Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia (or Build a Website for No Reason)

by Greg Storey

48 Reader Comments

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  1. @will
    I think you missed the point of the article.

    The story was in reference to a new (different) way to look at things. Hence the name of the domain A List Apart. Critical thinking plays a pivitol role in separating yourself from the competition.

    The web is so full of cliche’ ideology, and trendy design. We need to critically analize our methods, to set ourselves apart from the norm. Great ideas Greg.

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  2. So, everywhere around the world the same comedy is playing ;-)
    Hang on Greg! Sure you’re not alone.

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  3. I thought this article was unclearly written and that Storey’s sarcasm greatly detracted from the messages in his piece. However because you are not allowed to have an opinion that disagrees with the digerati in-crowd, I am now at risk for the slings and arrows of one Mr. Santa Maria who will of course jump in to defend Storey, regarless of the quality of the piece he wrote.

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  4. Your first sentence expressed dissatisfaction with the style of writing in the article, which you say detracted from the messages.  This implies you’re at least willing to entertain the idea that a message or two lies burried somewhere in there.  You didn’t imply that using a narrative voice you find displeasing neccesarily invalidates the point the article attempts to communicate, just that the medthod of communication could use some improvement.  You managed to voice disagreement without sounding like an ass, at least for one sentence, then you wandered off topic a bit.  Maybe brevity is the secret?

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  5. Derek writes: How can we foster enough respect among the stastically small yet signifigant portion of problem clients to not be dismissed like uppity help in the old south when we make a recommendation that goes counter to the vanity of the client?

    That’s a big question and one that plagues the design community at large but I’ll take a swing. In the circumstance you mention I think it helps having your back covered on three fronts: experience in the field, great design talent, and data or number to support or refute the work.

    Back in the day, before they were Basecamping, Jason and Co. did a remarkable job of not only designing functional sites but they tracked the data to prove that the work they did statistically improved the performance of the site (traffic, sales, less call volume, etc.). After a few years they had amassed enough data to know what works and what doesn’t — not that you and I don’t know our industry but they had the numbers to support their convictions.

    If you can’t get through to a client on the first two pillars (experience and design) then perhaps the third (numbers) will hit home. That said, working against vanity isn’t easy, if not impossible. You can only be expected to do your best and if the cilent still isn’t listening then you have every right to be uppity.

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  6. “That, however, is a topic for another article.”

    Can’t wait!

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  7. Forgive me for being so simple minded, but at madbull media we have a very clear focus. We pick hot topics that my partner and I personally have an interest in, we do our research, lay out the scope of the site and then spend 95% of our time applying principles we have learned that make lot money and allow us to have fun in the process. It that fails we learn and move on. Why are we so in your face about the process?

    Do the math. Our minimum goal is to make $100 a day per site.
    That’s $36,500 per year. Now do that times 10 sites a year times 10 years. That’s why we now pick and choose what to spend our time on. The numbers never lie. And once in awhile you get lucky and get a site that makes $1,000 a day. Now that is really fun.

    After 10 years owning a new media cutting edge design business, at the end of the day the client did not care about the fabulous images and incredible copy unless we produced a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No pot of gold, no more client. 

    Not sure why it took so long to figure out, but one day we decided this is crazy making all this money for others so we started applying our experience to our own projects. Now we were Free at Last! Thank God we never had to look back.

    Someday we may develop sites that make no sense other than satisfying some crazy need to make a point or take a stand that needs to be addressed. Money isn’t everything. We just haven’t quite reached that point yet.

    In the meantime all of us at (Mad Bull Media) are highly focused on going to the bank on a regular basis. It’s also great therapy and so far has prevented a major case of burnout.

    We have a system that works for us and believe me we do not cut corners or break our own rules for success. We worked hard to get to this point so now we are just having fun not sharing any more information about how we do it.

    Someday we may write a book but I may be living on some island in the Caribbean at age 75 because I promised I would teach our little tricks to about six grand kids first.

    I find no fault with the article. It is very will written and makes a lot of sense. Just keep in mind that at the end of the day, it is always still about the money. It that bothers anyone may I suggest they get a job mowing lawns?

    (Sorry no website—-no interest in telling anyone what we do or how we do it.) That would be extremely stupid.)

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  8. To get my colours on the table right from the getgo, great article, in the fire of the action we sometimes gloss over these basic management principles.

    Any decision, be it getting dressed in the morning or creating a Web site, will be greatly improved by knowing what the mission is and planning how to achieve it. I won’t have the same “dressing strategy” if my mission is to go to a party or if it’s to clean the oven.

    Clients who want vanity sites also have a mission, it may not appear important to me, but it obviously is to the client. My role is to help him determine what he wishes to achieve (no matter what I think of the idea) so that I can help him reach HIS goal. If his goal is to impress a new girlfriend with how much money he can throw around – so be it, impress his girlfriend is what I will help him to do. I am not there to judge.

    Last fall I had a leak in my roof. I was all set to have a new one put on, but an honest roofer (yes, they do so exist) looked at it and said it was still very sound and just needed a minor patch where something had lifted. Who do you think I will hire when I do need a new roof? Who do you think I have referred my friends to?

    If the client is better served by some other strategy, ethically, my role is to point it out to him and offer him alternatives (taking her to a fancy resort perhaps?). If he chooses to ignore my advice, it’s his dime. If he chooses to follow my advice, and I don’t get to make a site for him, someday he may truly need one (or know someone who does) and my honesty might be rewarded (Hey! he may event chose to have the vanity site AND take her to the resort).

    Either way, I sleep better at night.




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  9. I agree with the obvious crux of your argument. As you say, it isn’t exactly rocket science.

    Having said that, as someone else here indicated, it is often the client who creates the stumbling block to which any web developer can keep falling across.

    Very often the client believes that they know EXACTLY what they want, but they have no idea how to convey this and they seem to refuse to listen to reason.

    At this point, if you have the skills, you can suggest ideas and then convince your client it was them who thought the ideas up in the first place. Often tricky, always effective, or is it ?

    A client can take your suggestion, consider it their own and then take the idea and over the course of the meeting, make it unworkable. This requires you to repeat your original tactic, which at this stage can backfire. Your in danger of sounding indecisive or presumptuous.

    Clients can be virtually impossible to work with on some projects, no matter how clear your course of action.

    Your utopian vision (although mine would most likely include a nice cold beer) applies here too – the client is not always going to play ball.

    Your intentions may be good, your logic sound and the project workable, however it doesn’t mean the client wont turn it into the dogs breakfast.

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  10. I really love your article, even though I can not see what the article is about, except that every website must have a magic goal and use.

    I guess the client just want to have fun fun fun with his site, nothing more or less. Because he has the money to hire a webdesigner doesn’t mean we have to form his plan. The internet would not exist if there weren’t people around just like this guy. Remember, internet for alot of people is just fun, nothing more, nothing less.

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  11. I guess the client just want to have fun fun fun with his site, nothing more or less.

    This isn’t Cyndi Lauper we’re talking about here. Please read #8 on the first page of comments, some information didn’t make it out of the editing process.

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  12. get me the whole details about the time management
    Its very much useful for my seminar

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  13. Just another great article.  I will keep an eye out for more articles that you publish.

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  14. I think that if you are going to speak about clarity and good writing in an article, you should practice it. In the lead paragraph, the comma after “well written” is wrong. 

    “Throughout all these projects, one thing has remained a constant: those with clear, well-written, strategies ran smoother than those without—and ended up pleasing everyone, including the client.”?

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  15. Strategy in within webb is offcourse a must. I´ve noticed that during the work process companies dreams, visions ang goals are often not heard because of them not havinga processw here they take time to vision. Taking that time (and saving twice as much recouces in the future) results in them dreaming about the stars and at least reaching for the tree tops. Where when they dont, the taktical results end up, well, still on the ground. So by inspiring people/ companies (read customer) to havinga sound goal clarification process, we save them, and us time, that we can both use more wisley, for polishing the site, and giving the end user a aha-experiance. Now thats a goal.

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  16. Articles like this are so helpful in reminding us of what to focus on in our business. The simplicity and drive presented here are refreshing. Thanks for the insight.

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  17. Yaw, the article seemed a tad self-serious to me.

    Funny thing is, I was the designer that invited Greg to the meeting.  We were just starting out and the client wanted folks to help brainstorm.  Greg was a friend of a friend and was a web designer for a small department at the University of Alaska.  My fault for not telling Greg the goal of the site, which was apparantly clear to everyone in the room except him.  The client wanted to make money from his cars—either through promotional purposes or by selling them outright.

    The site became a fan favorite for Mustang drivers around the world and was mentioned in several magazines.  The client ended up selling the cars for a huge profit, and credited the web site for the sale.  The web site was dramatically more cost-effective than any print campaign could hope to be (I was green and quite cheap back then).  He did keep one of the cars, and graciously offered to allow me to drive it on my wedding day 8 years later.

    The site was literally the first client of the web business I started at the age of 23 (that’s 1996).  Those early years taught me a lot of lessons.  For the record, the consulting business that I started continues to thrive (though I sold out a few years back to move onto “other things”:


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  18. Already read this saying before?
    Sure you did. But it seems to be valueable – does’t it?

    Thanks for the knowledge!


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