Finding a Niche in the Web Design World
In order to be successful as a web designer in today’s growing industry, it is essential to develop a niche that can, and will, attract clients. The idea of a specialty is simple enough, but it can be much more difficult actually finding and then deciding on a niche to spend the rest of one’s career in.
In this post we’ll check out some of the popular niches within this industry and how some specific designers have carved out a unique niche to suit their needs and wants. We’ll also look into how a new designer can explore and find their individual niche.
What is a Niche?
Let’s start simple — according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
“…a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted…”
Anyone can say their a web designer, but how will a client know that person is the right choice? Having an area, or sub-category, within the web design industry is essential to letting potential clients know they are the right choice for the specific job. Let’s say a client needs a blog design done — are they going to hire someone who says they’re a web designer, or someone who says they’re a web designer that specializes in blog design?
By having a specialty, a niche, one can become better at a certain type of website design. Then, in return, this can lead to a better career (doing what you love to do), better clients, and even higher rates for what you do specifically.
Popular Web Design Niches
Before we get into how to find one’s own niche, let’s look at some current popular niches so we can better define what a niche is, or what it can be in this industry. By doing this, we can also look at how specific web designers are working within them.
Blog design (and we way WordPress specifically just because it is the most popular choice for a blog platform) has grown as a sustainable niche within the web design industry. Note how Michael Martin from Pro Blog Design runs a blog, custom designed by him, about blog design in order to reach potential clients for what he does best.
Many small companies or start-ups like to hire freelancers for a more cost-effective option. Working solo doesn’t necessarily mean fewer profits for a freelancer, but it can mean less spending for a small business. Shannon Moeller creates an individual feel, and emphasizes a solo-working, one-on-one attitude to potential clients, creating more appeal to small businesses looking for individual solutions.
Individuals & Non-Profits
One niche is to create simple, yet cost effective websites for non-profits, such as churches, charities, or even individuals for special causes. While the price range for these types of websites may be lower, having a specialization in the area can be very attractive to these types of clients, bringing on a lot of work.
Vandelay design clearly states right on their front page that their focus is on church websites. While they likely have other types of clients, they’re design style mimics the style that many church websites would be looking for.
Sometimes designers only like to focus on design, and forget about the development aspect. While not all development is avoidable as a web designer, much of it can be avoided by putting more of a focus on design, rather than coding expansion (CMS’s, programming, special effects, etc.).
Although Rob Palmer does do a bit of development work, one can see from his portfolio design, his portfolio pieces, and even the description of his type of work that he is a sole designer. I does graphic design on top of just web design, and therefore focuses his professional energy in that direction, rather than a website development direction.
Design & Development
Many times designers will want to focus less on design (still do web design, but not necessarily other forms of design) along with putting more emphasis on the coding background. By doing so, clients who need more advanced solutions for web pages can zero in on these types of niches.
Function is a web development firm that has worked with some big names. Right away one can see that their design, while aesthetically pleasing, is not as design-oriented (artsy) as the above example. Instead, Function focuses on more than design, from blog development, to custom coding, and more. Even within their web design practices they focus on functionality, and the overall user experience from a more technical level.
How to Find Your Own
There are plenty of ways new designers can discover their niches for their benefit. However, most of it will have to come from trial and error. Often times new designer want to be able to do it all — if they know how to do it, they will. It seems logical at first because it seems one would be able to gain more clients, and therefore make more money as an independent contractor. However, specializing in one niche, getting better at it during each project, and having more experience overall within the niche is much more beneficial to clients.
There are a few things new designers can do to discover a niche:
- Check out what other designers are doing, how their getting their clients in that niche, and why they put their focus on that.
- By all means, be the Jack of Trades during the first year in the industry, to gain clients in a few niches. Sometimes the best research is just pure experience.
- Write down and explore what you really love to do. Your niche does not need to be a replica of another designer’s practices. It can be a niche and workflow all of your own.
- Check out job boards, talk with others, and find out what kind of jobs most clients are needing/wanting.
- Check out your own design style, and refine it to discover a website-type niche. Is your style grungy? Band or even church websites may be best. Is your style sleek, modern, and very Web 2.0? Business or corporate websites should then be your focus.
Finding a niche can be very beneficial to a solo worker, and even for finding a job within the industry. Hopefully this post has helped many new designers, or perhaps even designers that were looking for a change. A niche can be anything from simple web design, to graphic, branding, and web design mixed.
No matter what a designer focuses on, though, a niche can allow the designer to focus on what clients they need to attract, helping them gain not only more work, but better work. It can also help to let a designer raise prices for focused, experienced, and well done work.