Common Misconceptions about Web Designers

As a web designer, I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving, forward thinking, technologically advanced group of people that devour tutorials and web design blogs, hoping to create a stellar design that that gets posted in every CSS gallery out there. Yep, we’re a group of people that works hard, plays hard and strives to meet our deadlines, while learning something new along the way.

Common Misconceptions about Web Designers

We’re also a misunderstood group of people, viewed as gothic creatures that shun the daylight because we’re just tragic artists.

Well, I’m here to set things straight. Here are some common misconceptions about being a web designer that just aren’t true.

Web designers are a dime a dozen

Yes, your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor may know how to use Photoshop, or maybe he even learned HTML and CSS basics from a book, but that doesn’t make him a web designer.

A web designer is someone that designs professionally and knows the reason why you can’t use Zapfino for body copy on the web. They understand why using a red background with green text is a bad idea.

Anyone can learn how to create professional web designs, but not overnight, and certainly not by reading one book. Web designers have skills learned through experience, lots of practice, continual self-education, and working with clients.

It takes time and patience to be a professional web designer, and I’m sorry, but your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor is not one of them.

Web designers know nothing about art

Art basics are the foundation of every good design, and are ingrained deep in the heart and soul of every great web designer.

Composition, hierarchy, and color choices are what a design is composed of. Typography also plays a big role in the design. Fonts must be carefully chosen to compliment the style and feel of the site design. Body text itself has several things to think about. It must be legible so a designer has to consider size, color, font choice and style. Every choice affects the design, taking a design from mediocrity to greatness.

Web designers must be living large with how much they charge

I had a friend tell me this after she found out about my rates. I’ve heard the same sentiment from others. It’s a little disconcerting to hear someone say a website should be worth so little money. Your website defines your company and is often the only face people will see. It should certainly put your best foot forward, telling customers what you do in a professional manner, and communicating to them effectively why you deserve their business. These things take time and skills to complete and should cost money, since we do need to make a living. Although it may sound like a lot all at once—at the end of the day—it usually doesn’t amount to being rich.

Web designers make things pretty, not functional

American Designer Charles Eames once said, "Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose." A web designer’s job is to make sure that the design isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also usable. Web design is a craft born out of comingling art and science harmoniously.

A good user experience on a website is largely due to the design and how the designer planned the site. It would be silly to create a site without thinking about how it functions. It’s important to prepare by thinking about what users might do and how the design can move them around the site efficiently. The functionality and usability of a site and the design certainly go hand in hand.

Web designers have it easy, HTML and CSS are easy to learn

Yeah, and clients are easy to please too. The web runs on its own language, several of them actually. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Perl – this list goes on and on.

Learning each one is like learning another language like Spanish, French, or German. You must start with the basics and build upon the foundation, gaining more experience with time, slowly adding more and more command of the language to your repertoire until the day that you speak like a native speaker.

As with many professions today, there is much to learn, and with the ever-changing and evolving world of design, there will always be another skill to acquire or another language to study.

Although it may be more fun than learning French, it’s still something that starts out tough and only gets easier with time.

Web designers sit in a dark basement and hate to socialize

This may still be true for some, but I think it would be tough to gain new clients (and keep existing ones) by being unsociable. Networking is a huge part of collaborating and working well with others, as well as a great way to find potential new clients and spread the word about yourself as a designer.

Being social and getting out into the daylight is a big part of getting yourself out into the workforce and finding jobs. I’ve met tons of fellow designers at social functions, so I know firsthand that most designers may be shy, but certainly not against socializing.

Web designers aren’t progressive

This one is so false I don’t even know where to start. Web design has changed so much over the last year alone! The big push behind these changes and the group responsible for the way the web looks is—you guessed it—web designers.

Society as a whole plays a big part, with fashion trends, social norms and even the economic state playing a hand in where web design goes. But we are the people responsible for creating and maintaining the look, pushing ourselves to design something new and something the world will love.

Web designers work odd hours

I do know some designers that do work at non-standard hours, so I’ll tread lightly here, because for some, this may be their only choice or this is where they’re most productive. Working regular business hours allows me to be available for client phone calls, and gives me the chance to respond to emails in a timely manner. If I slept in until noon, half of the regular business day would be gone, which cuts my chances of networking and finding potential new business in half as well. I prefer to work regular hours and I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I don’t think our group as a whole should be defined as people that work irregular hours.

Web designers don’t need any kind of training

I know some designers that have natural talent and are self-taught designers. Nevertheless, in a non-traditional way, they still received some training. It may have come from online tutorials, books, magazines, blogs or friendly coworkers, but I don’t think a single one of us can say we opened our eyes one day and knew how to be a great web designer without any kind of training whatsoever.

Formal training in a classroom setting was very helpful for me in my learning process, although it doesn’t fit everyone. As web designers, we have all been trained in different ways across the globe, gathering knowledge from many sources to become the designers we are today.

Web designers don’t work well with web developers

I consider myself a designer and a developer and I use the term web design loosely, combining the trades together. Many designers and developers do this, so it would be wrong to say we don’t get along. Even when designers and developers are separate, we are all after the same purpose. We want a greater web experience that allows users to find the information they are looking for easily and efficiently while feeling satisfied and amazed. At times, there may be disagreements between the two parties but in the end, we are all on the same team.

Web designers have a cushy job

Some people think that all we do is surf the web and making things look pretty all day. I do believe we have landed in a pretty cool field, and I won’t for a minute say I don’t love being a designer. But I also don’t agree that it’s a cushy job. The majority of us are diligently working to provide customers with a website that fits their audience, their needs and their services. We work hard to push our designs to a new level, accepting criticism and feedback to make our work the best it can be for the client.

Web designers can make tons of money right out of school

Now I know some of you may have been lucky enough to land a sweet job right out of school, or maybe even started up your own thing and it took off right away. I’m going to guess and say it didn’t just fall in your lap though, you probably worked hard and had a stellar portfolio.

For most of us, even with a great portfolio, it takes time, experience, and hard work in the real world to land a good design job and awesome high-paying clients. The first couple of years are a bit rough, and are filled with lots of learning, and maybe some coffee runs for the office. Kids right out of school are so hopeful that they will be the next big thing, but it just doesn’t happen like that.

What other misconceptions about web designers have you heard?

Myths about the web design world are all over the place, and I’ve only briefly touched on the misconceptions that I’m sure we’ve all heard. Keep educating your friends, family and coworkers about these things and help us spread the word about our great design community.

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About the Author

Shannon Noack is a designer in Arizona and the Creative Director of Snoack Studios. Designing is her passion in life and she loves to create websites, logos, print work, you name it. She also blogs regularly here and you can connect with her on Twitter as well.

This was published on Feb 7, 2010


web2000 Feb 07 2010

Web design is a hobby. “With all the free tools out there, anyone can make a website so you can’t possibly make a career from designing websites.” Obviously not true. What makes a good web design? A good web design will further the intention of the target audience and be easy to find. It will result in a valuable resource that others will want to use time and again and even share with their friends and family. Clearly, not everyone can create such a thing!

blogdog Feb 07 2010

You forgot my favorite: Web designers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are always available at any time to provide immediate service.

@MadKeet Feb 07 2010

Thank you for this post, it has de-bunked many pre conceptions
i had.
I would dearly luv to be able to create my own website, it’s long been a desire of mine but i think i’ve allowed myself the folly of listening to others’ negative comments, or perhaps i have been talking to the WRONG people.
Thaks again. xQ)

TJ ( sixlive ) Feb 07 2010

I agree, as a designer/developer I frequently get approached with a lot of these misconceptions. Well done Shannon!

David Woods Feb 07 2010

As a corollary to “HTML and CSS are easy to learn” a lot of people seem to be under the impression that building a website is a very quick process — something I can turn around in a week — and are surprised when I give them a 3-4 week timeframe for a typical site.

Related to that, another misconception (possibly linked to my working alone as a subcontracter/freelancer) is that we’re desperate for any project, and once started we can give 110% of our time to that client.

Another one is the idea that building a website doesn’t take any work by the client. A web designer won’t become an expert on your business in a couple of weeks, and shouldn’t be expected to! I will happily guide a client when making content and sitemap decisions, from my experience working with usability and SEO, but I can’t be expected to write all the copy for them. Some designers, I’m sure, also offer marketing/brand strategy and copywriting, but it shouldn’t be assumed unless it’s been specifically mentioned!

And finally, it also shouldn’t be assumed that we will keep spitting out designs until the client’s happy. The client should understand (and it’s our responsibility to state explicitly in our contract/estimate) that the scope includes a specific number of designs and revisions, and more than that are to be considered change orders!

Simon Feb 07 2010

I am in agreement with all you have said, I tend to find that many of the preconceptions which are ingrained against web design and development make it extremely difficult to get the correct price out of a client due to their undervalue of our skills and abilities. When a client associate what you do with the abilities of their kids, selling your abilities to them is more educating rather than marketing and THAT is when it can become frustrating!

“As a web designer, I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving”

another misconception right there. Not all web designers carry Apple products on our heads like we’re Steve Jobs’ brothers-in-law.

Just saying.

Elena Feb 07 2010

I loved this post. I had a friend recently who decided to put up his own website using a template program. He asked me to “consult” and help him put in an anti-spam mechanism. This was a program I never even heard of before. I spent the whole day trying to access his HTML and couldn’t find the right place to insert the code.

It’s amazing how people think they can do it themselves and save themselves money and then are in for a rude awakening when they realize what have they gotten themselves into.

Vivek @ InfoEduTech Feb 07 2010

Well its always a question of debate. web designer are always great because they the worst thing looks pretty much good and attractive. Getting some handy hands on photoshop sooner i will also join the community of web designer. all the best to all of the designers.

Jack Barber Feb 07 2010

The one I hear the most is that all designers/developers offer the same standard and quality – simply not true. You get what you pay for!

Jamie Feb 07 2010

Since we’re shattering common misconceptions; we’re also not all “Apple-loving.”

pbdphoto Feb 07 2010

Excellent article. My daughter is a web designer and I believe many of her family and some friends believe that much of the above applies to her. I know differently as I have watched over the years how much time and effort she has put in to develop a successful business.

Great post, thanks for sharing.

I think you emphasized a great point when you mentioned designers also being artists. So many people don’t see the ‘science’ behind design, including user experience, coloration, information architecture, etc.

Martin Feb 07 2010

Great stuff. All true

Matthew Heidenreich Feb 07 2010

here’s mine, when family and friends say “Your a Web Designer? Does that mean you can fix my computer”. That one always seems to bother me. Just because i know web design, doesn’t mean i can/want to whip out all the viruses on your computer.

Great list, thanks for the share.

Max Tsukino Feb 07 2010

“Since we’re shattering common misconceptions; we’re also not all “Apple-loving.””

some of us are in fact Apple-hating…

Chris Macrae Feb 07 2010

This is perhaps one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. It just hits home in such a way that I feel like printing it and handing it out as flyers!

TheGuideLineFreak Feb 07 2010

“He’s a webdesigner becouse he could never get to understand graphic production enough to become a Graphic Designer…”

Sam Richardson Feb 07 2010

Great article. I too have encountered many of these misconceptions. Some great additional ones in the comments as well.

One that I struggle with in regards to pricing/timing is browser testing. Most clients do not even realize that is part of what we do. I have worked that into my initial meetings with clients as well as my contracts.

Another is of course SEO which I think many folks think can be done quickly and easily. “I want to be on page 1 of Google. We can do that right? Does that cost extra?”

Martin Bean Feb 07 2010

Two common misconceptions family and friends have of me, being a web designer…

1) “You’re a web designer, can you fix my computer?”
2) “You’re a web designer, could you put me a site together for free?”

The answer to both is usually a resounding “No”.

Thibaut Ninove Feb 07 2010

I must say this post is really good and makes me feel I’m not the only one to encounter these sayings.

+ agree with Martin

Justin Anderson Feb 07 2010

Great post!

@Martin – I get the same requests for fixing computers. I guess if you work on a computer everyday you must be an all knowing computer genius.

And I am part of the “Apple Hating” bandwagon.

As for HTML and CSS being easy. It would be if it weren’t for IE6

Gopal Raju Feb 07 2010

Well said Shannon… Being a designer is not an easy job and yes… creativity is not something you can learn from design schools!

K-feine Feb 07 2010

“HTML and CSS are easy to learn”

The basics, yeah. But actually not a lot of people know building a semantic and optimized HTML. Less people know the compliances issues for mailing. Dont’event talk about cross-browser compliances, accessibility, images, css and javascript optimization.

There’s a huge difference between be able to do a website, and be able to do it well.

A little story : I built an event website for my cousin who did a 4wd rally, she asked a IT friend of her who “knew some stuff about HTML and CSS” for changing some pages. She came back to me later and told me “My friend told me that your code was really nice and clean, actually, what’s your doing is a real work !!?”…. huh yeah :)

Good article. All misconceptions I’ve heard many times. Laughing about Sam’s observation re: SEO. Yeah, everybody wants to be #1 on Google and thinks it’s simple and cheap to do so.

Josh Christopherson Feb 07 2010

Excellent article. I have these questions pop up all the time.

I think a misconception that was mentioned above that is not necessarily a misconception in all cases is “Web designers sit in a dark basement and hate to socialize”. While not true of most web designers, it is true of most web developers (who are usually put into the same category by the general public). As a web developer myself, I cannot emphasize the need for better social skills among the development community. I’ve met one too many developers that couldn’t hold a conversation if they were given a bucket to put it in. Communication is the key to understanding. So, if misconception number 10 is true (“Web designers don’t work well with web developers”), it’s more than likely the developer’s fault.

The two points that were brought up in Sam Richardson’s comment above are the two that I see most frequently. Clients don’t understand the work that is necessary to get everything to look the same in all browsers and don’t understand when they’re charged extra to make sure it does.

And he’s right: Client’s understanding of SEO is a big problem. Everyone and their dog wants to be on page 1 of Google. My response: I will try, but there’s no guarantee that I can get you there. Clients just don’t understand why it doesn’t work their way.

Thanks for the great article, now we just need to figure out how to dispel all these myths. :-P

Lee McCorquodale Feb 07 2010

Haha, great article,
The old “fix my computer is a classic” – but my main one is:
“I have no money, but if you make me a website for free, I’ll bring you in lots of new clients”

Brilliant clip from YT:

Michael Lynch Feb 07 2010

I’m glad someone has the story straight. I’ve experienced misconceptions like these plenty of times.

Gonzo the Great Feb 07 2010

Hi Shanon,

you forgot another misconception:
– All great web (or graphic) designers use Apple!

That’s probably a cliché! Cause you don’t need to work on an Apple to be creative and to have the skills needed to be a good webdesigner!

Cheers & Ciao …

arnold Feb 07 2010

This is why I love the webdesign community. Articles like this make me wanna jump and learn something today and yeah I dont own an Apple.

“Web designers sit in a dark basement and hate to socialize.”
kinda describes me.damn

Skyrocket Labs Feb 07 2010

Well said, Shannon.

Sure, the basic syntax of XHTML (and CSS) is straight-forward but of the hundreds of thousands+ of people who have decided to learn markup at all, how many are actually experts at it and understand W3C standards, semantics and advanced CSS(3) techniques? I’m preaching to the choir here, I know. ;)

Bravo! I linked to this article on my own blog so I’ll gladly send you some love from my own audience.

IMHO, Yahoo and similar services have incited a plague of “doityourselfery” that sold the illusion that “just anyone” can create a professional website “in just a few clicks.” Not only did that cut all of us off at the knees, it made life difficult for those who do need professional websites and then don’t understand why they’re not getting the results that they want/need when they buy the illusion.

I believe the pendulum is swinging back again.

Eko Setiawan Feb 07 2010

Hi, I like this quote : “”Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” (American Designer Charles Eame).
These things that we’re trying to build

ThatWebGuy Feb 07 2010

You left out: Web designers are also database administrators, application programmers, system architects, network administrators, copy writers and email technical support.

Unless it’s just my clients who think that way :-)

Taufik Feb 08 2010

“Web designers have no future comparing with government officer”

well, duh! just because web designers don’t get a “retired” payment, doesn’t mean we don’t have a plan for future life (e.g: family needs). WE DO HAVE.

and that’s why SAVING is the best way to have a better future, not because our profession.

sorry if I’m a lil bit whining :)

Taufik Feb 08 2010

and one more,

“Everyone can make a good website” but not everyone can make a good income from making websites.

Russ Alman Feb 08 2010

Thank you for spelling these facts out so the average person can understand just what is involved with being a web designer and developer!

Web design is just like graphic design in that many people claim to be one, but far fewer are dedicated professionals.

Another point to note: there are now a variety of different types of web developers, depending on the platforms they use and the types of sites they plan to develop. Creating a website in a static design environment, for example, is every different than creating CMS-based sites, and blog-style CMS sites (like WordPress) require a very different level of aptitude and skills than a more complex CMS site (like Joomla or Drupal).

Oh, and my home office *is* too dark and in the lower level of my home, but I *love* to get out and socialize. In fact, part of the reason I am heavily into social networking and provide this as a managed service to our clients is that it ties me more to the real world and lets me interact with real people.

Oh well, crowdsourcing models should at least correct that money part soon… It happened already to photographers.

Zem Inator Feb 08 2010

Mis-conception: web designers are worth the investment…

I’m sorry, but with all the CMS systems available and themes/plugins that these have, web designers are becoming somewhat irrelevant.

Fizzal Feb 08 2010

I’m from the Dark Side, a senior ASP Developer and often get the reverse assumption. Your a developer, you can do the color selection, graphic design and HTML/CSS.

Grammar Nazi Feb 08 2010

comingling -> commingling

fractal Feb 08 2010

Most of these misconceptions are propagated by people who have had the misfortune of working with less than professional designers. In fact, our profession has been hijacked by people like your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor. Thanks to great discussions like this we can begin to take back what is rightfully ours.

A Must Read: Design View by

And if you actually know anything about computers and design then you know that your best work is born on Macs, Windows, Linux, Unix and you embrace them all.

Edwart Visser Feb 08 2010

Web designers know how to fix computers, can learn you MS Word, Exel and Powerpoint and if you need a wireless network setup a web designer knows how to do this.

web designers write lousy blogs… i’m kidding, my respects for good web designers.

Tobias Feb 08 2010

I agree with other commenteers, not all web designers are “apple loving”. I manage to do all my work on Linux (on a thinkpad x200t), avoiding the nasty closed garden of Apple. Really, I thought this article was about breaking misconceptions, not about furthering them :(

Patareco Feb 08 2010

Nice reading!

tyler Feb 08 2010

as a user experience architect, i often simplify what i do by saying, “i help make websites.” this is often taken to mean that i can build any website from scratch.

Patty Feb 08 2010

Your opening statement…

“As a web designer, I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving, forward thinking, technologically advanced group of people that devour tutorials and web design blogs, hoping to create a stellar design that that gets posted in every CSS gallery out there.”

made me cringe a bit.

As others have said before me… we dont all love Apple.

Also, I dont devour tutorials and design blogs simply to design/build a website that gets noticed by my peers. I devour tutorials and the knowledge of my peers in order to grow as a designer/developer in order to build better website for my customers. They are the ones that pay me after all.

HawaiiW Feb 08 2010

OMG! reading this is like looking at a mirror! LOL, I can so relate to all this situations..

somon Feb 08 2010

I am 100% agree with your points. in my 7 years web design life sometimes I face misconceptions like you describe.

Amanda Feb 08 2010

Great post. I especially enjoyed the one about living large because of the rates we charge. Damn, I wish!

hotmac Feb 08 2010

Did you know that web designers can be creative immediately by pushing their ON-button? Once acivated they can produce one design after another!

Quimby Melton Feb 08 2010

Word …

whilst i’m not a web designer (i’m a graphic designer) it’s the same story for most designer’s i guess. a lot of people don’t understand the amount of time a good piece of work takes.

Phil @ NetInspired Feb 08 2010

Excellent article and one which I’m sure we’ll reference time and time again whenever a client questions our rates/schedules/etc.

Many thanks!

Anna R Feb 08 2010

Well, I guess the oft-repeated assertion that web designers lack adequate communication skills isn’t a misconception after all. I quit reading after your fifth sentence because I’d already encountered too many blatant errors in syntax and usage.

The howler? “Here are some common misconceptions about being a web designer that just aren’t true.” Oh? Can you think of a misconception that is true? Of course not, because then it wouldn’t be a misconception. Duh.

Eh. After another few years of Webbish, we’ll probably be reduced to just clicking on pictograms anyway. Carry on.

Cairns Web Feb 08 2010

I love these ideas, tell them to get their cousin who read a book to build the website, see how far they get.

Let people figure this out, then when they come to see you they understand they need to pay a professional.

I tend not to argue with people over these types of things.

nikhil Feb 08 2010

I like the article very much.
Some of my clients think I am a data entry operator and give 4-5 pages for typing their contents even I tell them that I am web designer.

Elaine B. Feb 08 2010

I think you forgot this one “After you design my cart/site, you are putting my products in and all of my info pages, right?”
No that is either your job or you need to hire a WEBMASTER. But my all time fave, “Since you work on the web, you must know how to get free software/music??” I know a lot of things, and I know stealing is not cool.

Troglodyte Feb 08 2010

I have bookmarked this article under my “customer communication” heading. Good points and some good comments.

Some customers are a breeze to work with. They talk things over seriously, have respect for your opinion, respond with intelligence, pay your invoice promptly.

Others you have to give them an education before you can even begin. Nowadays I produce lavish specification documents for those types, and insist that they agree to them in blood. The theory is they will be temporarily stunned into quiescence.

I do live in a dark cave though. Not because I’m unsociable, it’s actually the world around me that’s unsociable, no really it is. Oh well, suit yourselves.


jaxweb Feb 08 2010

My misconception, typically from my clients perspective –
I’m the guy to call for all your internet or outlook problems.

Johnny Feb 08 2010

“Web designers aren’t progressive”

Bit of a straw man, don’t you think? If anything, I’d say clients feel designers are TOO progressive.

“Web designers must be living large with how much they charge”

I’m a webwriter, but I’ve experienced the same crap. Some people just don’t understand that it takes time to make a solid plan – before I start writing.

Another one I experience a lot is the assumption that the client can just tell the designer what to do. I think that graphic or webdesign is one of the few trades where the client isn’t actually king. I like to see my clients as input into the big processing machine. You put the client’s vision, the brand, the user experience, the copy and your own knowledge in the machine and that is how you get to a great result. A dominant client results (most of the times) in an inefficient ‘product’.

As someone else said it: “I am a designer, not a fucking screwdriver” – via

And the “you’re good with computers right?” just annoys me. “No! Just like you I use my computer to do my work! Just like you I have to call someone to fix it when it doesn’t work anymore” (although my Google ‘skills’ might be a little bit better to fix it myself)

There is a lot of ignorance about web designers. Personally, I think that a good web designer is worth his/her weight in gold. They can make the difference between your site being a failure or a success.

I find that clients often think they are the experts when it comes to design and insist on adding their tuppence worth, based purely on their personal opinions.

Adam Lowery Feb 08 2010

This was a prety good article. To be honest, I’ve seen similar write-ups before, but this one is very well-done. Alot of the other articles I’ve seen that attempt to clear up misconceptions about graphic designers are riddled with spelling and grammar errors. That kind of reinforces one more minsconception – all form, no substance. Nice to see your article didn’t fall prey to that problem.

Zoe Feast Feb 08 2010

Great Article.

Here’s another one to add to your collection.

Web designers are NOT copy writers.

Ashish Lohorung Rai Feb 08 2010

Some of additional misconceptions are:

1. Web designers are update gurus
2. Web designers are copycats
3. Web design is very easy job

MBStuart Feb 08 2010

Great article!
I think that taking some of these concepts into account when approaching clients will help moving forward. Thanks!

Jordan Walker Feb 08 2010

Web Designers are the shell of the internet!

chris Feb 08 2010

Just like the gas station employee. I’m sure that job is very hard. Kudos to gas station employees. Good luck little miss web designer.

Derek Copping Feb 08 2010

A lot of these could be used for us programmers as well. Although I may meet most of the stereotypes, I do know plenty who do not. Good article. A lot of these stereotypes make me angry.

Shannon Feb 08 2010

Thanks for all the feedback! Soo many more good points to add to the article, I’m glad to see the great conversation this has started. I hear you guys on the Apple-loving not being true for all, but I do believe the majority of designers use and love Apple, so I stand by my statement!

@David Woods – I agree, many clients seem to be surprised they have to supply their own copy and participate in the process. I do like to write, but I don’t know all the ins and outs of your company.

@Sam Richardson – yes I’ve heard that request as well! SEO is such a foreign concept to many, I have to educate clients everyday on what it takes to improve rankings and that it’s not an overnight process.

@ThatWebGuy – it’s true, we are expected to wear many more hats than we already do! Another good one to add to the list.

@Zem Inator – I whole-heartedly disagree! Design takes a person to do, someone with professional skills and knowledge, something a cms cannot just produce for you. We will not be phased out anytime soon even with free templates and free cms’s available. Custom design isn’t free and never will be.

Susi Ibelati Feb 08 2010

And if the client does provide the copy, they don’t understand why they need to pay for your time in putting it up on the website…the ‘it can only take a couple of minutes’ syndrome!

Damian Jakusz-Gostomski Feb 08 2010

An excellent post, and one which should hopefully result in people listening when I tell them these myths aren’t true… Will be directing a lot of people to this article for sure!

It’s about time that someone clears the air about our profession!

“Web designers have it easy, HTML and CSS are easy to learn”
Not only is learning each of these languages like learning French/Spanish etc learning how they each interact with specific rendering engines is like learning a new dialect. Typically I’m applying 5 to 7 languages that need to be understood clearly in 16 to 24 dialects.

“Web designers must be living large with how much they charge”
For those clients who balk at my rate (which is still very low compared to many since I’m just developing my portfolio) I typically have to explain to them that for every hour spent working I spend three hours learning and keeping my skills current. As soon as they take my rate and divide by four all of the sudden it seems more palatable for them.

Steve Feb 08 2010

Hey, not ALL of us love Apple. I in fact DESPISE them. I’m a PC/Firefox/Google/Android guy through and through.

Aimsworth Feb 08 2010

I’m a bit put off by the whole Apple/Progressive thing as well. Just because you’ve been sold a bill of goods about a product doesn’t mean the rest of us have.

Dan Sensecall Feb 08 2010

This is a great post. So very true. I get so disappointed when potential clients are shocked by how much a website costs! I wish there was some way of showing how much work it takes… maybe this article would be a good start?!

Ben Gremillion Feb 08 2010

1. We know about design, therefore we can fix email problems, exorcise viruses and perform data entry.

2. Our job as designers is to execute what’s in our clients’ heads.

3. All design is done on a computer by pushing the right keys. Know the commands, know design.

RodTed Feb 08 2010

I would love to put this into a pamphlet to be handed out to all new clients. May it would help them understand the job I do a bit better. Doubt it though.

Evan Byrne Feb 08 2010

I agree with many of the other comments here, I’m put off by the apple comment. Not because I hate apple products, but because you are portraying a bit of an elitist attitude by saying all/most “forward thinking” designers use them.

How about we start thinking forward by not making anymore silly assumptions? :)

Doug S. Feb 08 2010

You can’t be young and an experienced web designer.

I actually lost a contract because I was a 24-year-old going up against a 40-something-year-old because they thought my age meant lack of experience. What many people tend to forget is that the internet hasn’t been around more than 16 years and of those years the web as we know it is less than a decade old. I’ve met 18 year old who can out code me any day of the week and know way more than I do about web accessibility. I often defer to a guy who’s not even in his 20’s yet on such matters.

Of course, he gets to do speaking engagements because of his knowledge.

elise Feb 08 2010

What a shame that the comments section had to be ruined by a bunch of parrots squawking how they didn’t drink the Apple Kool-Aid. Ok, we get it!

jason Feb 08 2010

And honestly, I may be technical in nature, but I don’t fix computers for a living, I don’t know or care why your email doesn’t work on your phone, nor am I going to program your TV.

Also, does a mechanic only take a single car at a time? No? Well, I don’t take on just a single web site at a time either. So if I tell you I can’t get to your content changes until this afternoon, or tomorrow, it isn’t because I’m playing video games all day.

While we’re at it, you want your website to bring in new customers, and make more money, that’s fine, I completely understand that. But if you don’t have any money budgeted for it, instead of trying to get something for nothing, wait and contact me when you have a realistic budget. And then when I start working on it, don’t try to sneak in another $1000 worth of work and act surprised when I tell you it’ll cost more because it’s beyond the scope you signed off on.

Heather Feb 08 2010

To add to the list — not all talented designers love or use Apple computers. I’ve been a creative director for many years and you can never tell what platform a design was done on and frankly I don’t care. I say whatever tools work for you is the way to go. I’d like to dispel the misconception in the design community and to the public that you must use a Mac to create. It’s simply not true.

So I don’t love Mac and in fact I don’t love any product or brand but I do love creative, smart and well-executed design. Cheers.

John Braine Feb 08 2010

Here’s a misconception I seem to come across a lot: “Web designers will happily spend all their free time making a site for your a friend of a friend of a friend who hasn’t really got a budget for a website”.

Stephen Feb 08 2010

plain stereotypes; when people see it happen, they simply assume everyone else in that “category” will be the same

time to grow up people…

Christi Feb 08 2010

I love…
“can you do this pro-bono, I’ll let you put your link to your site on ours” or
“so build my webstore and I’ll give you a % of the sales”…meanwhile, your stuff is crap, it won’t sell and I will never see a dime….I’ll pass

Bryan McAnulty Feb 08 2010

Great list of misconceptions, and more good ones in these comments.

After I designed (badly) a few sites, I hooked up with a graphic designer and we produced some very good sites.
In my experience it’s not unusual for the artistic and mechanical chores to be divided like this.
I don’t know of any designers who buy into that Apple/IBM crap any more.

Louis Feb 09 2010

Hey Shannon,

Great talking points here. Some interesting thoughts that could definitely provide basis for many future articles and discussions.

Although I like the content of this article, I somewhat disagree with the use of the word “common” in the title. I don’t see much evidence for many of these. I think all occupations have myths and misconceptions, and I don’t think there is any reason to think we’re unique in that respect. But I guess there aren’t many carpenters posting articles discussing myths in carpentry, so maybe we do have the platform for it, which also makes us unique.

Additionally, some of these were misconceptions in the past but I don’t think they are any longer.

Not to take anything away from the discussion points, though, because they are very relevant and should be considered whether or not they’re in relation to what is and isn’t common in our field. Thanks.

Edison A. Leon Feb 09 2010

Yeah, I heard them all

Penguin Pete Feb 09 2010

Gee, some of these are true for me, anyway (he said as he posted at almost 1AM EST).

That point with not being progressive, though. Actually, I’ve found it’s the *clients* who aren’t progressive. You can make whatever cutting-edge shiny toy you want, and they’ll look at you and go “Can I have animated GIFs, a MIDI song in the background, Javascript-ed cursor snowflakes, and a tiled image background with clashing transparent text over it please? That’s how I like websites.”

Similar to “Top Reasons 10 I Did Not Bid on Your Job”

Just the fact that this article exist is enough to make the web designer role and the claims herein questionable. Ever seen a similar article for, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, journalists, carpenters or architechts (the list of professional roles can grow quite long I guess)?

Anon and on Feb 09 2010

Poor us. If this is happening to you then you’re probably not at the top of your game. Self indulgent writing at it’s best!

Melvin José Feb 09 2010

This post made my day. Also love some of the comments.

duuude Feb 09 2010

I am professional Webdesigner for 14 years and I charge 110 Euros plus Tax per hour.

The people complaining about this are usually more on the wealthy side themselves. For some strange reason, the more they make themselves, the more they think that my rate is too high.

Two weeks ago, I went to my get my (rather short) hair cut.
It cost me 18,90 Euros and it took the girl 12 minutes to cut my hair (I checked, because I was sitting facing a watch).

That adds up to a hourly rate of 94,5 Euros !!!
Simply for cutting hair !!

And how is my rate high again ??

Robin Feb 09 2010

Some people seem to think that only guys are web designers. I’ve been offered a ton of projects where I’ve been asked to be the web “guy.” I’ve had to politely indicate that I’m a female and that there are many more of us in this business than they’d realize! LOL

But then again, in most countries, my name is a boy’s name, so maybe that’s more of the issue.

I have seen projects posted on various sites, however, where someone is looking for a good web “guy” or “dude” or even a web “man.”

The rest of these items, however, DEAD ON.

SatoriBlogger Feb 09 2010

Interesting topic Shannon, and Thanks for writing it. Let me be just another “I agree” voice to this list. As a web hosting company, we took on web developement to “fill the void”. Yes there is a difference between web developement and web design, and we are not claiming to be designers. Just as intelligent car mechanics may be able to do a repair that they have never been formally introduced to, so we can provide enough design to our developements. However, we have a genious amongst us, simple everyday people as myself would not stand a chance. Free tools on the web is just like saying there are tools at Wal Mart to use to fix your car, you still need to know how to use them (and there are plenty of us who dont) and we also know how many times that people can make things worse because of this. I would like to also re-iterate that a companys website is very typically their #1 marketing/advertising tool! Lastly, here are my we-do’s and don’ts…We dont charge enough (we are not rich, we are struggling to survive), we do excel in customer service(which it takes ALOT of), we do create great websites without a true designer (although its tougher), we do learn equally to what we work (if programming and HTML are easy to you then you may be a genius too, because it isnt to me), we dont agree that 110 euros per hour for 14 years of experience is fair (it should be 150), we wouldn’t be competitive if we didnt have a genius on board (we would then merely be your brothers bosses neighbor who feels good that he did something for somebody, but then secretly hates you because you robbed him of a week of his time), and oh-yeah, we are a PC…we can’t even spell ?appel?. Forgive all the mispellings and grammer misuse, I’m not a writer either.

Shannon Feb 09 2010

Great discussion going on here, thanks again for the wonderful feedback! I did mention it in a previous comment, but it seems it should be touched on again. I do realize we don’t all love Apple, but take into consideration the tone of the article, it’s all done in fun! It’s a light article meant to poke fun of the myths we may or may not have heard about our industry. No self indulgent writing here :)

TimHD Feb 09 2010

I have to agree with much of what was said in this article and also many of the comments on this page… A great read and article.

Well Done


It is very sad that you are making people trully believe that making a usable, nice looking website is a HARD and COMPLEX thing to do.

Look at your website:

The bare essence of it are: three gradients, one simple logo, a screenshot of three windows and a layout style that makes the navigation and text usable and easy for consumption.

Why don’t you say that 90% of the websites don’t actually need PHP or Javascript or whatever, and in most cases (such as contact forms, galleries, blogs, forums) the scripts can be downloaded for free (open source) or buy a license for less than $100.

Sure, making a frontend to communicate with the MasterCard backend processing of a bank is hard, but a website for “X Shop” certainly isn’t.

That’s all and shame on you.

duuude Feb 09 2010


Do you realize it’s exactly YOU (and the likes of you) that this whole article is about?

Please inform us what YOU do for a living, so we can tell you why you are in fact obsolete and overpaid because it can be done better, cheaper and faster by a herd of monkeys.

Shannon Feb 09 2010

@Emil – A design can be simple and minimal as well as complex at the same time. You’ve missed the meaning of being a designer if you think a gradient, a logo and some screenshots is all it takes to make a website. A design takes thought and time, and a good design can’t be slapped together as you’ve described. Clients pay for a designer’s expertise on marketing, layout, and typography as well as the actual backend code such as PHP or Javascript if it so requires. It takes time to complete as well as the knowledge to create it, and isn’t as easy as you’ve made it out to be.

“Learning each one is like learning another language like Spanish, French, or German.”

Stopped reading there. Not even remotely similar, laughable that you tried to play that card.


Kristin Feb 09 2010

Well, here’s one misconception about creative folks in general that appears to be true – we can be a nasty, snarky bunch. Really people. The tone of some of these comments are downright acidic. And it’s no coincidence that the majority of them have no links, gravatars or full names to identify themselves. Pity they can’t offer helpful, genuine criticism in the light of day, but apparently being “helpful” is not their goal.

I use a MAC and PC. It’s a good thing. And I’m not so fragile that my world is going to fall apart because some Linux guy says he likes working with Linux folks. So what, you’re a PC. Apple = bad. We get it. Try not to lose sleep over it.

That said, I’m a designer from an art and print background creating graphics for an eCommerce site. I’m learning coding languages in my spare time and at work. Being an artist as well (painting, etc) I am always amazed by how people think creative work manifests itself by sheer magic, like we pull it out of our bums. And I love the numerous times I’ve been asked to work for free or for crap pay because “you’re so good at it and you love it!” I walk away from those people now.

I guess you guys are right – at first I kind of thought: “why would a couple of Photoshop layers in a table be expensive”, but it does seem to have a point in terms of marketing and product positioning.

Kind of like a value added service it seems.

Plus, most business owners actually save on money if they hire a professional for design and development – the job gets done better and in less time then it would take the actual owner to learn for himself.

Thanks and sorry for my previous post!

Akshay Feb 10 2010

Web Engineers >> Web Designers.

A. Pedant Feb 10 2010

“It takes time and patience to be a professional web designer, and I’m sorry, but your mom’s friend’s brother’s neighbor is not one of them.”

Perhaps an example of why designers are not the people to write the text. “Your mom’s is neither time nor patience”

nishant Feb 10 2010

designing involves creativity..
and there us a very thin line between taking inspiration and copying something..

Brian Krall Feb 10 2010

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is web designers vs. front-end web developers vs. programmers. Not all designers can code and not all coders can design…

But yes, that is a good way of addressing people who have no idea what “web designer” means.

Shine Feb 11 2010

Well said Shannon…. In my opinion, web designing is one of the most demanding career in these days, as a webdesigner should excel both in creativity & Technology.

Padizine Feb 11 2010

Great post indeed, too bad it started with a massive misconception about web designers being “Apple-loving”. Actually most of the developers(as you said, developers and designers blend together) out there don’t use Apple at all. This isn’t a Mac v.s. PC debate or anything, it’s just facts.

Thank you for your post, I think if people were more educated and started spreading the word, we would have a less difficult time with our clients.

Kaushik Feb 12 2010

The BIGGEST misconception about web designers is that clients know more what looks better on their site.

Batfan Feb 12 2010

Hate to be an echo but, “I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving” is definitely a misconception. Not all designers/developers use Apple stuff, although it is often assumed that they do.

I’m a happy PC user and I despise Apple products.

amused Feb 13 2010

web designers aren’t technical enough to do anything else. cop out job!

Mario S. Cisneros Feb 14 2010

I have 25-years of corporate experience and 12-years designing Web sites. However, I’ve met and learned a great deal from designers half my age, which is certainly a misconception when a company is considering engaging a Web designer. I don’t think age should be an issue when it comes to evaluating talent.

However, there is much more to building Web sites then being proficient at XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, SEO, etc. that are equally as important to the success of the overall project. Often a designer will need to interact with the client and having business, project management and leadership experience can be a huge bonus.

Really enjoyed the article Shannon.

Having a pencil and paper doesn’t make you a good artist. It’s the same with webdesign.

Rob Loukotka Feb 16 2010

While obviously there are a lot of myths about web designers, they probably come from web design being a very poorly defined career. A ‘web designer’ could be 30 year veteran in the design industry, who over the past decade has shifted all of their marketing expertise to the online realm, and produces amazing work with a great team of engineers. It could also be a 15 year old kid, who’s put together their first website, yet they’re both selling their services.

This wide wide valley of difference doesn’t exist in respected professions. There are no kids pretending to be doctors, architects, or engineers. But a truly talented web designer or developer has surely spent just as many years perfecting their craft.

Web design suffers from the same stigmas that all creative fields do. These same myths apply would apply to photographers as well. My answer is to ignore what some people may think, and work with people who value you, because you know you’re worth it. This job can be just as complicated and stressful as any, so I don’t think we have time to worry about what strangers think, haha.

But I do appreciate posts like this standing up the profession.

Beth Cole Feb 17 2010

Well said, Shannon! Thanks for saying out loud what many of us think to ourselves all the time. Keep those great thoughts coming!

Elizabeth Feb 17 2010

Loved this article especially the “dime a dozen” comment. It’s not until people realize their 15 year old neighbor might not be the best person to create a business presence. That’s when they realize paying a little more for professional, quality web design is worth the money. I always tell clients, you usually get what you pay for, so be careful if it sounds too good to be true because it probably is!

(Of course the “odd hours” comment fits for me – but that’s only because I’m most creative between 10pm and 3am!)

I disagree with comparing learning tech languages to foreign languages, mainly because I pickup programming language and markup fairly quickly, yet i have struggled all my life to learn a foreign language. So those who think they can’t do IT, because they struggle with languages, its really not the same, at all.

Web design is consider IT, and as web developer/ programmer, I’d say BIGGEST misconception, is that I can fix your pc. I can’t fix my own pc, build one, or do lots of things hardware and network guys can do.

Just wanted to say very good article, and comments. And I’d highly recommend anyone getting into the field because the demand is only growing. I’d recommend taking your first few jobs, not based on salary, but 1) tools and 2) eyeballs.

Like Shannon said portfolio is very important, if you worked on something somebody knows, your income will grow dramatically.

Robert Anthony Feb 17 2010

Web designers have it easy? Hah!

I’m not a web designer but I can play around and fiddle with a .php file here and there, but just looking at that make me want to hug the nearest web designer or developer. I murdered my site one time playing around with tying to edit the colors, and if it wasn’t for th kind and benevolent web designers I chat with on skype, I would have been sans website!

Dont forget “web designers can build a website to the standard of ebay in 24 hours, all for free, because when it takes of we will be paid MILLLLLLIONS for our efforts”

Wesley Feb 18 2010

All of your points are valid but there are just a few I really understand. I’ve not encountered all of those points but the “dime a dozen”, that’s something I feel myself but have not really noticed.

I do dislike that people think I just sit at my computer all day and do nothing, while I’m really busy with several projects whilest maintaining my business..

Sorry for the poor English, it’s not my native language and I wrote this way too fast.. :D

Great article. I hear these misconceptions every day, and you offer some great responses to them. Thank you.

Savvas Feb 25 2010

It really depends with whom you’re up against. Isn’t it the case that the ones that survive are the ones that stand out of the crowd?

Natasha H. Feb 25 2010

Loved the post! It was very informative. I’m majoring in multimedia design and hope to become a web designer one day and even I was under some of these misconceptions!

Thanks for setting me (any many others) straight!

Jenn Steinhauer Mar 09 2010

The items you have posted are the most common misconceptions I’ve come across, but I’ve also had a problem with clients thinking I am a computer tech, and that I can (will) fix their computers when something is broken.

“You’re good with websites, you must be able to fix my computer. Can you….”

LOL no!

David Mar 10 2010

Another Great One:

The idea that a web designer can create a website out of nothing. They want you to create a website for them but they give you nothing to work with.. no text, no images etc.

Content is key and yet many people think the web designer is responsible for everything! Im not a copywriter and Im not a photographer. If you want me to do those things you have to pay for it buddy.

Orlando Mar 22 2010

The article is about web _designers_ there is a difference.

Adedoyin Kassem Mar 23 2010

Another misconception I keep try to change is that –

“Web designers are Graphic Designers”.

TheAL Mar 25 2010

Nice article. Will be passing it on.

p.s. “I’m proud to be a part of an Apple-loving,” kinda makes me want to add that to the list. Though I am somewhat more of a programmer/developer than designer, I do a fair share of designing. And I have been an avid PC-enthusiast since my childhood in the late 80’s. Not a fan of Apple by any stretch, and I think the “pretentious, artsy-fartsy Mac lover” thing is a serious stereotype.

IPC Design Ltd Apr 29 2010

Brilliant blog, just reading some of them made me laugh as I have heard them all too many a time. Have linked to this article, think it might help some people see that what we choose to do for a living, isnt as easy as people may think!

Although I agree with the previous posters comment… we dont all use Macs, Ive never been near one, and never plan to!

Riavon May 21 2010

“some of us are in fact Apple-hating…” I’m with Max and Karl (above) on that. I actually started on Macs and very deliberately switched to PC and cannot stand Mac. I’ve built a very successful design business with my trusty ole Dell computer! Just because one is a ‘designer’ does NOT mean they are a Mac. Just sayin’. :)

Guillermo Ortiz May 26 2010

Making money right out of school is probably the biggest misconception! Even being highly skilled won’t guarantee anything given the nature of the business and how competitive it can be.

Peter Jun 10 2010

I think that we are in a very different era. Our economy has influenced us so much that we are no longer Web designers, now a day we need more than that; we need to be “Jack of all Trades” Just like those all in one printers and this is something that has created a mediocrity among web designers. You can only be so good at something.

stellarking Jun 28 2010

Amen. I can’t believe how wrong our role in society has been categorized. Where did people even get such crazy ideas about us? Oh well. Sooner or later, they will catch on. Thank you for setting the record straight.

I have been operating computers since I was very young, it was about 1979. I learned how to use computers. I don’t give a fig what OS they run, except how it will technically impact a project. I also do not have the luxury of forcing my clients to use my OS of choice. I work DOS, Windows, Macintosh, Linux. It doesn’t matter. If you have to waste my time with some stupid Ford vs. Chevy argument, then you aren’t worth my time. Learn how to use computers and take the blinders off. Other than making the mistake of mentioning Apple and making a couple of grammatical errors, it was a great article.

parry Sep 06 2010

loved the post…..i was in misconception

markshepherd Sep 24 2010

I can’t even think where to begin tearing this article apart. The truth is you place too much self-importance on “grand designs” and “artistic vision” thinking that it justifies outrageous rates.

I’m a small IT service start-up dealing in sm/med business PC repair, MS Windows Server 2003 & GNU/Linux, OpenBSD, networking, building/installing workgroup servers, e-mail services, unattended remote data backup, data recovery, security, consulting, etc.

One client contracted me to develop a site, wherein I stated I’d handle the hosting, domain setup, CMS integration & sub-contract out the design. Local freelancers quoted 2800.00~3500.00 for *one* page’s design (!) They had the audacity to quote this without even *knowing* Drupal & it’s template methodology.

I downloaded Komodo Edit, Inkscape & GIMPShop. Anyone with a triple-digit IQ & miniscule creative spark can do this. Try surfing your “pretty sites” in Lynx/Elinks & stop kidding yourselves.

Go ahead, flame me. I bet the majority here can’t remember a time before Mosaic.

Shannon Noack Sep 27 2010

@markshepherd – I appreciate the feedback about the article. I do place a lot of importance on the design of a site, and artistic vision, although I never mentioned that it justifies high rates. I think that’s a different subject altogether! And I have to kindly disagree with your idea that “Anyone with a triple-digit IQ & miniscule creative spark can do this.” Many people can use the programs, I agree, but designing is something very different and that’s something that not everyone can do. Scroll through this site to check out a bunch of articles on designing and you’ll see that it takes much more than just a creative spark. Good luck with your IT stuff!

BlueFire Oct 04 2010

Excellent article about the misconceptions about web designers. It definitely is not your typical 9-5 job and to be good at it you have to be able to wear more than one hat.

Wow, I love this. All so true! I die a little inside every time I meet a client using an old version of IE…

Casper Jan 12 2011

Good article and good comments, nice read.

I am glad to hear so many designers pointing out they aren’t “Apple loving.” Count me as another.

I’m bored with the war between developers and designers. The supergeeks feel that your skills aren’t worth much unless you can write entire programs from scratch. While I know a precious few who have a good mix of design and development skills, most will veer toward one or the other. I have a great partnership with a developer. Our skills complement each other and each of us is clear about our strengths and weaknesses. No war of egos here. Who has time for such infantilism?

Cairns Web Mar 15 2011

Fundamentally I think the issue is that it is very easy to underestimate the amount of work and effort that goes into design and development. This coupled with people new on the scene who don’t value their time because they’re having so much darn fun.

Anyway, we’re all different, I reckon I know a developer/designer who goes against the grain in some way or another, but it’s a touch business for sure.

boatmaster Mar 17 2011

It’s hard to focus on your work without taking other (SEO) parameters that search engines are bringing in more and more. Sometimes, its just not enough to be good, while everybody else are suggesting it is essential for success. That sucks.

I liked the article and the point you have made…

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