Archive for the 'Free Association' Category

What to expect from your web designer

Over the years I’ve heard so many “shake your head” and pure horror stories regarding web development projects that I often stop listening part way through. I’ve heard it all before.

But today I heard something that made me stop and think. A prospective client was expressing frustration over something that his web designer told him. She said that it was “his job” to give her the content in the order she wanted it and when she wanted it. “She’s telling me that I have to do 40% of the project,” he said. “It seems to me that I should have known this at the start,” he concluded.

It’s important to note that he wasn’t angry with his designer. He was merely expressing frustration to a stranger whom he had called for help with writing content. What got my attention was the common refrain surrounding expectations.

What, then, should a client expect from a web designer?

Setting and managing expectations are key ingredients to any business relationship. Now I don’t know what the designer originally told her client. I’ve set forth “to do lists” for clients hundreds of times and quite often the difficulty of certain tasks don’t hit home until the job is at hand. But in my case, clients rarely get to the point of frustration because I CAN write content if they need me to – of course, change of scope change of price.

When you’re talking to most web designers, however, you’re not talking to writers who know CSS and HTML. You’re talking to graphics people, who, for the most part, don’t write. Larger firms may have staff writers or they have a relationship with a content developer like me. But smaller, local web design firms usually just shrug their shoulder and point to that to do list, the one that states that content is YOUR problem.

So when you’re search for a web design firm – I prefer web development because it’s more inclusive – make sure to spend a good bit of time talking about content. After all, I would argue that content is more like 70-80% of most web projects, not 40%.

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Web branding run amuck

This morning while I’m drinking coffee and reading the paper, my wife and partner in our web development company – Just Imagine, Inc., having just finished dealing with overnight emails, decides to check the menu of a Charleston, SC restaurant we’ve talked about visiting. Of course I didn’t know what she was doing when she started. But after a few choice words about Flash and FireFox, I had to look up.

Not only had she encountered a site with an elaborate (nice way of saying long) Flash intro, the site didn’t work properly in FireFox – 2 cardinal sins in the first 15 seconds. Now normally she would have been on to another site before getting upset, but she really wanted to see the menu of this fancy establishment. So she was forced to open IE – sin #3.

Now my wife is a pretty experienced web user, in fact she is webmaster to two sites – a Mayan Riviera travel site and her own group travel site. She knows all about user expectations and dos and don’ts of effective web development.

My question is (rhetorical, of course) why do THEY do it? Why do web designers/graphic artists insist on trying to turn our thirst for immediately accessible information into an irritating lecture on branding or some other such silliness? Why can’t a website be a website, a video a video and a brochure a brochure? Don’t they get that by alienating some large percentage of visitors that they do their client a disservice?

The answer of course to all of the above is they do what they do through the prism of design being a message, in fact THE message, unto itself. Certainly true in the world of print, where one has time to appreciate it. The web, however, has different requirements.