding on a whiteboard with a gun to your head :)

I'll take the gun please.

Dibs on the whiteboard!

sigh you are not wrong, my friend

I love it how every year the "age at which a startup will hire" increases by one year.

They must've put something in the water in 1987, because those '88 children "took our jobs" ten years in a row.

Or maybe you're just rehashing buzzwords, too. One of the two.

Sorry you'll have to be more clear.

And while getting a blowjob from Halle Berry?

i guess no one here saw Swordfish...

Or they did, and are pointing out your mistake. It wasn't Berry in the interview scene.

Yes well I did take liberties and perform a remix.

I have. Your remark is probably a little flippant for it to survive here (not necessarily a bad thing), but I enjoyed the reference. That scene always sticks in my head and makes me laugh — it’s great drama but so blatantly wrong in its portrayal of how hacking works (of course).

Yes, I did think of that scene but didn't mention it. Would argue however it wasn't great drama at all, though the movie was so bad it was good. Wasn't the guy named Torvalds, kkkkk?

Good news, someone fixed the scene:


The author means design work specifically.

Ok, we changed the title from "work has dried up" to "web design work is drying up". If someone can suggest a better (more accurate and neutral) description of the article, we can change this.

"demand for traditional web design is decreasing"? There is still plenty of demand for design work, but its moved to user interface and experience design. The change is mostly trivial but it reflects a more mature mind set when it comes to user acquisition and retention.

But I suppose scaring people into thinking they're losing their jobs will get more eyeballs.

Regarding audio, I agree and think this is an awesome way to make content more accessible/ARIA-friendly. You can't reasonably expect every page on the web to have a spoken version, but if I maintained a blog I'd be willing to narrate my posts. Screen readers can fill in the gaps elsewhere.

If you're having a hard time filling a position then you're not incentivizing people enough for it.

I'm generalizing from a personal experience here, but usually if you're asking for a certain skill-set and not getting anyone for it, then the compensation is probably off.

+1000. It’s not like developers are licensed and only so many exist. The reality is you can’t find someone with the experience and talent you would like, who is interested in your company, team, product, location, and compensation. Tough to change some of these, but upping the compensation or lowering your standards are fairly easy. Crying shortage in an unlicensed profession is getting really annoying. You either don’t have the resources to compete at the level you’d like or you are talking your book trying to drive down wages in a bid for more government subsidized training or increased immigration. While I agree with more CS/tech in schools and robust immigration policies (I feel they both work to make a country stronger), some people in SV/VC land definitely have ulterior motives and a stake in the game when talking about shortages and policies to address them.

> I like the audio feature here by the way, I can listen while working, pretty awesome.

Yeah, great idea! I might start doing this myself for my own blog.

Out of interest, were you looking for a freelancer to join the team, or to hire a permanent. The message form the article that I gather is that companies are hiring more in house, and freelancers are getting left behind.

From my own experience, I have been responsible for hiring an in house permanent team of front end web developers and back end web developers. The funny part is, I'm a freelancer on contract managing this team of in house 'web designers'.

As for the audio, I completely agree. It made the whole article feel much more personal, engaging and easy to consume.

The audio feature is great - for a low volume blog, it's a fantastic idea.

That said, I wish she would have improved and processed the recording a little further. Noise reduction, a basic compressor and gate would have gone a long way towards making it sound a little more professional. Still, very nice feature.

I followed the link to the article to read it.

And then I did what I usually do these days: I hit the "Reader Mode" icon on my Firefox (Android) browser. I do the same for most desktop sites as well.


Font too small. Contrast too low. Line lengths too long.

I get a better, and far more importantly, uniform experience when I bin all Web design and go with a built-in default page presentation mode.

Oh, and that on a Web designer's own blog.

Where, I presume, she doesn't have the problem of getting idiotic client requests which violate numerous sane design concepts.

I've been saying this for some years now: Web design isn't the solution, Web design is the problem.

It's going to be solved, is being solved, in the browser, by:

1. Stripping out extraneous crud. I haven't mentioned my all-but-blind friend's difficulties in navigating anything on a computer, but extraneous crud and Shit That Randomly Changes (even the Firefox card previews on his browser start page) are huge hurdles.

2. Uniform presentation.

3. Metadata.

4. Curation.

There was a post on HN recently about ePub. Quite frankly, an ePub based browsing / curation tool with uniform, sane, presentation would replace about 99.99964% of my Web browsing needs. There are a small number of missing factors from HTML, largely footnotes, equations support, and hierarchical comments/follow-ups. But add those and we can ditch the entire current mess for 1) ePub articles and 2) Web-deployed apps for the very small handful of sites which honestly need them.

#575757 text on a 'white' background, font-size 17px... "Reader Mode" is great, but hardly a requirement in this case.

I find #333 problematic -- it seems fuzzy usually, though #330 typically isn't. Hard to beat #000/#fff.

Pixels vary tremendously in size. Other than as a compatibility mode, I'd ditch them entirely. html { font-size: medium; } will give the user their default choices, which works quite well for those who know what they're doing, and can be trivially fixed by those who don't.

A basic style that's foundation for much of what I do: http://codepen.io/dredmorbius/pen/KpMqqB

On that note, why don't our browsers render Markdown natively? Without extension. Just pick a markdown renderer and say 'screw you' to everyone else.

I would serve up all of my static content as Markdown _tomorrow_ if that happened.

Well, there's a markup language aimed at hypertext documents, oddly enough. It's called hyper text markup language....

Markdown is a good start at an authoring lanaguage, and it's lightweight. It's not complete of itself, though. I'd actually lean strongly toward LaTeX.

What ePub does is to take HTML and reduce it to a decent set. Ultimately, I think that it, or some alternate set of basic document templates are pretty much what we want:

1. Index / landing page. Essentially a directory.

2. Article page.

3. Gallery page. A set of thumbnails or other items displayed, many to a page (10, 25, 100, 1,000, ...).

4. Discussion. That's ye olde threaded / flat set of comments on some topic, with or without an article.

Possibly a few other bits. Anyone who's worked with a reasonably robust CMS (Wordpress, Drupal, Mediawiki, etc.) probably has a pretty good sense of what these might be.

The real challenge is that there's nobody to whack you upside the head for posting utterly gobshite HTML on your own site. This is a place where, as much as I dislike major search engines laying down the law, I'd like them to do so. Strongly encourage well-formed Web sites and pages, and, especially, to provide a bonus for high-reputation authorship, which would require both metadata (author field) and if possible, support for signing major payload (textual content, individual images or multimedia if possible).

Perhaps a few other bits....

I mostly agree about HTML but it gives people too much rope to hang themselves.

Like you pointed out, it's also too easy to write bad HTML. Not so much with Markdown.

Also: bare-ass raw HTML5 is actually really, really good. It does a nice job of providing structural definition, and I strongly recommend Mark Pilgrim's Dive Into HTML5 as both a guide and demonstration (in its Web incarnation) of that ability.

It still lacks a few things, which both hNews and ePub could extend, and a few other bits.

1. Metadata. Authorship, publication date, title, and some sort of content valididty really need to be a thing. hNews and ePub both go there.

2. Notes. I don't care how they're presented, but sidenotes, footnotes, endnotes, need to be integral to HTML. I've gussied up some solutions myself, they kinda-sorta work. I'm not entirely thrilled. These should be entirely browser-native and not require JS.

3. Some sort of hierarchical discussion. Comments, etc. Essentially a marriage of the browser and the Mutt or tin/rtin newsreaders. With filtering and other capacities.

4. Reputation management. Entirely local, or distributed. Good and bad authorship, as with elections, should have consequences.

5. Curation. Why this is lacking from current generations of Browser I don't know.

Add to this an in-browser set of styles which can be applied to the document templates mentioned above, and we're getting somewhere.

People will write shitty websites in straight-up 8-bit ASCII.

If there's not some external authority running herd, they'll just do stupid stuff.

All body text in bold. Or <h4>. Every last goddamned paragraph explicitly positioned. Yes. For real, some guy who writes interesting atmospheric physics stuff in ... Colorado or Utah. The colour choices. The animations. The autoplay audio / video. I could go on.

Any tagging is sufficient rope. People are idiots. Either rank/placement tools which downgrade that, or a client which effectively does on-the-fly rewrites of the entire source, are pretty much what you need.

Oh, and don't get me started on the clever types. You've seen fonts constructed entirely out of CSS, no?

Freelance worked before because companies needed smallish jobs done here and there. Now they need a full-time team. Shouldn't that be better for the web designers? They don't have to be on a treadmill looking for leads all the time. They can settle in and work at one company with a high level of job security. And probably they'd have much more clout in terms of how things are done in the companies, driving bigger changes and potentially earning a lot more.

Not necessarily. Depends on what your goals are. I'm a freelance IT consultant and I love it, especially the part about about finding leads and working for many different clients on new and interesting challenges.

If freelance work dried up in my segment, I'd look for other entrepreneurial opportunities, which could very well mean not working in software development or IT anymore, but I certainly wouldn't settle for working as an employee. It just isn't for me.

Besides, the high level of job security is a fallacy. As an employee you're working for only one client: Your employer. If that employer suddenly decides you're redundant you're out of a steady income at once with no other clients or leads to compensate for that.

You can't exactly always be on the lookout for another position while on a job because your current employer will get suspicious and ask you what you think you're doing. For an entrepreneur always to be looking for new leads is the default mode so losing a deal - while unfortunate - isn't an end-of-the-line scenario in most cases.

had the same thinking when consulting few years ago... but every scenario is different, everybody has different expectations and all this change as we age. You are right there is no job security in perm job, but there are some true benefits.

I have 25 fully paid MDs per year, another 9 public holiday ones, 2 weeks of fully paid sick days. I can have a month with few MDs of work done and still get full salary. While consulting, when thinking about vacation, by far the biggest costs were not of actual vacation, but time lost not consulting. Which made the price explode 4-5x and effectively prevented me to have much better life.

I might get back later, for a while, but realistically, it ain't worth it. This might be different in other locations, where consulting vs perm job difference is much bigger, but here, taken all into account is less than 10%.

In some places, e.g. the UK, full time employment gives you certain benefits - it's not as straight forward as contract where work where you can be let go at will. Also, I wouldn't expect looking for another job to have such harsh penalties as you seem to be suggesting.

It would seem that way, but high profile (or high ego) designers look down on working "in-house," as maintaining a single brand image over the course of years becomes incredibly tedious after even just a few months.

Creatives thrive on variety; imagine if you had to implement a JSON parser everyday and weren't allowed to fundamentally change your approach after the very first one you make.

An office job with steady hours isn't everyone's dream. There are plenty of people who like the flexibility of freelancing, and web design has been seen as an attractive option for those who want more control over when and where they work.

If freelancing is so appealing, there's always the alternative of dropping prices to match or beat what in-house teams cost. The article attributed the change to cost savings.

In addition to what learc83 said, you can't really feasibly do this. Freelancers end up needing to do more work for the amount of output they provide because they have to pay spin-up costs on every project. This means that they are already disadvantaged, and when you combine that with the fact that they are not guaranteed work, dropping prices becomes pretty unsustainable. It's a big part of the reason that freelancing barely exists in most industries.

I think it's probably the opposite of the author's hypothesis. Easy VC money has prompted companies to hire full time, in house designers to work that was normally done by short term contractors.

> Easy VC money has prompted companies to hire full time

Perhaps the most insightful comment of the thread.

The bubble will burst, and while it could be the .com bust all over again, it will mean the freelance market is a) massive and b) popular again.

What I find interesting is the call to action at the end:

"Our power has always been in our web community – we are exceptionally good at creating movements and solving things, as a community. It’s time to dig deep and put as much time and effort into helping our community as we once did fixing browser quirks all those years ago."

I think this is a common wishful thinking comment from people who don't understand how the world works. How is the 'community' of web designers going to do anything about companies wanting in-house staff or squarespace making week-long wordpress projects obsolete?

Bottom line is: most people don't need a website. Squarespace covers a great deal of what very small websites need and frankly - a facebook page is good enough for most things.

Why have a website at all?

I don't know if selling t-shirts is a solved problem in web dev because I'm not in the loop but that seems to me - the last frontier, once you can sell t-shirts and other variety of items without needing much technical know-how, the game is over.

I am glad it's over - who needs a billion bloated wordpress sites? I want everything online sold through amazon, events posted on facebook and news posted to a single platform (I use an RSS reader which makes dozens of websites look exactly the same).

We don't need much web design, 100 different types of cars or 100 different shampoos, wake up, it's madness :)

Mistaking the order of this causality is a common error. The community of people developed secondarily to an overarching economic process -- money being spent to build websites. Now, Wix and Squarespace and Facebook are "good enough," so that huge middle market market doesn't exist anymore.

They imagine that it was the other way around, that the economic process is secondary to the community, that the community created the economic process of web development, and can now control the economics of that.

This is backwards. The web dev community only ever existed because there was a large and distributed economic need for lots of custom websites. Now that there is no economic motivation -- no outside money flowing into that community -- the community cannot sustain itself, except in greatly reduced form among a few hobbyists and high-end specialists.

You might compare it to the community of horse saddle manufacturers. It was a huge industry 150 years ago. Today, only a few hobbyist and specialist shops still make saddles, because there is not much economic need for them now as compared to the previous period. It wouldn't have made any difference if all horse saddle manufacturers organized their community in 1910 or so -- most of them would still have gone out of business anyway, because cars took over the economic niche that drove their industry. They were disrupted, in startup-speak.

No amount of wishful thinking or movement-building on the part of the community can change the underlying economics. The broad middle market for custom websites simply no longer exists. The best way to help the community of middle market web developers is to help each other retrain on other skillsets.

Between VPs trying to predict the unicorn bubble burst, the end of half of Yahoo, and the fall of the website design market, they're starting to convince me that a lot of developers will soon be on the market and the crisis is back. Now, I'm an entrepreneur, is it a good time to hire ;)

Sounds like you misspelled vulture. I say that knowing the downvotes are seconds away.

He just suggested that now is a good time to give jobs to people who are losing them as a result of market conditions beyond his control. That is a strange definition of 'vulture'.

I read the statement differently. The implication I picked up on is demand is slacking off so now's a good time to hire developers for reduced wages. I may have brought some baggage to the table.

That was very well put, great stuff :)

>I want everything online sold through amazon, events posted on facebook and news posted to a single platform

That, as a trend, will be disastrous for everybody.

First, it will make you and most people you know unemployed AND unemployable, as ever more markets get into the control of some monopoly player or another.

Then it will fuck up the monopoly players themselves, as it's tough to make money off of people when they don't have a job providing them with money to give you in the first place.

Between those two stages, the monopolies will abuse their powers to pad their profits and skew the market even more.

I think you've described the current trend of affairs pretty well.

The faster and more aggressive the trend, the more likely a positive shift is to occur.

I've heard that if you decide to boil a frog, if you gradually raise the temperature, it won't ever jump out, it'll cook to death.

That's where we are at currently and I don't like being slowly cooked - I want to jump.

>>I am glad it's over - who needs a billion bloated wordpress sites? I want everything online sold through amazon, events posted on facebook and news posted to a single platform (I use an RSS reader which makes dozens of websites look exactly the same).

Really? You want a few private players on the market controlling all interactions and commerce through their closed-source platforms?

It's already happened. Whether we want it or not is now beside the point.

Sure, there will always be a few specialist sites, but the vast majority of commerce and interaction for most people has long since moved to Amazon and Facebook.

I'm not sure if you can say that most people have moved to Amazon and Facebook. The majority of their customers didn't move there because they started there. Amazon and Facebook were the first things they used on the internet.

There are so many more people and companies on the internet now than there were 15 years ago. There are probably more people running custom sites and shopping at sites other than Amazon than their were back then.

We're more interested in your original statement, that you want it that way. I think most people educated on monopolies would probably not think that way. We're hoping you have some interesting insight here.

But I'm starting to suspect what you really mean is: "Oops, I didn't meant I want it that way. I mean it is that way, and if it's going to be that way, why not take it to its logical extreme?"

Which, if correct, is still an unusual sentiment.

EDIT: I mis-read the comment tree and am conflating two commenters.

I didn't make the original statement. Someone else wrote the grandparent post.

I still can think of a lot more types of business that need websites to maintain a minimum level of apparent professionalism than need a Facebook (or Amazon) account at all. Sure, 80% of them could knock something very serviceable together with Squarespace or the right template so the designer might be a luxury, but the individual web presence still is.

That's true. Most businesses still need their own website. But now they build it in Squarespace, talk to their customers on Twitter, and send physical goods with Fulfillment by Amazon.

Even in the US, Amazon still controls less than 40% of e-commerce spending. Outside the US, it's even less.

40% of ecommerce spending is a staggeringly high percentage. There are very few large industries where a single player controls 40% of the market.

For comparison, Wal-Mart, the largest US brick and mortar retailer, has about 11% market share.[1]

1 - http://www.scdigest.com/assets/newsviews/13-07-26-1.php?cid=...

Who do you think makes the internet possible to begin with? Competing entities? Or people working together?

I want one currency and one universal language too.

That probably sounds radical to a lot of people but really, look at your life - do you want parents competing to raise you properly or do you want them working together?

Why do we have the same parents our whole lives? Because it works well that way.

Competition as a means of arriving at the best solution to complex problems is an unfortunate artifact that'll be looked upon as barbaric not too long from now.

Working together works much better in my experience.

I think arguing for the Bolshevik abolition of the family is going to go down even less well on HN than the abolition of Wordpress.

Irreconcilable differences of opinion on what the best way to do things are the reason why we can't all just join in one big cooperation; the alternative requires either total stagnation or the squashing of dissent.

(See also The Tyranny of Structurelessness)

> I want everything online sold through amazon

I don't think this is a good goal. We could want everything available through Amazon, but not sold through Amazon. Monopolies almost always trend towards anti-consumer.

Yes, I'm sure we would all love to go back to the days where our access to the internet was limited by a gatekeeper who insisted we only need their services, and told us wanting a billion websites was madness.

RedBubble has definitely wrapped up that "last frontier"

There has been one really significant general ecosystem change in the "web design" space: much higher quality HTML themes.

I think these have just obliterated the low end of the market as for $50 and a little developer elbow grease you can have a very professional looking site.

These are displacing web design jobs that would otherwise be in the $3k to $15k range and often times are better quality (tons of built in templates for different page types, retina ready, responsive, etc.) and no need for PSD2HTML work.

Some of the people who sell a $50 theme have made millions from them. So overall for those willing to take a risk, things are actually better than before.

Honestly, I'm pretty okay with this.

The city where I live (which I imagine is indicative of other cities as well) the local population of freelancers and small studios forms a pyramid.

The top half of the pyramid is made up of really phenomenal freelancers and small teams. Individually, they have pretty cool industry experience and have learned a lot from their careers, to the point where they have the negotiating power to operate as a well-payed contractor. As for the small studios, if they really wanted to they could use their in-house skills to create really amazing products and make money that way, but the personalities of the people who work there are more aligned with work where they can work on a multitude of exciting things at any different time.

The bottom half of the pyramid has some people who are in a transitional state, who will eventually move to the top half, but it's mostly made of a lot of mediocre generalists. They saw that a lot of businesses just wanted a damn website, they figured out they could make that damn website, they figured out they could potentially make a lot of money this way, so they learned the basics of the LAMP stack, learned how to use Wordpress, and threw themselves into a crowded ring.

To be fair, I've met a few of the bottom-halfers, and they seem like alright guys, but talking shop with them is pretty awful. They're not really life-long learners, or they have this unbalanced focus towards business and marketing with the idea that they can communicate the value of what they can do better, but not really looking into actually delivering more value through better skills.

To sum it up, the top-halfers move with the changing market, the bottom-halfers just sort of sit there and wonder why more small businesses don't want custom Wordpress sites.

I realize this can seem callous and harsh, but at the same time I've also seen the bottom half of the pyramid screw over small businesses on the regular. The don't explicitly brag about it, but they kinda do on an implicit level, and it's sad for the small business and it's sad that the person bragging has this weird sense of value exchange.

Besides that, it's not like life ends of these freelancers either. So long as they're humble about the fact that they need to learn new skills, they can probably use their experience to get a pretty great job. It probably won't pay as much, but it's still going to pay pretty well. If they can't accept this, then I don't know if I can sympathize.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone has ever posted to HN not believing they are in the top 50%, 10%, or 1%. It's like how everyone's kid is above average. The topic of how everyone else sucks seems to be evergreen.

Everyone's just trying to get by. If someone gets less work, that isn't reason to think that they have poor skills, or are screwing over small businesses.

That's why I made sure to include that there are people in the bottom half of that pyramid who I think will get to the top half, because eventually I believe they'll move either to the top half of the pyramid, or outside of the pyramid altogether.

But I stand firm in my belief that a lot of the people who are firmly planted there have poor skills or they're delivering far less value than what could be gotten through, say, Squarespace.

I agree with this, I've seen a lot of "custom" sites done for small businesses which, in the end, looked worse than setting up a Squarespace site with a some pretty photos.

The custom sites took tons of time, lots of client back and forth, and in the end probably weren't as well optimized as a Squarespace site. A great designer can definitely do some amazing things, but a lot of people in the lower half should just focus on sending out some Squarespace promo codes, at least they can get some free hosting that way.

Yup, grandparent's post would be a pretty great submission to PCJ. Terms like "bottom-halfers" are just too good.

What is PCJ?

I was with you until the last two paragraphs. I've seen the exact same thing happening with 'top half' people screwing over businesses, just because they could.

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