So you think you're a web designer?

There are very few routes to qualifiation in the web design industry, and if there was I’m not sure they would be worth much.
This game changes quickly and has many facets, from the technical side of development, through the creative design process and the business side of marketing and publishing content.
I’ve been involved in web development for over twelve years, both as a full-time developer and as a business owner. I’ve got no formal qualification, but I make no apology for that. Even if I wanted to be, I can’t think of one single qualification that I would want, or that would be of use. Throughout those 12 years, I’ve been constantly learning and evolving my craft, and I will go on learning for the next twelve, knowing that my skills may have changed radically, but everything I learn will be built on the basic skills I learnt all those years ago.
Before that, a decade in media and marketing was a nice bit of experience to have when I decided to ‘go digital’.
So it’s safe to say, that I count myself as qualified by experience.
But occasionally, someone comes along who tells me how to do my job.
When I hire a plumber, I don’t tell him he should be using solder joints if he uses compression joints. I don’t tell a gardener how far to cut back my roses. And while it’s true that a web project requires a continual close liaison, it’s important they recognise one thing, that they’ve chosen us to do the job because they trust us to do it.
Why my rant? Because this has happened to me recently and I have removed sites from our portfolio because the customer has made changes to their website that we advised against.
It’s a double-edged sword. I urge people to get involved in their web presence, but from a business perspective. I remember a business owner who said they knew exactly what they wanted in their website, and brought it to us in a PowerPoint presentation. After initial discussions, it transpired that it wasn’t a guide as we thought, but a design to be converted from PowerPoint to the web. He kept asking me to ‘recheck the PowerPoint’. Powerpoint isn’t a web design tool!
We’ve had sites sent to us in word processing and desktop publishing packages. Great for noting ideas and content, but again they’re not web design tools.
We’ve even had professional designs that would look great on paper, but fail to enagage the customer due to failings in usability and calls to action.
But the ‘customer is always right’ I hear you say. We beg to differ. We prefer to say ‘the customer wants to be recognised as the best at what they do’. And they can only do that by focussing entirely on ‘what they do’ and in turn, let the professionals they hire apply their skills to the job in hand.
On the other side of the coin, it’s nice to know that when our customers do follow our advice, it’s clearly demonstrated to be effective. One customer asked us to revamp his site because he had started out building it himself, but it was getting messy and out of control. We cleaned it up, added known techniques for engaging customers and he doubled his turnover and paid for the site in the first month. At the end of the first year, his new site had grossed an extra £60,000 for the company.
So my message is, if you think you know how to design a website, then there are tools out there to help you do it. But if you want professional help putting your business online, then hire a pro and listen to what they have to say.
Why pay for twenty years’ experience and then ignore it?

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