In Web Design, Easier Doesn’t Always Mean Better

There are many products and tools aimed at the web design industry. It seems like something new arrives every day.

They may vary in scope. But most have one thing in common: the promise of making our job easier. They claim to write code, offer advanced functionality, or add killer special effects. These solutions aim to do the dirty work for us. How convenient!

I, for one, feel a bit disappointed. There’s so much hype. But I’m not convinced things are that much easier. It’s not as if artificial intelligence (AI) has replaced every monotonous task. If anything, web design seems to have become even more complex.

Besides, tools that promise an easier experience often come with serious tradeoffs. Thus, easier doesn’t always mean better.

With that, here are a few things to consider before you trade the tried-and-true parts of your workflow for a quick fix.

Does the Tool Lock You In?

Just about every design and development decision requires some sort of buy-in. This is part of the process.

Let’s say you’re creating a website mockup in Figma, Photoshop, or Sketch. You’re committing to a design tool. You’ll need to come back to the chosen app again and again. The same principle applies to everything from DIY website builders to programming frameworks.

The difference is in the required level of commitment. Pick the wrong tool, and you may be stuck with it for longer than you’d like. Becoming locked into a specific path may limit your ability to evolve. And those new features that everyone else is using? They may be unavailable to you.

That’s why it’s important to know what you’re getting into. An untested solution may seem attractive now. But where will it be in five years? You might have to start from scratch if things don’t work out.

It may be worth the risk. But there’s also something to be said for stability and flexibility.

You may be stuck using some tools for longer than you like.

Easier to Build, Harder to Maintain

The promise of a quicker path to launching a website is tempting. It attracts the attention of the design community. Skip over the hard stuff and get paid sooner. Who wouldn’t want that?

It sounds wonderful. But there can be more than meets the eye. A fast start often means more difficult maintenance down the road.

Take, for example, content management system (CMS) plugins. Platforms like WordPress make it easy to piece together a website.

It’s certainly possible to build a functional site with this approach. But there is danger in having bits of related functionality controlled by multiple plugins. It’s akin to using string to keep all of your favorite books together. Take one book out of the stack, and things fall apart.

This delicate balance can start to crumble if your needs change. Some plugins may no longer be suitable or are simply too rigid. That could mean swapping out critical pieces and trying to patch a gaping hole.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid plugins. But it is worthwhile to think about sustainability. Determine the most sustainable path forward. That may take a little more work upfront. But it will save you from future difficulties.

Some tools make future website maintenance more difficult.

Analyze the Cost vs. Benefit

Products advertised as making your job easier often tout cost savings as well. But is the easiest way forward really the cheapest?

That depends upon the factors mentioned above. If your website is up and running weeks earlier because of a specific tool, that’s great. But what if it makes future maintenance a nightmare? Any upfront savings may be short-lived.

Then, there’s the ability for future growth. For example, subscribing to a proprietary website platform can get you access to specific features. But what happens if that service cannot provide the advanced features you need later? Meanwhile, how much money have you spent to continue using it?

You may find that the savings weren’t worth the included hassles and limitations. Trading a few extra dollars in your pocket for a less-than-ideal website is unlikely to make you happy.

Be cautious before spending your money. Weigh the potential costs, benefits, and pitfalls of a given solution. This ensures that you’re thinking with both the short and long-term in mind.

Sometimes the benefit of a tool isn't worth the long-term consequences of using it.

Beware of Easy Website Solutions

Every path to building a website has an associated cost. It doesn’t matter if you use free or commercial tools. They all require time and effort. There’s also the cost of future maintenance.

Sometimes you can find a solution that makes web design easier and more cost-effective. However, it takes scrutiny to determine if that’s the case.

There are a lot of products that make such claims. Don’t take them at their word. Instead, do some research and find the tools that will work best for you.

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