What is the current state of the industry?

Custom website development is always a growth area, although it definitely feels like it's slowed down in recent years as drag-and-drop tools come onto the market. As custom website development gets more expensive — thanks to more complex tooling, responsive requirements, more intricate testing, etc. — it's increasingly tough for smaller businesses (think — less than $500K–1MM in revenue per year) to afford custom site development and truly stand out — which leads to cookie cutter, template-based sites on the lower end of the market (for better or worse).

How did the industry get to where it is today?

The advent of tools like Squarespace and Wix, which can pretty much directly trace their lineage back to self-hosted tools like WordPress or Drupal, is probably the biggest change since. Those tools "democratised" web publishing for the masses, which has been the catalyst for pretty much every major change to follow.

What is the biggest issue or challenge facing the industry?

Increasingly complex project requirements are making it a lot harder for smaller businesses — arguably the biggest segment in the market — to afford custom development. This is great for companies like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and the like, but it increases competition on the higher end. It's still a growth market, but much less so than in the past when many custom web developers were pricing their services much lower (because projects were easier!).

What would YOU do to fix the issue and get the industry on track for fast scalability?

The only way I see to "fix" the issue is increased education on the values of custom website development. It's certainly not right for everyone, but many times the long term value outweighs the pain and frustration business owners have when they try to make general purpose tools work. Even excluding the 'technical frustration' aspect, custom design & development can often correlate directly to an increase in the lifetime value of the product, increased revenue for the business, and other indirect, but valuable benefits. When your website is purpose-built for your business, it's easier for your customers to navigate and you can offer features that set you apart from your competition!

Chris Van Patten is the founder and creative director of Van Patten Media. He's also the co-host of the Not a Real Job podcast and co-founder of Firsthand, a new service for travelers that puts local guides at your fingertips. He can be reached at chris@vanpattenmedia.com