Do you know your real value?

Paul Boag

As web designers we think our skills lie in the code we write or the interfaces we build. In truth that is not where our real value lies and if we don’t grasp that soon we could become obsolete.

This post is sponsored by Zoey

Back in the nineties I spent months working on a way for people to manage online content. All without having to write code or use a complex tool like Frontpage. Instead they could enter content into a form field and it would appear online. They would also be able to add and remove pages and even upload images. It was exciting stuff.

Of course today we know this as a content management system. There are few circumstances were we would consider building one of these from scratch. Instead we would use one of the many that already exist.

With tools like WordPress, few of us would consider writing a content management system from scratch.
With tools like WordPress, few of us would consider writing a content management system from scratch.

This has happened many times. What used to involve writing complex code has become trivial because somebody has done the hard work for us. Whether it is embedding a Google Map into our site or an entire shopping experience. The need to write complex code for client websites is diminishing all the time.

Writing code for clients is dying

Take a service like Zoey. Zoey allows you to create an entire ecommerce site without writing a single line of code. All while allowing you access to the same powerful ecommerce tools you get in a big brand store.

Zoey has removed the need to write code to build an ecommerce site.
Zoey has removed the need to write code to build an ecommerce site.

Zoey has hidden the code and they are not alone. There are many services that are taking a similar approach. Tools like Webflow for example.

Some apps like Squarespace or the Grid are going further. They are not just removing the need to code. They are also making some design decisions for you.

For many this freedom from the complexity of code and minutiae of design is a good thing. But you may dislike the idea. You may feel it undermines quality or even threatens your job. If that is the case, I would encourage you to reconsider.

Sure, no application that auto-generates code or makes minor design decisions is ever going to be as good as something created by a person. But in the majority of cases it will be good enough. Clients don’t need perfect. They need good enough to generate a return.

If you are a developer, none of this threatens your career either. There will still be many sites that need bespoke solutions where optimal performance is a must. There will also be plenty of need for developers to build applications like Zoey or Webflow.

But for the rest of us, these services allow us to step away from the coding and focus on the skills that clients value in us. Because let’s be honest, most clients don’t care about code.

What clients value

Somewhere along the line we have got it into our heads that our clients hire us for our Photoshop skills or ability to write code. This just isn’t true. This isn’t the real value we bring our clients.

If that is all you have to offer clients then you are in real trouble. Apps like Zoey or Webflow will threaten your job and even if they didn’t, there would always be somebody cheaper who can offer the same.

But don’t despair. You have a lot to offer beyond your technical skills. Realising that will encourage you in your future career. But it will also allow you to sell yourself to clients better.

For example, you might think a client hires you to design an attractive interface, but that is not true. An algorithm like the Grid can do that. No, a client hires you to create a design that persuades users to buy. They hire you for your ability to empathise and encourage users to act. That is your value, not the ability to produce a pretty design in Photoshop.

Equally, a client doesn’t hire you to produce code for an ecommerce site. They hire you to deliver a site that allows users to buy their products. They don’t care if you code it yourself or use a service like Zoey.

Your value is that you know what services are out there. Services that will deliver what the client needs. You know which is best for them, and how to set it up.

In short, it is your knowledge and experience they are buying, not your technical skills. If you build your career on knowing how to use a specific app or write a specific language you will become obsolete. Just ask the Cold Fusion or Flash developers.

Instead recognise that your value is in your knowledge and application of that knowledge. We live in a knowledge economy. One that values people’s ability to make informed decisions and pick the right approach. This kind of subjective decision making is not something that will be automated. It will always need an expert to identify the right approach.

As for the rest, let it go. Embrace the new generation of tools that frees you from those details and allows you to focus on the bigger picture.

More about Zoey

Zoey combines the power and customizability of an open source platform with the ease of use of a SaaS solution. With a drag-and-drop design editor, B2B functionality and flexible product management tools, you’ll be up and running in no time with the most powerful features online! Start your 14-day free trial, today.