Oct 12 2006 at 2:30pm
Jeff Croft has a great post on what it means to be a web designer. We come across this sort of thing all the time at TWF – people who have done a few web designs and think they are ready to start selling it. They post their portfolio sites for review – what are we supposed to say? Well, sometimes we manage to talk them out of it.
We did have a big discussion about this issue last year. If you take a look at that thread (and the websites of some of the posters) some of the problems become evident. Even the people who are deploring the lack professional standards don’t seem to have any themselves.
In the comments after Jeff’s post he used a haircut analogy, which is something I often bring up myself when discussing this issue. I could give you a haircut right now, but do you really want me to? Probably not. Your hair would be shorter but would certainly look like crap. So why is it okay for someone who just picked up Dreamweaver to start selling web design? And why is it that once people learn how to make a decent site they decide it’s okay to stop learning? Would it be okay with you if your doctor wasn’t reading up on scientific research and incorporating it into his/her practice? I didn’t think so. This isn’t a life threatening problem by any means but it does affect the quality of product.
Speaking of quality, why is it that people can easily spot a bad haircut when they see one but can’t spot bad web design? Even some of these so-called “designers” can’t see it. Why is that? Do some of us just have overly sensitive eyesight or what? It’s bizarre – you look at some of those sites and wonder who in their right mind thought that was a good idea. If someone was selling bad haircuts they wouldn’t be in business for very long. And I’d bet their disappointed client would be heading to another hair stylist ASAP.
I do agree that it is necessary and beneficial to have different levels of price/quality in the industry. But the products that some of these people are selling is just way below what a low quality/cheap site should be. Ever check out those freelancer sites? Take a look at some of the portolios posted some time, it’s good for a laugh …. or cry! As another example, this is one of the most successful web design companies in the medium sized city where I live. Go on, disable tables, you know you want to! (Update: that company has posted an updated design since this post was written)
There have been a number of strategies proposed to deal with this problem by others in the industry. As Jeff mentioned, Mark Boulton had a post last week about a professional organization for web designers. I like the idea of that but agree that the logistics of it might be too much to overcome. You’d have to have a lot of powerful people in the industry coming together to make something like that happen. Earlier last year some others had a big discussion about “non-professionals” using tabled designs and all that. I found that this had the opposite effect on the people it was meant to target. They just got more set in their ways.
So what would be a good strategy? I think we first need to work on educating people about what good web design is. We also need to work on educating beginning webmasters about what it takes to be a professional.