The Survey, 2008
Issue № 281

Findings from the Web Design Survey, 2008

If we, the people who make websites, want the world to know who we are and what we do, it’s up to each of us to stand up and represent. Last year, 30,055 of you did just that, taking time out of your busy day to answer the sometimes detailed and often thought-provoking questions in the second A List Apart Survey.

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This year’s findings paint a clearer picture of the distinctions between full-time and freelance web professionals: how you work, what you earn, and what you love about the job. Interestingly, too, despite the brutality of a global recession that was already in full swing (like an axe) when we offered the survey, most respondents revealed a surprisingly high level of job security, satisfaction, and confidence in the future.

A website instead of a white paper#section2

For 2008, instead of a downloadable (PDF) white paper, we decided to present our findings on the web. Which meant, in addition to compiling and analyzing data and reporting our findings with words and charts, we had to create a website and convert findable, accessible XHTML table data into clear and beauteous CSS charts.

The website is now housed at a temporary location while we finish some back-end work related to the way we publish the magazine. A permanent URL will be published here soon. Meanwhile, visit the website at its temporary URL to see what your participation in the 2008 survey helped us learn about our profession.

Slice it yourself#section3

Want to dive deeper into our data, do your own slicing and dicing, and come up with your own findings? Feel free to download our anonymized, raw data in convenient text (3.02 MB), CSV (3.02 MB), and XLS (4.47 MB) formats. If you learn anything interesting, don’t forget to share with the class.

45 Reader Comments

  1. Thanks for the catch, Alessio! I’ve fixed the link. (And when the survey and related data files land in their permanent home, I’ll probably just put the links there in the report. But for now the ALA article serves as a useful central point.)

  2. Appreciate all the work; you guys really help this industry look like we have our act together! This is some fascinating data. Really like the website format this year, too.

  3. Thanks for the study. Interesting, though most of it is not surprising and fits what you would intuitively think to be the case. Would like to see some articles with analysis of some of the data points.

  4. First off, thanks to the ALA team for compiling and producing such a massive effort (not to mention open-sourcing the data). Speaking for myself as a ‘web professional’, this provides valuable insight for me and is much appreciated.

    On the subject of insight, I had some observations about Job Title. I’m a bit surprised that the percentage of designers is not higher, but – not to be facetious at all – I wonder how many people may have selected ‘Other’ because they have an unusual title, like Web Ninja, or if the title was irrelevant to the their multi-disciplinary responsibilities. I get the feeling that this one statistic may not be meaningful enough. As food for thought, could this question be renamed as Job/Role and respondents could allocate percentage to different roles? I ask this because I know many professionals who are multi-disciplinary and it could better convey how much time they spend on each of their competencies rather than under which competency they are classified.

  5. Thank you for the information you provide. This is really helpful to see what you are doing.

  6. This is without a doubt the best reference and crunched numbers that the industry we all work in has ever gotten.

    The amount of data exceeds by far the expectations that I had in mind!

    Thank you ALA and AEA for all this great work. Hopefully I will be present again at AEA in Boston, it is such a great event.


  7. Thanks for posting the results!

    Funny how everyone in the web standards community is always complaining about the level of front-end education, like table layouts still being taught, and then to see that educators have the smallest skill gap when it comes to coding markup.

    Suggestions for next year:
    – Divide backend and front-end developers in job titles
    – Leave out ‘indigenous/native’ as an ethnic group, unless it is possible to choose more than one option. The world is full of people who are black, white, hispanic or asian and also indigenous/native. Putting ‘indigenous/native’ on the list is the same as adding one of the two genders in it: Are you black, white, hispanic, asian or male?

    Detail: the writing that comes with figure 3.4 suggests that either all women in the industry are web designers or that the figure is only about this specific job title.


  8. Been waiting for these results for months – glad to see they were worth the wait. Very interesting reading – and nice presentation, too! Thank you.

  9. I’m grateful for all the work; you guys actually aid this business look like we have our act together! This is by all means attractive data. Truly like the website format this year, too.

  10. I love results, especially when we can take advantage of this survey and show how the internet made hundreds of jobs.

    Some that weren’t in demand in the last 10 years, and then start to become the top demanding job this year.

    Not only that, even if these jobs were not applicable, the skills and resources gain from having a “internet” or “computer” job, translate very well to other relevant jobs.

  11. I notice how clearly the survey commentary spells out the salary difference between men and women, however, I also notice that under the “hours worked” section these is no mention of the fact that more men working longer may result in the higher male salaries.
    After all, if we are going to make judgments on weak correlations we may as well be even-handed.

  12. One thing I’d love to see gathered on the 2009 survey is data on respondents living/family/financial support situation. What I mean is, ask respondents about total household income and compare that to their individual reported income, ask whether any of them have spouses or partners that contribute to household income, and also ask about how many children or other dependents they support.

    I’m curious to see this information because a personal observation I’ve made is that many freelancers I know are married and have a spouse who works, or don’t have kids to support, which would explain how they can survive on the lower income that freelancers seem to have, according to the survey.

    My personal situation is that I’m working in a corporate web development position, and am supporting my wife who is a stay-at-home mom, and our two kids… and wondering how many other web development types are in that situation.

  13. This is the best reference and crunched numbers that the industry
    The amount of data exceeds my the expectations!

    Thank you for all this great work.

  14. I am also curious about family status questions, which are of import to me, personally, as I juggle several gigs, parenthood, etc.

    Also, I hope ALA Staff get a chance to weed out the spambot posts at some point here… Why isn’t spam a capital crime?

    Thanks for the incredible work.

  15. Definitely a lot of interesting data. I wasn’t too surprised that most of the respondents were male, but I have hope that will change in the future. As a female copywriter/editor, I wasn’t too surprised to learn that most copywriters are women. Overall, great work! Really appreciate all of the information!

  16. For next year, I would prefer to see companies/corporate separate from universities/libraries/non-profit. Having worked both in a corporation and an industry that would fall under universities/libraries/non-profit, I can say that they are different worlds and would like to see the difference between them.

  17. This was a new question. Did this mean a disability bias specifically towards web designers/developers or employees in general?
    And what disability(s) in particular, I wonder.

  18. Firstly I want to say thank you for these wonderful statistics! Am proudly in the apparent super-minority of being a female small-business-owning career developer from the antipodes.

    My question is: would there be any way to represent the new breed of people that are exactly ½ caucasian?

    Another small comment was that I found the data in the tables comparing 2 different sets difficult to read. On one hand it’s fabulous to have exact numbers, but on the other hand I found that I was subconsciously constructing line graphs in my head to represent the data, which is harder for me to do than a computer – to me having it represented as both would be the most ideal.

  19. This is definitely the best crunched numbers and reference we have ever received in our industry.

    There is more data available than I had ever imagined!

    Thank you very much AEA and ALA for all this good work.


  20. @Elena:

    As the mother of two mixed race kids, I can appreciate wanting to have information about others like yourself. But practically speaking, it’s not entirely feasible. Why stop at folks who are half Caucasian–why not folks who are half black, or half Chinese, or half Jewish, etc.?

    At some point I think you’ll have to just be content with checking the “Other” box and moving on. If we divide people up into boxes too small and specific, the data stops having any meaning at all.

  21. It would be very interesting to use color scales (or only grayscale) in those crossing-categories tables that only show numbers (those like the FIG. 1.2). Something like: the greater the number, the darker the color. It would be very easyer to understand, even whitout reading the numbers.

  22. hey there, ALA,

    I have enjoyed your site for years as a means to stay educated, and to learn new things.

    And, I occasionally look under the hood at the CSS and HTML to see how you all do things. Imagine my surprise when I saw that your

    was now

    !! I was ROTFLMAO!!

    thanks, ALA! Stay Golden!

    – Rod

  23. Besides the survey and its data, I’d like to point out the extremely well done only charts. They are HTML/CSS only and this is a very good example that semantic markup is superior to images. A case study on creating these charts would make an interesting article as well.

  24. I wasn’t surprised to see that young adults (19-29 years old) have the most people creating websites.

    In fact, almost all of my friends have a website in a way or two – ranging from Blogspot blogs to personal blogs. (Probably that’s why 71.9% of the respondents have a personal blog.)

    But full-time and freelance web professionals at that young age? Wow, I’d be glad to know these people because I’m one of them.

    Here’s my site in case anyone is wondering: “Article Submission”:

  25. It is not surprising that the U.S. is the largest respondant and provider of web content. These is no close second place. I wonder what the true number looks like if other countries and languages were taken into consideration?

  26. Great article, well presented. Just curious about the use of “b” vs “strong” for boldface tags. I’ve been using “strong”, but I’d much rather go “b” (I’m lazy 😉 if that’s the now acceptable standard.

  27. I’m curious to hear from others.

    Does the data support a growing trend in the number of freelancers compared to corporate/employed professionals. At least in my market, there appears to be more and more freelancers and fewer companies (per say) actually doing web development. Maybe it is just an Ohio thing (or lack there of).


  28. ..i would like to encourage everyone under the same area to start to build the change too and stand up just like what these guys have been up to now.

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