How to Find Your Web Design Niche
As a web designer, you may find yourself fitting into a niche naturally over time. Perhaps without deliberation, your experience, circumstances, and inclinations may have you focus on specific industries, website types, audiences, and more.
Conversely, this may not occur, or you may consciously dismiss the notion. Not narrowing your scope down may allow you to become a “jack-of-all-trades”, and this may make perfect sense for you.
However, “master-of-none” will often follow in many clients’ minds, and the competitive digital marketing landscape may not sustain this approach. More specific and complex problems require more specific and deep solutions, so expertise will often pay off.
With this in mind, you may begin to wonder how to find your web design niche. This exploration and your final choice will need to hinge on various factors outside of simple taste alone.
So, let us pinpoint precisely why this subject warrants your attention and how you may best approach it.
Why finding your web design niche matters
First and foremost, let us establish precisely why this issue bears discussion. “Clients value expertise” is an all too true marketing truism, but it offers little new information – like truisms typically do.
Initially, web design holds massive, seemingly timeless potential alongside massive, unyielding power.
HostingTribunal highlights this in no uncertain terms through such statistics as the following:
- “94% of all first impressions on a website are design-related.”
- “38% of people will stop visiting a website if its design is sloppy and unattractive.”
- “Almost half of all users say website design is the number one factor that shapes their opinion on the credibility of the business.”
Moreover, despite the global pandemic, these persistent customer behaviour trends are contextualised by continued eCommerce growth.
Shopify notes this global trend and cites Statista to identify the surge of mobile sales at its centre:
Today, these find even more value as Google’s Core Web Vitals centre ranking on the User Experience (UX).
As a direct extension of its search engine’s user-first priorities, Core Web Vitals only solidify SEO’s years-long course.
These factors, along with more that we only skip for text economy, directly impact web design and development.
Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that “[e]mployment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 13 per cent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations”.
The difference in growth offers some value here all in itself, as it comes at 13%, leaps and bounds ahead of the 8% average.
You may rightfully want to find your web design niche early in this context.
This increasingly competitive landscape will, in most likelihood, require considerable expertise from brands to edge ahead of the competition. In turn, as their web design will best reflect it, the same will apply to web designers themselves.
Web design niche types
That said, web design niches will vary considerably. One may approach their focus differently and inform their career and operations accordingly over time.
For the sake of text economy, here we may highlight three among the most prominent ones for you to consider. As we do, we will provide relevant examples from established professionals as visual points of reference.
#1 Industry niche
A web designer may focus on a specific industry, perhaps the most famous niche type. This niche does occur naturally quite often, as one’s portfolio and inclinations may consistently draw clients from specific industries.
Understandably, this niche does come with the distinct advantage of claiming expertise regarding a set industry’s needs. It finds ample applications across fields, from web design to professional software and industry-specific services.
Movers Development offers an excellent example of this, as they promote their relocation industry focus through their very name. Their branding and iconography continue this theme:
#2 Horizontal focus, vertical focus, and combinations
In addition, you may find your web design niche in horizontal or vertical specialisations.
Vertical focus may be among the most common niche types. In essence, it simply hinges on the client-first philosophy of focusing on a client group’s needs.
It overlaps with one’s industry niche but focuses more on individual needs than industry demands.
Jennie Lakenan’s page offers an excellent example of this approach from a web designer’s perspective. She caters to life coaches and their individual needs, so her style and copy both reflect this:
Conversely, you may opt for horizontal focus, which more strongly emphasises the exact services you offer. This niche focuses on self-positioning rather than clients’ needs themselves; it highlights services and expertise.
Lemonly’s page can serve as an example of this approach. They specialise in infographics and make this abundantly clear from the very first impression – even spelling it out up front:
Of course, you may combine the two into a seamless whole. At its core, this approach holds that you juxtapose your services with your clients’ needs in equal measure.
Bryn Mooth embraces this approach brilliantly, as she does both through both imagery and copy:
#3 Content Management System (CMS) and technology niche
Finally, you may very well find your web design niche through the CMS and technology angle. This niche also occurs organically as one’s portfolio and skillset grow toward a specific platform or technology.
This niche holds that professionals promote their expertise with a specific CMS, such as WordPress, or technology type, like PowerPoint. It does entail the challenge of finding clients who consciously seek this expertise but will often pay off in kind.
World-famous Elementor embraces this niche, as its core audience consists of WordPress users. At the same time, it does not neglect to outline its service focus horizontally:
How to find your web design niche, step by step
With the above context in mind, you may now see value in pinning down your own niche. Perhaps you have already been building toward one, unwittingly or intentionally, and may now wish to solidify your course.
This process is, of course, highly subjective and hinges on a plethora of personal factors. It depends on your interests, experience, portfolio, market trends and demand; on effectively building authority within any niche.
It even depends on your own website’s UX and how it frames your work.
Still, here we may highlight 5 key, universal steps you may consider as you embark on this journey.
#1 Account for your interests
The first, albeit arguably not the most crucial, step should likely come with some deep introspection. That is, you must first consider what you take an interest in as a professional and as a creator.
A few different reasons necessitate this step, which we may consolidate down to 3:
- Personal satisfaction. First, aligning your niche with your interests will help ensure personal satisfaction. Mark Twain’s famous quote on finding a job you enjoy doing entirely applies today.
- Efficiency. In turn, you will likely be more efficient doing something you enjoy doing. Chances are, you’ll also likely come better prepared to meet your niche’s challenges if you have a pre-existing investment in it.
- Investment. Finally, ensuring the above will likely result in more investment in your field of work. Clients will often notice this and choose designers with their passion and investment in mind.
However, your interests will only serve as one factor. To find your web design niche confidently, you will also need to account for your experiences, capabilities, and market.
#2 Consult your portfolio and pinpoint your capabilities
Starting with your experiences and capabilities, you may explore how your existing portfolio pieces. Your past work will often serve as an excellent guide, especially if you approach it from an external, neutral perspective.
Here, you may consider what’s effectively Ilise Benun’s first actionable advice in the following course:
“You have to start by saying “no” to all these things you know you’re not going to be competent at, and focus on the things that you are going to be competent at that the world wants.”
Applying this initial advice, you may revisit and examine your portfolio to identify such patterns as:
- Industry patterns. Initially, you may find recurring industry patterns; your branding, positioning, and inclinations may have consistently attracted clients from specific industries. This may not conclusively set your niche’s course, but it could serve as an excellent initial indicator.
- Service patterns. In turn, you may find service patterns; you may have, perhaps even unwittingly, focused on your more substantial assets and propositions. This may further help guide you in the right direction.
- Performance. Finally, you may examine your best-performing projects; which ones are you proudest of? Which ones have your clients appreciated, praised you, and endorsed you over?
In combination, such scopes may help reveal your capabilities far more accurately than self-evaluation could.
With this renewed grasp on your portfolio, you may make better-informed choices in the steps that follow.
#3 Explore ongoing web design niche trends
Next, you may begin looking outward to find your web design niche. Your interests will factor in, as will your capabilities – but ultimately, you need to know “what the world wants”.
Before focusing on industries, client groups, or CMSs, an initial way to do so comes in broad trend research.
In this context, this does not imply tracking simple design trends like animation grade or white space. Instead, it entails researching prominent, fundamental web design trends that address universal challenges and resonate with all audiences.
For some examples of this, we may return to some of the trends the introduction outlined:
- SEO. SEO takes centre stage in digital marketing, and user-first web design rightly follows suit. Consider accessibility trends according to W3C’s WAI and mobile-first design trends – both SEO mainstays for the foreseeable future.
- WooCommerce and eCommerce. Similarly, consider the continued expansion of eCommerce; WooCommerce and Shopify continue to dominate this space. Examine the overall market demands in this regard and what your local markets do.
- Service trends. Finally, you may approach this from a service-based perspective; what does the market need, service-wise? Core Web Vitals have SEOs seeking redesigns and usability optimisations; for instance, eCommerce still aims to simplify checkout processes.
To specifically address SEOs’ renewed need for impeccable web design, we may cite Google/SOASTA’s research on loading speeds:
This correlation has remained since 2017 at a minimum, but now, with Core Web Vitals emerging, it has become undeniably crucial. In tandem, the two drive a renewed interest in design optimisations you may note and act on.
#4 Research your web design niche candidates and note the competition
You should now find your web design niche more easily with all this knowledge in hand. However, there are two steps to go, and both hinge on your capability to cater to your candidates.
First, should you have pinpointed some candidates by now, you may begin by researching them. To reiterate our three major niche types, you may ask such corresponding questions as:
- Industry focus. What do clients of your chosen industry typically need, and what are their pain points? You may examine well-performing pages within the industry to identify the most demanded features and qualities your clients will desire.
- Horizontal and vertical focus. Will you feasibly lean on your excellent services, hyper-focus on specific audience segments, or combine the two? You may take note of your direct competitors’ successes and failures to inform your own course.
- CMS focus. Should you focus on a specific CMS, which will it be? Can you meet the challenge of WordPress, given the stiff competition? Conversely, can you focus on Joomla, Squarespace, Wix, or Drupal and ensure adequate income?
Second, as all of the suggestions above note, you will need to examine your direct competition.
Will you offer your services to international audiences? If so, you will need to expect unrelenting competition and account for cultural differences and topical sensibilities.
Will you focus on local markets instead? In this case, you will need considerable local social proof and ensure a steady income.
#5 Build toward establishing yourself within your web design niche
Finally, once you find your web design niche, you must establish yourself and overcome the competition.
Doing so will not only solidify your market position, but it will also help address typical web designers’ challenges – which, Hubspot finds, still centre on client acquisition and profitability:
Unfortunately, there is no universally optimal way to do so. Here, you will need to put all of your insights into action and adapt to challenges as they come.
Still, some tried-and-tested ways to do so can come from within your own website:
- Expand your portfolio. Few qualities draw clients as effectively as an impressive portfolio, and every successful project counts. Still, consider which projects you feature and how you present them – alignment with your niche is crucial.
- Feature case studies. Similarly, you may feature your best work as case studies. These will both serve as free, standalone, link-worthy content and further showcase your expertise.
- Acquire backlinks. You may also leverage the SEO staple of backlinks for further social proof on the subject of links. If you cannot sustain Backlinko’s skyscraper technique, you may instead consider Neil Patel’s infographic method.
- Leverage social proof. For that matter, social proof itself can massively benefit your website. Consider positive reviews, endorsements, and testimonials, and prominently feature them where appropriate.
- Showcase your design. Finally, remember to showcase your web design skills through your own website. Regardless of your niche, clients will immediately form an opinion of your skills based on what they readily see.
Other ways to do so can include local SEO, should you focus on local markets, social media promotion, should you engage in it, and so forth.
However, we may only cover so much within a single article – and success will ultimately depend on your own ingenuity.
To summarise, there are numerous ways to find your web design niche – as our cited sources should help showcase.
However, doing so effectively will typically entail thorough introspection, a clear market view, and deep research.
Moreover, it will require strenuous effort on your part as you carve out your niche and establish yourself within it.
While only cursory, as this subject warrants near-endless discussion, this article should hopefully help set your course to success.
Author Bio: Jake Harness loves everything about digital marketing. He often writes articles about SEO, PPC, and current marketing trends. Jake likes to swim at his local YMCA and read sci-fi novels when he isn’t working.