Website Builders vs. Web Developers. Are Web Developers becoming obsolete?


When I tell people what I do, they ask, "Is it hard competing with Wix when they make it so easy and cheap to build a website?". It is a valid question. From the outside, it may look like Website Builders remove the need for people like me. In many ways, they do. There may once have been a day when the ability to make a website meant a Developer could charge astronomical fees to any client that came his way. Those days are certainly gone. Today, anyone can use a website builder and have a high-quality website in hours. So, the question remains. 

Are Web Developers still required?

The role of the Developer is an ever-evolving one. As with any technical role, we must adapt as technology and circumstances change. Website Builders have been around for a long time. Almost as long as there have been websites, there have been Website Builders. I remember the first website I ever built, back in 2003, used a platform called Freewebs.

There is a process of natural selection in all industries. As technology evolves, some people naturally become obsolete. The ones who survive adapt and find new ways to provide value in the new environment. We can see it everywhere now, as people worry about AI taking their jobs. Web Developers are no different. Even now, AI tools exist that write code as well as a human can. It is up to the Developer to find a way to make themselves useful in the new world.

IKEA to the Carpenter

When IKEA developed flat-pack furniture, did Carpenters go out of business? Some did, yes. Not all. IKEA levelled the playing field when building furniture. They made good-quality, reliable furniture the norm. They essentially replaced all Carpenters that made average or less quality furniture.

This evolution did not remove people's appreciation for the craft of a Carpenter. Custom-made furniture comes with its own story and imperfections. If it is good quality, its uniqueness makes it inherently more valuable than its flat-pack equivalent.

IKEA created the flat-pack furniture market. They do not compete with Carpenters. Instead, Carpenters compete in the hand-made and bespoke furniture market. Average and low-quality Carpenters can't compete anymore. As competitor numbers fell, the concentration of high-quality furniture makers rose. In the "post-IKEA" world, going to a Carpenter for furniture likely means you seek a more bespoke and high-value piece.

Compare this to the relationship between Website Builders and Web Developers. Website Builders and Web Developers do not compete per se. Anyone can have a professional-looking, low-cost website without hiring a Developer. The market has changed for Developers. We are still needed in the Website Builder eco-system to design, build and test the Website Builder templates. We also exist in the bespoke website market, where I operate.

How do Web Developers exist in the Website Builder environment?

Website Builders have levelled the playing field when creating a website. Web Developers gain nothing from gatekeeping anymore. Yet, we still exist and are still very much needed.

Website Builders use templates to shorten the distance between the start and end of building a website. The template effectively removes the Design, Development and Testing stages from the process for the user. They may edit the template slightly but spend most of their time on the website content.

So, are the Design, Development and Testing stages truly gone? No. They are outsourced and removed from view for the user. Each template is a website project in itself. Web Designers, Developers, and Testers build templates instead of websites. There could be no Website Builders without templates. By extension, Website Builders could not exist without Web Developers.

I make it sound like people are left to their own devices to create their website using a Website Builder. Technical Knowledge still goes a long way to getting the best out of these tools. For a novice, it may still seem a daunting task to create a website. So, is there room for Developers to aid people in using Website Builders?

Can Web Developers help people in using Website Builders?

Absolutely. We can offer both direct and indirect help. As I mentioned, some Agencies and Freelancers use Website Builders to create new websites. They will guide people through the process and offer support as they get used to using the platform. That is a direct way of helping people.

We can also offer indirect help. Providing information and education on websites and making the most of them is vital. We all learned about the web from other experts. Myself and other Developers can offer lessons from our experience to help people navigate the choppy waters of website building and management. Our responsibility is to show people how to make a quality website regardless of the tool they use. That is what I try to do here.

So, which is better, a Website Builder or a Web Developer?

As with so many things, it depends. 

If you want a professional-looking website at low-cost, use a Website Builder. If you have a higher budget, consider hiring someone to help you build it through the platform.

For a bespoke website, hiring a Web Developer is a better option. The more complex your website, the greater your need for specialist help. With a Website Builder, you will struggle to implement complex animations and graphics without technical expertise and fine control from writing custom code.

Many people think there is a war between Web Developers and Website Builders, but I think differently. Website Builders go back almost as far as websites. The choice between which you should choose for your website comes down to a few factors: budget, complexity and time. Consider each of these when starting a new website. They will guide you to which choice is right for you.