Anyone can build a Web site.

(Note that this post has been festering for a few years now, and is not inspired by actual, recent events. This wasn’t supposed to be a rant. It was supposed to be a post linking to some really cool new tools, with a brief intro. Oh, well. I’ll do that later.)

One of the things that has always nagged me about the profession of Web development is the apparent low bar of entry. “Anyone can make a Web site” (capital “W”, two words, please) is the wisdom du jour. I often hear from prospective clients, “That can’t be that difficult can it?” Along with the hyperbolic (though truthy) “My 11 year old neighbor could make me a site for $20!” This sometimes plays more realistically as “Gary’s Professional Web Sites* down the street said they could do it for $200. Why are you asking for $10k?”

While it is true that almost anybody can place .html files on the Internet (capital “I” please), saying that “anyone can make a Web site” is only true in the same way that anyone can build a house. I could probably (ignoring appropriate authorization from the city) construct a “building” with a floor, four walls, and a roof. I might even be able to divide said edifice into several rooms, and I might even be able to run electricity to it such that lights turn on.

This does not mean that I have created a safe, healthy place to live.

So, while there are no city codes that govern our trade (there are some federal ones, depending on who your client is), there are professional standards to be lived up to, and most importantly, best practices in coding, much research in usability and effectiveness, and performance, security, and maintainability standards to be considered!

So, the next time someone offers to build you a Web site for $200 (or probably even $2500), pass. You will be throwing your money down the tube(s).

How much did it cost you to set up your store front? You are building a virtual one of those. How much do you pay in wages and salaries a year? You are hiring an employee who never sleeps, eats, or gets sick. How much money do you spend on marketing in a year? You are building your most important and visible piece of marketing.

Invest in a good Web site. (Says the professional Web consultant…)

Sorry about the rant. I feel much better now.

* All names are completely fictional and not intended to represent an actual company I can immediately call to mind… except maybe that one…





5 responses to “Anyone can build a Web site.”

  1. Holly A Avatar
    Holly A

    Seriously, all a person has to do is see a well designed website and then look at one cheaply made. There is a HUGE difference, and the annoyance factor of navigating a cheaply made one is retched. In business school they taught us that the cheapest bidder was almost NEVER the option to go with. We had formulas that took multiple factors into account, from business practices that lined up with your own to their commitment to customer satisfaction. Furthermore, today’s generation prefers to shop online or pre-shop online before driving anywhere. I’ve actually refused to shop at a store because their website wasted my time (slow or not easy to navigate).

  2. James Smith Avatar

    @Holly, I’d say the problem is worse with sites that look fine on the outside but have the digital equivalent of dry rot and subsidence… The client doesn’t know any better.

  3. Matt Heerema Avatar

    Holly and James,

    I think there are two layers of problems:

    1) It is possible to have an eye-catching design that is completely unusable.

    2) It is possible to have a well-concieved user-interface that it totally unmaintainable from the back end.

    The profession of Web design and development takes both into consideration, however there are realities where concessions need to be made, and these ought always be on the backend rather than front-end.

    However, for a majority of the Web, naiveté, laziness, lack of awareness of industry trends and research, and lack of professional knowledge and skill by so-called “professionals” usually leads to ineffective Web sites that are also unmaintainable long-run.

    And to be fair, this is fueled by the fact that most client companies don’t know the value of an investment in an outstanding Web presence.

  4. simoncox Avatar

    I fully agree with you but there are some people might be quite happy for you to build them a roof with four walls if all they want to do is shelter for the night – $200 for a room for the night isn’t throwing money away.

    What we don’t want in our industry is regulation like the building industry – we are not mature enough yet and we are still furiously expolring and pushing back the boundaries. Regulation will stifle all that.

    You can build a website completely free with Google – but what business is prepared to take that risk? Very few.

    A lot of sites I build for small companies are aimed to make them look like bigger companies – and it works well, leveling the playing field. The business people know this isn’t something that comes cheap either.

    The question we have to ask when soemone says can’t you do it for $200 is: are they serious about thier business? (If no then you probably don’t want them as a client!)

    Now where are those cool tools?

  5. […] Last week’s rant about professionalism in Web design was supposed to be a short intro to this post. Basically my point was going to be that the profession of Web design and development has leveled up many times over the last decade, and it looks like some great industry standard practices are starting to settle out. I’m sure we will always be tweaking our workflows and perfecting our tool sets. The trick is to stay on top of the wave. My thanks goes primarily to Snook for helping me stay awake to the industry. Being a project manager has the tendency to lull one to sleep. […]

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