The Web Design Survey

A few days back, we remarked on the strange absence of real data about web design and the designers, developers, IAs, writers, project managers, and other specialists and hybrids who do this work. In all the years people have been creating websites, nobody bothered to gather statistics about who does this work, using what skills, under what conditions, and for what kinds of compensation.

In the absence of statistics specific to our field, commissioning research got us only so far. It was time to take the next step.

I took it! And so should you. The Web Design Survey, 2007.

Presenting A List Apart’s first annual web design survey. The information it collects will help us form a long overdue picture of the ways web design is really practiced around the globe. The more people who complete the survey, the richer and more detailed the picture will become.

Depending on how you answer it, the survey has up to 37 questions, nearly all of them multiple choice. A fluent English speaker should be able to complete the survey in ten minutes or less.

In structuring the sections on employment, we patterned certain questions along the lines established by previous surveys undertaken by AIGA and The Information Architecture Institute. The similarity will afford easier comparisons across the three surveys. This comparability will be useful because some “web designers” are also (or primarily) designers, and thus also fall under AIGA’s umbrella, while other “web designers” are primarily information architects.

Hosted by An Event Apart, the survey will remain open until 22 May, 2007. After we close it, we’ll slice and dice the data and present our findings in a future issue of A List Apart.

Help us increase accurate knowledge about—and deepen respect for—the profession of web design. Take the survey and spread the word. (You might even win a free ticket to An Event Apart, a 30GB video iPod, an Event Apart jump drive, or a funky A List Apart T-shirt.)

Also in this issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

The Long Hallway

by Jonathan Follett

In the virtual conference room, no one can hear you scream. Social networking enables knowledge workers like us to build virtual companies with no office space and little overhead. But can we make them succeed? Follett dissects the skills required to create, manage, and grow the virtual firm.

Contrast and Meaning

by Andy Rutledge

Yes, Virginia, design does matter. Better web page layouts aren’t only about aesthetics. A layout with clear hierarchies can turn scanners to readers, and readers to members. Learn how visual contrast can turn lifeless web pages into sizzling calls to action.

[tags]webdesign, survey, design, development, compensation, business, alistapart, AndyRutledge, JonathanFollett, longhallway, thelonghallway[/tags]

15 thoughts on “The Web Design Survey”

  1. What are the results that you are expecting to find?

    It would be interesting to hear a well thought out view of what is expected of this survey, before the results are out. It could then be used later to compare the perceived industry, with the actual one. (For instance, if a problem has been talked about on blogs before now, but no evidence of it is found in this survey, does that mean that the problem lies with the main sites/blogs/voices people base their views on, as opposed to there actually being a widespread problem?

  2. I took the survey, but I am really annoyed about the question “Where are you located?”

    I do realise that ALA’s audience comes mainly from the US and the UK, but lumping all of Europe as “EU (except the UK)” irks me!
    Especially when the US takes almost half of the list (what are the big differences between “Midwest” and “Great Plains?”).

    So what, is “diversity” only used in the context of “white male vs everyone else” and can we just consider two dozen countries (3 of them in the G8 for what it’s worth), with varying levels of income, quality of life, and languages, as just one abstract category?

    For example, there is a world of difference between work conditions, compensation, pay, between countries like France and Romania (Romania is fast becoming Europe’s India when it comes to outsourcing), just like you can expect there to be big differences between Japan and Vietnam (in the “Asia (except India)” zone).

    So I took the survey and I’m happy that ALA is conducting one, but really this whole anglocentrism is getting old.

    (One example of anglocentrism is the over hyped Coda app that still defaults to creating files in Mac Roman encoding without the excuse of being a Classic app. It’s 2007 for heavens’ sake, everyone uses utf8!)

  3. @Michel:

    Thanks for taking the survey. You are not the only person to object to our geographic categories. Even lots of Americans complained. (San Franciscans, at least those who complained about this in the survey comments, do not think of themselves as living in the US Northwest, for instance.)

    Our initial inclination was to list every nation on earth in a drop-down menu. But the other surveys didn’t do this. The other surveys used the very categories you are objecting to, such as “EU (except the UK).”

    We followed their lead so we (and you) could more easily compare our findings to theirs, when we publish our findings in about two months.

    Some designers will identify as designers, and take the AIGA survey; some will identify as web designers, and take ours; some will take both. The same is true for IAs and the IA survey. Copying patterns established by previous surveys (such as the way they categorized geographic regions) will enable apple-to-apple comparisons.

    That said, we’re not married to these categories or anything else about the survey. It’s our first effort (and the industry’s) and perhaps it’s an example of “getting real.” We made a survey and got it out there; our users will tell us how to make the next iteration better.

    Thanks for the valuable feedback, and thanks again for taking the survey. Please help spread the word!

  4. Although I’m only peripherally involved with Web development anymore, I was interested to see what you’d be asking in this survey.

    While it was of course encouraging to see important issues of gender and racial imbalance addressed in the survey, I was disappointed in these questions’ wording, and highly skeptical that as worded they would be likely to produce any meaningful results.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the way one frames and words a question strongly conditions the meaning of any responses. With all due respect, asking if the progress of one’s career has been slowed by employer or client prejudice is not a particularly useful way to bring the existence of such prejudice to light.

    At the economically meaningful level, such behavior frequently operates in ways that may not even be apparent to the people experiencing it, and which only emerge in large-scale aggregate. At the personal level, prejudice need not have an explicit impact on the progress of one’s career to be thoroughly obnoxious, unwelcome and detrimental.

    I question whether, as worded, this survey doesn’t suffer from confirmation bias, and whether any “findings” produced in response to the prejudice questions would in fact be significant indicators of meaningfully detrimental behavior in the workplace.

  5. Adam, the explicit “attitude” questions at the end of the survey are of course not the only or even the primary means of discovering whether prejudices exist.

    The data itself, as we slice and dice it, will reveal many things, including the existence (or lack thereof) of a glass ceiling, etc. The data is where we’ll find out what’s actually happening.

    But it’s also worthwhile to ask what people think. We can then compare what people think to what the data says. You see?

  6. Michael Martin asked:

    What are the results that you are expecting to find? It would be interesting to hear a well thought out view of what is expected of this survey, before the results are out. It could then be used later to compare the perceived industry, with the actual one. (For instance, if a problem has been talked about on blogs before now, but no evidence of it is found in this survey, does that mean that the problem lies with the main sites/blogs/voices people base their views on, as opposed to there actually being a widespread problem?

    If I had expectations, I would not discuss them in advance, for fear of contaminating the data.

    The survey wasn’t built to prove a point, it was built to try to find out some facts.

    We’ll certainly look to see if the data supports or refutes contentions of bias that have been discussed here and on other sites. But we’re not conducting the survey to prove or disprove such contentions.

    We’re conducting the survey because we are the overlooked engine of the new new new economy. Our work makes the web possible, and makes some people quite wealthy. We should know more about ourselves. And so should the world.

    How are we doing? How are we treated? How do our salaries and benefits stack up against the average accountant’s? Do most of us find the work personally enriching, or is it a drag?

    These are the kinds of questions we are trying to find answers to.

  7. I quit the survey at the second page because I was so annoyed at the lack of a job title such as “Client-side Developer” or “Interface Engineer”, even “Front-end Developer” would have sufficed. I’m not a Web Designer (I do design, just not at my current job) and Developer sounds like I’m a Server-side programmer, which I’m not. My role deserves a little more prominence than simply “Other”, so I just couldn’t determine how to advance past that page.

  8. I Took It!

    I always like these kind of things and anxiously look forward to seeing some results.

    Although I thought the survey was a bit “bland” in nature and some of the questions were hard to truly answer (what is a self-employed designers title?, etc..) I know that alot of that was for good reason (to match data with existing data) and in a lot of cases it is very hard to cover everything.

    Bravo though, and keep up the good work.

  9. I quit the survey at the second page because I was so annoyed at the lack of a job title such as “Client-side Developer” or “Interface Engineer”, even “Front-end Developer” would have sufficed.

    Sorry you were frustrated! Developer is the second choice (pg. 2, question 4, “what is your job title?”), immediately after Designer. It doesn’t say “Client-side Developer,” that’s true; but it does say Developer.

    There are hundreds of titles out there, partly because businesses that hire web workers make up job titles for them. No survey could list all the titles that are out there.

    Did we miss a bet by not offering a half dozen more specific Developer titles such as “Front-end Developer” and “Client-side Developer?” Maybe we did. On the plus side, though, with one our general developer title, it will be easier to see how many people work as developers.

    I encourage you to represent the developers in the house—go back online, check “developer” at answer 4, and complete the survey.

  10. I took the survey and I wait for the results. I agree that web design shouldn’t be a hidden profession, but due to its nature it’s hard to bring it to light.

    I think that these days many web design professionals are in the spotlight – having, almost, the “rock star status” -, but this status can be seen only by those who are familiar with this industry.

  11. Unfortunately, school teaching keeps up certain traditional views, which have been out of date for many years and which obscure the understanding of the actual state of affairs. ,

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