Boost your web design by embracing social media

There’s no hiding it: we’re genuinely excited about the talk Sarah Parmenter will be giving at our Generate London conference on 19-21 September. She’ll be addressing a subject that’s increasingly important in our industry, yet not often talked about.

“[I’m looking] at how everything we’re learning about social media at the moment needs to be wrapped into web design,” she explains. “I believe this is as important as learning about responsive web design was back in 2012 or 2013. Nowadays, we have to understand marketing strategies and there are loads of other elements to our jobs that are growing beyond just dealing with code.”

Of course, some companies think social media means they no longer need a website at all but Parmenter dismisses these as outliers. “The majority of firms still recognise the need to have a website; a base of their own online,” she says. “However, the sea-change we’re experiencing is more about the decreasing effort that people are putting into that base.”

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Changing client priorities

Clients, in short, are moving their priorities away from website maintenance and more towards Facebook advertising. “But what they don’t realise is that the whole thing needs to work together,” she points out. “It’s not enough to just have great Facebook advertising, for example, if the call to action on your website doesn’t instil confidence in someone to buy your product. So the whole thing feels like a house of cards at the moment. If it’s not all lined up properly, the whole lot falls down.”

Keeping everything working together properly is an increasingly onerous job (to help, try shared cloud storage everyone on the team can access). But it’s one that’s mainly being dumped on web designers. “The job has been growing into a beast,” she says. “Most of the people in this industry love what they do. But we’ve been bolting on all these extra facets to our jobs, and we’ve not really been putting our prices up in line with the new skill sets that we’ve had to learn.“

“For example, when responsive web design arrived, everyone was really excited about it, but it was really hard work. I remember having to sit down and relearn everything: it was like when we went from tables to CSS layouts. Yet no one’s rates really went up in line with that.“ 

“And nowadays, I feel like understanding marketing strategy and social media, and how we actually design for that, is another bolt-on to an ever-growing job title that doesn’t really reflect the totality of what we do any more.”

In fact, she’s not even sure whether the job title ‘web designer’ is still useful. “Employers keep adding to it,” she complains. “I’ve spoken to so many web designers at conferences whose boss has told them: ‘Our social media account is on the web, you’re the web person, you’re now our social media manager as well.’ And they’re like ‘Wait? What? How has that been rolled into my job title?’”

It needs the whole industry to collectively say: ‘Right, we’ve been too cheap, too long’. People need our skills, so we all need to collectively understand just how much goes into what we do these days, and collectively raise our rates.

Sarah Parmenter

So what’s the solution? “It needs the whole industry to collectively say: ‘Right, we’ve been too cheap, too long’”, argues Parmenter. “People need our skills, so we all need to collectively understand just how much goes into what we do these days and collectively raise our rates.“ 

“That’s a very difficult thing to do, of course, and I don’t have any easy solution to how to go about that. But we need to face up to it as a profession; this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away.” 

In the meantime, her talk at Generate London will be full of real-world advice on how to make our web designs work with social media. “It’s a practical talk,” she stresses. “It’s about how to look at audience insights, how small changes to the way you work can help you add value. Essentially, I want people to be able to go to their boss and say: ‘I’m doing all these things and I’ve identified a brand new market that we should be targeting: please can I have a pay rise?’”

This article was originally published in issue 309 of net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 309 or subscribe to net.

Want to hear more from Sarah Parmenter on making the most of social media?

Sarah Parmenter is giving her talk Digital Marketing Strategies for the Busy “Web Master” at Generate London from 19-21 September 2018.

Sarah Parmenter is giving her talk Digital Marketing Strategies for the Busy “Web Master” at Generate London from 19-21 September 2018

If you're interested in learning more about marketing, make sure you've picked up your ticket for Generate London from 19-21 September 2018. An award-winning designer with clients including Adobe, Ellen Degeneres, Apple, Blackberry and News International, Sarah Parmenter will be delivering her keynote – Digital Marketing Strategies for the Busy “Web Master” – in which she will discuss the idea of quarterly website design reviews with a “design once use everywhere” mantra.

She will also dig into the ever-changing world of Instagram algorithms, Facebook marketing and topical social media takeaways for immediate implementation.

Generate London takes place from 19-21 September 2018. Get your ticket now.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.