You Are Not a Robot

by Jonathan Kahn

23 Reader Comments

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  1. >The problem I’m describing is a lack of respect for web design as a profession.

    In most cases it seems to stem from a lack of understanding. This company for instance is worth $9 billion, but has generally, working but, naff websites, none of which I was responsible for (thank god).
    I can easily say that if they could replace us with robots we’d be gone in a heart beat.

    For a company that has sold via brochures and mailers for the last few decades selling via the internet still seems to be a grey area that they refuse to accept advise on. Therefore as they won’t allow us to increase the presence, and the soup of platforms and 3rd party Content Companies that hold the sites hostage. We have no choice but to work with what we have, which in turn reduces ROI. Therefore ROI = Worth of Employee.

    As were not waving the title “consultant” and claiming management wages, any advice we give is undermined by “higher forces” even though those forces don’t really understand the potential of the web beyond the buzz word.

    So here’s to us, the undervalued, overworked, web-designers.

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  2. I comment on this as a client, not s designer. I’m a writer, so I wanted a website whose content I could easily add texts to—the visitors to the site, after all, would be readers of my book, and the thing they were likeliest to want was further writing from its author. I gave the designer the example of a website I liked, Haunchofvenison.com—a website that looked like one I would be happy with as an environment for new texts. The designer talked about how boring websites were that had too many words; she created a site in a Flash movie. I don’t know Flash, so there was no way I could update the site except through her.

    Three years went by during which the website was effectively dead. All the texts I sent were attached as PDF and Word downloads, because formatting them in HTML was too fiddly. A few months ago I set up a blog in Blogger, not because the format was ideal (it wasn’t), but because this VERY lo-tech environment meant I could write for it frequently. Many of the posts would have been much more use on the website, but they couldn’t go on the website because putting them there would have involved long negotiations with the designer. In a few months the blog had 150 posts and a following.

    I finally asked a friend whether the website could be brought into Dreamweaver; I’m not a power user, but at least I know the basics. She said Sure, and set the whole thing up in CSS; meanwhile all the legwork of formatting all the texts in HTML was left to me. The result was a website that was still too hi-tech for its owner: it could be updated, yes, but the place where there was a lot of action was still the blog.

    It’s not good, of course, to have an unprofessional-looking website, but one should not really have a trade-off between a site that looks good and one that gives visitors what they’re looking for. My guess is that clients who ask for a rough-and-ready website just want to have something they can play around with: you can’t tell what will work best for the content until you try things out.

    My poor little blog, locked into chronological order, restricted by an unlovely template, gets five times as much traffic as the website. This is a robot that would be very easy to beat—but both designers chose not to do so.

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  3. I really agree with Paul here.  The real issues I get into in my firm are with the “face people”.  Salesmen, in general, are employed to get clients.  In the organizations I’ve worked for in tech, “get clients” is usually appended with “by any means / cost necessary”, which reflects poor judgment on whether or not specific clients are a good fit for the organization.  This rests on the supposition that “someone else will figure out what the problem / need is”.

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