Online web building apps like Wix, Weebly, and Square Space are allowing a new level of access to web development based on eliminating the need to interact with programmers. But these web building apps for the masses are half-measures at best. Yes, they do enable those with limited expertise and access to do what design professionals have been doing since the dawn of time. But they do not enable them to do it well.
No substitute for designers
Nothing can take the place of designers who have both the talent and experience to deliver the kind of product necessary in today’s media-centric world. Even “hybrid” designers/programmers who use open source apps such as Wordpress cannot provide the same level of design sensibility, and often utilize templates not suited to a project’s design requirements.
For any organization that aspires to cut decisively through the brand clutter and build a standout identity, using anyone but a professional designer to create visual media is not a nice-to-have; it’s a must. Neither DIY amateurs armed with pre-fab templates nor technology-driven programmers have the requisite experience or expertise. Only professional design artists can understand the complexities and tenets of creating visual imagery capable of establishing strong consumer perceptions and originating clear, compelling definitions of people, products and organizations, no matter how big, successful, or well-funded they are.
“Aesthetically pleasing design is not an investment that only a strong brand can justify,” states Matt Vestal in a recent article entitled When Aesthetics Impact Value. “While weaker brands generally have fewer resources to invest in design aesthetics, the findings show that they will often see the largest benefit from investments in aesthetic design.”
Technology and aesthetic gulf
As programmers continue using mathematical algorithms to develop an increasing array of design platforms, the web development community is fast coming to the realization that the role of the professional design artist is far from shrinking in the face of today’s techno-juggernaut. In fact, it is expanding exponentially as time passes because professional designers are the ones best able to utilize those programs creatively. In the video production industry, for instance, Avid makes video editing software for editors throughout the film and TV industry, but they do not have the capability to produce films or shows.
Moreover, this is not 1996. In the context of a vastly more mature Internet, a programmer’s role is to deal with what happens behind the screen, not on it. Thus, now more than ever, it is time to recognize that there is a wide gulf between technology and aesthetics because they serve two separate functions: the former to quantify and the latter to qualify the human experience.
Ultimately, technology may be employed to analyze how consumers think and act, but a great design aesthetic motivates them to move beyond the here and now and aspire to what they have yet to experience. This is the transcendent level organizations need to arrive at if they want to rise above the herd and effectively communicate what they do, who they are and what matters most to prospective customers.
Unfortunately. web-building apps offer only the ability to mimic fully designed web sites. But mimicry is not good enough in today’s media-saturated environment. Highly-customized, original work is necessary for organizations to draw the kind of attention to themselves that breeds multilateral success. Thus, the importance of design aesthetic in building a truly competitive brand presence cannot be overstated, particularly for those who want to not just survive, but thrive in the digital age.