I have sought out, and read, a number of reviews, all of which extol the virtues of the services, showering praise on the companies for great results, excellent communication, and lightning speed.
Unbiased reviews at third party websites?
1. Why on earth would I code my own design if I can truly outsource it so cheaply?
Because most customers who pay in USD and GBP will want to get exactly what they want, and not a general template.
Images, graphics, flash, stuff.
2. How can an independent designer, like me, compete with a machine like this?
As above. Plus the all-important S-word: support
3. Is this the way the design industry is set to go, with designers who design, and coders who code?
Partly. Not across geographies. Not global, even if you *want* to get panicky about the fact that it is a *web* based service.
4. Has anyone at DC tried one of these services? How did it go?
Webdeveloper myself. (Not into this automated thing) So I haven't. But they can easily do a good job.BUT
, I'm not the least bit worried, because I know a huuuuuuuuuuuuge market here that does not know of those sites out there. They are not computer savvy (Where's that letter-printing thing?) and they have a lot of money (Not that I charge looking at their pockets - I charge looking at my watch) and they need a human throat to catch when they feel stuck. And they like the idea of having a website for themselves. So, relax.
IIRC, ESR has gone on record saying that due to FOSS, software will change from the product+license model to the (free product)+(paid services) model eventually.
YMMV. But surely thereabouts.
Meanwhile, it would also be very useful if you keep upgrading your skillset in diverse stuff like adding more *channels* to your website - more value than just (X)HTML, CSS - mainly:
2. Flash, now Flex,
3. VOIP (yes, VOIP - place an order now! using not your phone, but *this website* ) - type - who wants to type, I'll rather *speak*.
4. Have my favourite items emailed to me in a nice printable list format.
5. Email me this and that - newsletters, offers, etc.
6. Social bookmark this site
7. Mobile access, SMS, VoiceMail
These + above = much better value than machines.