Ready Designs

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“Cousin Bob Can Do HTML”
A Common Objection

Web Design

March 21st, 2010

I’ve heard it from friends, family, and potential clients: “My wife/nephew/son can build a Web site for my business, so I don’t need to hire anyone.” As a Web designer myself, I hate hearing this, but not just because it’s one more person I’ll never be able to call a client. I hate hearing it because I know that 99.9% of the time it’s downright wrong. That business will probably never get anything out of their Web site besides being able to say it has one.

Building a successful Web site requires more than writing some code (or building something in a WYSIWYG) and throwing it at the Internet. With current Web technologies, virtually anyone can build a Web site and get it hosted in under an hour, but that site will probably not do a business any good. A successful Web site must be well-designed for usability, it must be well-coded for functionality, and it must be optimized for search-ability. Without any one of these highly complex facets, a site is not fulfilling its potential and can potentially even do harm to the business.

Consider, for instance, that Web sites are often a business’ first portal of entry for potential customers. People often visit a business online before traveling to its brick-and-mortar location. Visitors will associate the business with their experience on that site; if it is frustrating to use or unprofessional in appearance, that stigma can carry over onto the business itself. This isn’t to say that a bad Web site will spell doom for a business; however, a well-designed site has the potential to engage customers in ways that can permanently enhance their opinion of the business, increasing brand-loyalty and ultimately spending.

As Web designers, we do our best to ensure that a Web site gives the best possible return on investment to our clients. It is our job to apply documented, researched, and tested principles of color, form, and function to present information in the most effective way while providing the best possible user experience. If Cousin Bob can build you a home page, can he also make sure it’s optimized for search engines to find? (As a hint, meta tags don’t count.) Can he explain the 80/20 Rule or the Aesthetics-Usability Effect? Can he tell you the pros and cons of using JavaScript or jQuery, or whether he’s using HTML, XML, or HTML5 and why? A well-designed Web site has a hundred other factors like these all woven together to make up a positive user experience that reflects well on the business.

Design, of Web sites or otherwise, is not an entirely subjective art as many people mistakenly believe; it is built on solid principles which can and do impact user experience and user behavior. There is art, but there is also science in the art. I’m not saying Cousin Bob doesn’t know at least a few things about Web sites; he very well might. What I am saying is that there are good reasons people go to school for, make a living at, and continue a lifelong study of Web design. Unless Bob is a professional, he won’t be able to give you that kind of value, and your site is unlikely to be anything more than an item checked off your business’ to-do list.

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