Has the designer been replaced by the theme?
Only if you believe that the Mac & DTP software like Pagemaker and Quark killed design...
Whilst Bootstrap and Wordpress themes allow any monkey to build a very competent looking website, the reality is that for many organisations, building a successful, best-of-class website can introduce many challenges and obstacles such as:
- multi-regional, multi-lingual, multi-site issues
- a diverse & often conflicting set of stakeholder requirements
- a service offering that is not a simple marketing proposition to the end client
- difficulty in achieving and projecting differentiation from competitors
- Internal politics and departmental challenges
- integration with internal systems
Whilst a template can allow you to quickly build a website, it will not be unique (even if you customise it), and it simply allows you to fill in the blanks.
With this in mind, it is obvious that the role of the web designer is even more important than it ever was, however the role of the web designer is no longer what it used to be. A web designers roll has evolved beyond simply art directing in the digital age, placing much more emphasis on:
- Brand development in the digital space, refining positioning & market differentiation
- Marketing & communication, defining messaging & takeouts
- User journey development and UX, establishing how a customer touches and engages with a company / product / service
- Screen design, creating the visual experience
- Hand crafting and refining, adding the finishing touches to the website
Admittedly there are many lovely themes that can be used, and clients may even use examples of sites based on these as inspiration for what they are looking for, however there is far more to building a good website than simple picking a theme + adding content and pictures.
In short, a website template/theme is as likely to replace designers as a colouring by numbers book is likely to replace artists.
Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.