The end of the theme web designer?

The number of websites out there is growing faster than maybe even Tim Berners-Lee could imagine. From 250m in 2010 we’re now on about 2 billion.


Where are all of the new websites coming from? 

1. A lot of new websites are simply being driven by the fact that online audiences are growing geographically.

2. The other big driver to the increase in websites is pretty simple…there are more businesses online.

Existing businesses are recognising that transacting or simply having a presence online is essential to their ongoing existence.  Add to this a host of new businesses starting up who are focusing solely online or quickly realising that this is where their easiest market entry point is.

Here’s a little visual showing the rise in the self-employed in the UK.


The growth in online businesses is being powered by a breaking down of traditional market entry barriers, meaning that markets are becoming accessible to everyone.

  • Trade accounts and stock are no longer shrouded in mystery.  Want 5000 packets of loom bands?  No problem, head to
  • No expensive set-up costs.  You no longer need a shop front.  You don’t need staff.  You don’t need rates and hardware and fitting.  You just need an IP here
  • We are in the world of the entrepreneur. Of course, the type and size of start-ups varies dramatically.  We like to think they sit in two categories;

“Either you are a startup who needs tech support or you are a startup who provides tech support.  And the latter are starting to catch on to the market demand of the former."

The rise of the bedroom business

A big old load of these new companies are what you previously would have called “bedroom businesses".  Traditionally derided and ignored by the bricks and mortars of the commercial world, the worm has now turned and we are seeing massive growth in beauty operators, craft suppliers, marketing consultants, dog walkers and so on and so forth.  It seems like you’re no-one these days unless you have some sort of business on the side.

Very cleverly, tech companies such as the hosting providers, CMS platforms, online franchise operators, social network platforms and payment facilitators have spotted this market opportunity and are building their products and customer experience through it.

Tech providers are simplifying their experience

Gone are the complicated days of setting a website up, coding your design and building your back end.  Hello themes!  Hello 24/7 support!  Hello Shopify!  Fancy being a jewellery retailer?  Great.  Just put your name and email into Stella & Dot and you’re a bonafide ecommerce operator.  The likes of WordPress, 123, Facebook and Paypal are all picking up on this thriving market and making sure that their products are simple enough for people with no tech knowledge to use.   Godaddy are even running mainstream TV campaigns assuring people that they can set up their website on their own!  In fact, it seems like the only one out there not making things easier for this market is Google..who are either deliberately scaring the average man out of Adwords for some secret, algorithmic reason or they are just missing the zeitgeist entirely!

Is there a future for web designers? 

Well, this is a good question.  We would say, it depends on what type of web designer you are.

The “Theme" Builder

If you build your sites from themes and offer your services on the basis that you can navigate your way around setting up hosting on 1and1 then we’d say your days are numbered.  Pretty shortly, this type of site creation is going to be so user-friendly my Grandma will have her own online presence.  A lot of people don’t even need a website now, they just need a Facebook page; their communities are all on there so why do they need to be anywhere else?  The days of people needing agencies to do their one-pager websites are well and truly numbered in our opinion.

The “From Scratch" Builder

If, on the other hand, you have all the hard skills needed to build your site from scratch.  If you can build front end, back end and know your UX from your js from your html, then we would say happier days lie ahead.  And, the good news is, despite losing the lower end of the market, the that will remain will be those with more growth, ambition and budget.  A website uniquely built to user and business requirements, incorporating full design and build, will always be a beauty to behold and in demand – the same way that a well-tiled bathroom will always need a professional, even though there will always be those having a go at bathroom DIY.

So, if you’re an agency or a consultant or are putting yourself out there as web design at all then you should be asking yourself in which of these camps you sit.  If it’s the former then now might be the time to stop building themes and start learning code, because your cheese is most definitely being moved.