I’ve been designing interactive ‘sites’ since 1981 (a portion of my resume Portfolio is labeled – appropriately – “Before we called it the Web”). Much of my earlier work was hand-tooled. I even ended up creating some very rudimentary design productivity tools which I both used myself and marketed to other players.

Return on Investment-of-Effort

The exercise of do-it-yourself is not particularly well-compensated, but it was necessary at the time – as well as educationalchallenging, and professionally satisfying. I’m forever glad that I did it. I don’t recommend it as a career move for anyone else.

Dirt-under-the-fingernails skills are great to have, but they aren’t particularly valued in the current marketplace. If anything, an increasing number of recruiters, employers, and stakeholders look at you with impatience and suspicion if you claim the ability to work beyond the currently popular toolset.

The platforms & tools of website design evolve – or are replaced – over time. Not unlike the car (one of my favorite metaphors), the fundamental vehicle itself has not changed much in 100+ years. The significant changes are in its ‘user interface” (UI) and “usability” (UX).

The analysis of fundamental needs and dynamics of the interactive environment have changed little over time. Implementations may evolve into new products, but the underlying concepts persist.

A good tool (which is well-accepted) becomes a standard.


The nature of tools

I spent about 3 decades doing interactivity design more-or-less by hand. Dreamweaver is my olde schoole default tool for html/css. It’s worth noting that Dreamweaver – and even my own rudimentary design tools – were based on Templates and patterns. In order to be useful, a useful tool pre-packages functionality for you. It’s always been that way and it’s pretty much inescapable.

This means that things tend to get automated over time – and we (humans) lose our agency (ability to do things ourselves).

Okay – Back to WordPress…

WordPress is …

  • affordable
  • broadly accepted
  • fairly easy to use
  • nice balance of autonomy and pre-packaging
  • open source (extensible, current)
  • a pretty decent de facto standard

Perhaps most importantly, WordPress offers a nice, usable suite of content management tools: taxonomy, tagging, categories, keywords – the things that allow you to create a ‘self aware’ site.


Ethics: Your Role

Many of the simplest, most superficial features of WordPress allow you to create a simple, shallow, superficial site ‘at the touch of a button’. If that’s all that you bring to the table, then you might want to advise your client appropriately.

Let’s face it:

“A nice coat of paint” surface decoration is undeniably an important aspect of design, but functionalityusabilityutility and marketing alignment are the actual satisfiers for most businesses (even small ones). That’s what you really do, isn’t it?

The out-of-the-box pre-packaged features of WordPress are a convenience – Not an ethical dilemma.


originally posted as an answer on Quora (12/28/2017)


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