10 things businesses should know before building a website

A couple of months ago Andy Budd asked his readers about 3 Things You Wish Clients Knew About the Web. The comments contain many good examples of how people misunderstand the Web.

It’s prefectly understandable that people who do not work in the Web business don’t understand everything about the Web. But the same way you need to do research before you buy a house, a car, or a dishwasher you need to make sure you know at least some basic facts before you start paying someone to build a website. If you don’t, chances are you won’t be getting what you need.

Many of the clients Andy’s readers have would benefit from reading Esther Schindler’s article Becoming Clueful: What You Should Know Before You Redo Your Web Site. The article brings up seven really good tips for organisations about to start a new website project, whether they are building a completely new website or redesigning their current one.

The tips are excellent, and all web professionals are likely to have clients who could learn a lot from Esther’s list of tips:

  1. Understand what you want
  2. It costs more and takes longer than you think
  3. A Web site has several pieces. Don’t cut corners.
  4. Balance glitz and guts
  5. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come
  6. Avoid bit decay: the site needs maintenance
  7. Treat the Web team as professionals

I’d like to add a few points of my own:

  1. Most people in the Web industry are clueless. It may sound harsh, but I really think that’s the sad truth. The majority of Web workers out there should either update their skills to what is required in the 21st century or find something else to do.
  2. You only get what you pay for. If you get something cheap, there is always a catch. The lowest bidder is the lowest bidder for a reason. Remember that.
  3. Don’t start your project with buying a CMS. So many organisations walk into this trap, especially in the public sector. A municipality buys a cheap CMS that looks good to them, then goes looking for someone to implement a website on top of it. The end result is very often both inflexible, inaccessible, and dull looking.

Throughout my career as a web professional I have had many clients who really would have benefited from understanding these very important points. Like I said, that is understandable and excusable to some degree. Much worse is that I have also worked in organisations where most project managers would have needed the tips mentioned here. They simply did not understand the Web. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that clueless project managers are still a common problem in the Web industry, especially at larger Web agencies and IT consultancies.

Got any nice stories related to the tips on Esther’s list and my additions? Please share!

Posted on August 31, 2006 in Quicklinks, Web General


  1. Great list - and your additions were great as well. Specificially, I liked your numbers 1 and 3.

    (1) To be honest, the ‘web companies’ in my area really make me bitter. Not because of how crappy their stuff is, but because they are blatantly lying to their viewers - and the ones who suffer in the end are the clients. Perfect case of the blind leading the blind. I can’t even have a conversation with ‘web developers’ in my area, because they are literally clueless. I don’t say that to toot my own horn - but I focus on building usable, accessible, and visually aesthetic websites. My job as a web developer means I am constantly learning more and adapting where necessary. Talking to anyone about that results in a one way conversation. They have their golive, photoshop, and an FTP - thats all they need. Tables and pretty graphics.

    (3) When I came on staff at Barbour Publishing, they had a CMS in place - problem was, it wasnt fitting any of their needs. It wasn’t doing what they wanted. Buying a CMS is not the solution. There are so many options out there, but when it comes down to it - building something custom could be more cost effective in the long run. Personally, I don’t need the overhead of lines of code for pieces I will never use. I like to keep things neat and tidy. ALSO, just because you have a CMS - doesn’t make your site dynamic. It still takes time and attention to update the website and keep things fresh. Many think the CMS will somehow magically do that for them.

  2. Most people in the Web industry are clueless

    That’s a bit harsh. The biggest problem I see with service providers is strecthing beyond their skillset and not incorporating external services, usually because it bumps up the price. Designers, developers and marketers have disctinctly seperate and important roles in the project and are often individual companies. It’s a project managers job to coordinate this and clients don’t deal with project managers, they deal direct with one of the three main service providers.

    I see it as a lack of coordination and management, not skills.

  3. Buying a CMS is not the solution.

    There are plenty of fantastic sites out there running CMS. This is one for starters.

  4. RE: Edward I should have re-phrased that. Buying a packaged CMS (without research to your needs) is not the solution. We used to use Plone, which is a Python/Zope based CMS for our website. I think Plone is an incredible CMS - very well thought out. However, it was annoying because it couldn’t do the specific things we needed for our website. Our marketing department wanted the ability to add reviews, then have those reviews linked to all associated authors and all assoicated books. Then the reviews could be cross referenced from author/book detail pages with appropriate descriptions. Very simple process - but would take major hacking to get it to associate accordingly inside of plone (no matter what the plugin). There was much needed customizations.

    So, while the CMS was great in many respects - it was literally bloated for our needs. We didn’t need the forum pieces, we didn’t need the gallery pieces, we didn’t need things dumbed down. It would take longer to post a simple page on there, then it would be for me to create and upload with Textmate/Transmit. I can see this being helpful for someone who doesn’t know HTML - but it was useless to me. So we had a system with major overhead and code we didn’t need/use.

    The solution? We opted for something custom - right on down to the server level. I know this isn’t the case for EVERYONE - but it is something I run into all the time. For me, a framework would be a better option versus a CMS. With a framework, I can put the pieces together how I like - but still have a strong code base/MVC approach.

    So, it depends on your needs. If you sit down and plan something out - and the CMS doesn’t offer it - don’t get the CMS just because its a CMS. Understand what you want first, then research and develop.

  5. August 31, 2006 by Zephyr

    Check out How to live happily with a great designer from Seth Godin.

  6. Most people in the Web industry are clueless

    Even if that is a little harsh, it is at least true that they shouldn’t be selling web design. Even worse - many of them don’t seem to recognize that their skillsets aren’t up to par. And clients can’t tell the difference - there’s a problem to add to the list. Know what a good quality web site looks like. Know what components go into good web design (i.e. it’s not just what it looks like - usability, accessibility, web standards, good marketing etc.) Know what questions to ask before you hire someone.

  7. Most people in the Web industry are clueless.

    Yup. Absolutely agree with you. And most of them work for big I.T. consultancy companies.

  8. I’d rephrase Esther’s “Understand what you want” as “Understand what you’re trying to achieve”. A web site isn’t an end in itself, any more than a phone number or a business card is. It’s a means to an end.

    It can be a means to lots and lots of ends, if it’s worth spending the money on it, but if you haven’t figured out what you want your web site to do for you, the expensive people you’ve hired to make it (i.e. me) have nothing to aim for.

  9. Yes, most people in the Web industry are clueless. Developers and clients. The Elementary Group has lost several clients. It’s my fault.

    One Program Manager wanted to know why their site was showing in search results; they had 500 pages. I explained about SESSIONIDs. He replied that they have used them for several years against spurious spiders. I asked why not blacklist those IPs through their server. [They had their own server and IT staff.] I ended by saying something like, “If you had done that then, you would have had several years worth of search results.” The company owner was not pleased with the Program Manager who was not pleased with the site-responsible person.

    One Marketing Manager [he had responsibility for the website] wanted to know what the first thing we would do on his site. I replied, “Fix your copyright dates. They’re from last year. Old copyright dates diminish any perceived value your site may have.” The company vice-president was not pleased with his under-managers.

    One Advertising Manager [he had responsibility for the website] wanted to impress us with his XHTML/CSS site. I mentioned that that Skidoo template was a very good template. He said it was hand-made. I said - Very Politely - that “Skidoo Template” was written in the source code. Later, I was informed that they had paid a “Web Development” company USD$25,000 for the website.

    One client - Currently - is switching over to a very large Enterprise CMS system. The CMS company advertises themselves as experts with all cutting-edge technologies. It was during a meeting with our client and CMS company executives that I asked about their use with RSS/XML feeds for new releases. The company executives went blank. (I believe our chances of a partnership with the CMS company are gone.)

    I am continually surprised and amazed at how clueless some companies are. And, how defensive most large companies are when consultants are requested and consultants - Sometimes - know more things.

  10. A web site isn’t an end in itself, any more than a phone number or a business card is. It’s a means to an end.

    The man makes sense.

    And most of them work for big I.T. consultancy companies.

    I’d like to know how. The wind only takes you so far.

  11. The only thing I don’t entirely agree with is the statement on the CMS. In a way, the CMS needs are one of the first things that should come to light during the business analysis phase of the project. As you are discovering their needs, you are essentially assembling a list of what functions they will or will not require in a CMS (or no CMS at all, depending). So if you use what you learn in that phase of things, then you should be able to start with a very good idea (or at least a top 3) of what kind of software would work good for them.

    I do see the difference between what you are saying and the point I’m making. You were talking about (or so it seemed) people who purchased a CMS on a whim without really knowing what it did - and then hired someone to develop for them. Absolutely they should consult their web developer on which CMS to use if they are looking for one. I’m suggesting that having the CMS at the start isn’t a bad idea per se, merely that you need to have had a really good foundation of reason for choosing that CMS so that you know it will work for you.

  12. August 31, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)


    You were talking about (or so it seemed) people who purchased a CMS on a whim without really knowing what it did - and then hired someone to develop for them.

    Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. Happens all the time. I agree that having the CMS when the project starts can be a good idea if it is the right CMS for the job. Some people get lucky and buy a CMS that can be tailored to suit their needs and meet accessibility requirements etc. without first consulting a knowledgeable web developer. Many are not so lucky.

  13. I certainly agree with your 3 additions and I think they should be at the top of the list. No. 1 & 2 go hand-in-hand. Most people think that if their kids can customize their myspace page then building websites should be child’s play. Think again.

  14. Good list, and an encouraging post. Thanks.

  15. One tip I’d want to give my clients: learn to separate trees from forests.

    When I’m getting feedback on a design, I can’t stand it when I get back an e-mail of 30 notes, 26 of which are something like “Can you move this thing three pixels to the left?” or “Can you make this blue a little darker?” I’m not suggesting that the details are insignificant, but that my time is most effectively spent when these changes are ordered by priority.

    Before I want to hear a client’s opinion on Tahoma vs. Verdana, I want to know whether I’ve gotten the overall tone right, whether the two-column approach is working, and whether the page is in line with the client’s existing visual identity. Before I start arranging individual trees I want to make sure I’m in the correct forest.

  16. September 1, 2006 by fartikus

    good and fair points. particularly, build it and they might not come. there is such a thing as oversaturation folks. and also, agree with your estimation of web talent. and as pipes get fatter, processors get faster, memory gets cheaper, and web architecture goes turnkey (think akamai), it will be hard to differentiate web coders from excel users. its only going to get worse.

  17. I recently lost a customer for a $300 difference to a cheaper bidder… Once this bidder completed the no-biggie website, I realized that there was no way for me to compete against the winning bidder…

    The other bidder should’ve done it for free.

    I am not bragging by any means about my skills, I know quite a few things, but I am always learning new things, and I don’t consider myself the best in class, but I do know that I have some talent and that I can charge what I asked her to pay, nothing unreasonable, me thinks. But that’s how it goes.

    I am so wanting to disclose the website, but I am not going to. =) It’s just not right.

  18. Nice basic list of what a company ‘should’ consider realistic before venturing into it. I have seen companies ‘use’ the child of an employee who is currently doing programming at uni because it was cheap, to an obvious result. A web group making a pitch to a company needs to present all considerations, the needs, the audience and the technology. But yes, clueless is one term you could put on a tech-savvy but corporatley speaking, isolated person. The plan and assesment of a web presence is much more important than the implementation, it has to work in with the companies strategies and work toward delivering identified outcomes and also work within other initiatives (advertising etc) so it always should be more than get and ISP/CMS. I like analogies, so remind your client that’s it’s probably a waste of money to buy a nice sports car (site and specs unseen) if you don’t first plan your trip. How will that work when you realise that you will be taking the family (inc dogs) to disney-land? Good luck to all…

    1. I suspect that most people think that web developers are driving some software that’s just a little bit more complicated than ms word - Nope, it’s nothing like that, if the designer of your site is using, say Dreamweaver, they don’t actually know what they are doing..
    2. Shoot the project manager - I have never understood what these people do - they normally have their noses so far up someone’s arse they cant smell the coffee.
    3. Pay for someone who knows what they are doing, tell them what you want, spend many hours paying them to listen- then shut up and take their advise.
  19. I absolutely agree that knowing what you want to achieve is paramount - without having defined aims, then how will you know if the website development has been a success? I also agree with Rex’s comments - a website is part of a company’s overall communications strategy and should be planned in this context, not as a standalone ‘IT project’.

  20. Your post rock! Absolutely true. I recommend this as a “mast read” to my collegue. Thanx.

  21. It’s very simple. Listen, listen and listen some more. When nobody is talking you should always be asking questions.

    My experience is that the more knowledge you have the more information you’ll need.

  22. Very true. Sadly the part about web workers needing skill up seems to be on the money. It is a reflection on the customers that pay them though. Most people still assume that implementing a website is like printing a brochure.

  23. September 1, 2006 by Anonymous

    I suspect that most people think that web developers are driving some software thats just a little bit more complicated than ms word - Nope, its nothing like that, if the designer of your site is using, say Dreamweaver, they dont actually know what they are doing..

    Sorry, but that’s not true. Dreamweaver has a wonderful syntax coloring, auto-completion for both (X)HTML and CSS, a nice built-in FTP-client and many more features that make life easier and a webdesigner happy. And the WASP has a special DW-Taskforce since 2001…


    That doesn’t mean, that I don’t agree to list above, of course - especially to additional point 1. ;)

  24. Oops, I forgot to enter my name. No reminder, Roger?

  25. Sorry, but that’s not true. Dreamweaver has a wonderful syntax coloring, auto-completion for both (X)HTML and CSS, a nice built-in FTP-client and many more features that make life easier and a webdesigner happy.

    That may be true, but I think the average DW user rarely looks at the (X)HTML. They simply use the WYSIWYG.

  26. I am going to have to agree with Alan on this way. It doesn’t matter how great of a tool DW is - I think we can all attest that it’s a great tool. The problem lies when ‘web developers’ use this as their only tool, and never look/understand the code in the background. DW is not perfect, so it could use extra eyes checking the code view - but many people avoid looking at that. After all, since they have DW they apparently don’t NEED to know HTML (And yes, I have had a ‘web developer’ tell me that - he didn’t NEED to know HTML because his program did it for him…).

    So - it’s a fine line. DW is a tool, and is awesome when used properly - unfortunately it is often times abused.

  27. One of the things I’ve discovered is that the decision-makers are not really consumers of the product. In other words, the guy/gal who has the final say is someone who is very good at their business, but never goes near the web.

    The best(!?!) client I ever had was one lot who basically wanted exactly what their biggest competitor had but the name changed to their own brand!

  28. It costs more and takes longer than you think

    That’s a great tip for designers too. Don’t quote something too low or you will pay for it in the end.

  29. Great article, common sense, but not often implemented.

  30. ” if the designer of your site is using, say Dreamweaver, they dont actually know what they are doing.. “

    I really think to many people have forgotten its about design, both visual and inofrmation design. So you can hand, so what. You can also walk to the market instead of driving a car. In the end the only thing is if it works for the clients needs. I think a lot of people in our industry have a instant negative disposition to others in the feild.

    By the way if you think working with a project manager is bad, try 8 of them from 8 different depts. including a legal staff. All I can sya is it is amazing anything gets done at Warner Bros.

  31. September 1, 2006 by mikestan2

    This article is just a rehash of someone elses article

    The 3 points he decides to add are pretty mind numbing, god knows why this article is getting dugg.

    “#1 people in the industry are clueless” , ok a blanket troll statement. Very helpful… really.

    “#2 you get what you pay for” , wow… did you think of that all by yourself? … a genius!

    “#3 don’t start by buying a cms”, the one statement could have provided some interesting ideas, but he decides to share none.

    He just says “A municipality buys a cheap CMS that looks good to them, then goes looking for someone to implement a website on top of it. The end result is very often both inflexible, inaccessible, and dull looking.”

    Ummm it doesn’t HAVE to be inflexible inaccessible and dull looking, I think a CMS is important.. I wish you’d actually spend some time talking about this.

    Also, why is this specifically bad for the public sector? if you are going to write an article… at least .. WRITE SOMETHING.

  32. September 1, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Sebastian: Nope, no reminder. I’ll fix that. Eventually :P.

    Alan, Nate: Dreamweaver is a decent tool if you use it right (which many do not - they just use the WYSIWYG mode) and are a Windows user. After a discussion on Hand coding where people mentioned that Dreamweaver is great for hand coding, I decided to test it. I came away with mixed impressions: Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 Review.

    Rick: Yeah, most of us have probably made that mistake more than once :P.

  33. The DW review is excellent Roger. Must have missed (read: forgotten) that one ;). Emacs works just fine for me (on any OS). To each his/her own.

  34. September 1, 2006 by Amed Jones

    I work with Microsoft FrontPage support and I have a lot of customer thinking that they know all about web industry when its the complete opposite. They lack the basic understanding of web technology such as security, for example, i recently had a customer trying to store credit card information into a text file. This is a complete NO NO!!!. Another example is of a customer creating a shopping cart with FrontPage. Again we always caution them about security but they think nothing will happen to their site.

    My point, if you want to build a website, either higher a professional ( web designer / web developer ) or learn about web technology, security, performance and scalability before you create one yourself.

    I still consider myself an ameture. Even though I created a couple of sites, I am still studing more about web technologies and with the new web 2.0 buzz, there is more to learn than before.

  35. I am a project manager, and I take no offense whatsoever at these statements. It’s true, indirectly, because EVERYONE has to update their skills every year in the computer industry, not just PMs. Anyone who doesn’t keep reading starts falling behind, and at todays rate of new development I doubt there are many who could keep up with it all.

    I think most people develop the skills that they find themselves USING. Like most, I read books on anything that I find myself needing to use, and sometimes take more classes.

    Secondly, you don’t win clients by saying “I’m the second best programmer that I know of.” The company will then ask for the other persons phone number.

    The truth is that you don’t have to be the best anyway, you just have to be competent. Know thy limits. Represent yourself accurately. Don’t promise things you don’t know you can do. That’s where most people screw up.

    Not being the best at a new hot buzzword isn’t a bad thing. VRML came and went. No one is the worse for not learning it. Now I’m into X3D and I think that’ll eventually stick. We can’t afford to become gurus of every new technology. There isn’t enough time.

    What we do need to know, is how to MANAGE. This is where the real failures occur in my opinion. People who don’t understand how to appraise their own abilities. People who promise impossible feats. People who think that they don’t need to hire anyone for a 5 person project, and try to do it alone. The list goes on. Almost every complaint addressed in the article really boils down to knowing how to run a business.

    As a 30 year veteran of family business management, I know how to recommend someone else when the job is too big or too small for me. I know how to say “Um, you do realize that what you’re describing requires your own server room on-site?” or other such clarifications with clients who have their heads in the clouds. I would never say ‘oh yeah I can do that’ and then deliver something half-assed that they’ll be disappointed with. Know how to define a contract!

    Most of the disappointments I’ve had personally had to do with unprofessional behavior, and the rest are failures to perform. All of these could have been avoided had the person responsible BEEN a responsible person.

    I’ve learned to ask key questions of host providers, telcos, clients, and other agents that I have to deal with. I need to know if they have the capacity to do the job. I have run across a suprisingly high percentage of phone carriers, hosts, ISPs and so on who failed miserably.

    I’m especially frustrated when the failure is followed not with apology, but with a ‘fawk you’ attitude from the business, which occurs very frequently when I have to write support tickets. Asking someone at a host to update Cpanel got me one of those responses, and I immediately fired them.

    The worst problem I have is people promising services, collecting money, and then failing to deliver. This is chronic when it comes to web services which must be prepaid. We retain a full time attorney, that’s how bad it is.

    Unprofessional behavior is a much more chronic and deeper problem than the person in question just not being as skilled as she/he thought they were. In many cases an apology and fixing the problem is totally acceptable. We can always hire someone else to do work, but having to change hosts or financial companies is an intense nightmare. When one expects a professional standard, and the contract promises it, there is severe fallout if it isn’t delivered.

    If I had a wishlist it would be short:

    1. All computer majors must take at least one business management class, with a focus on ethics and marketing.

    2. Any programmer who writes undocumented code should get an F.

  36. You can’t force someone to have good taste.

    1) Customers with poor taste will find a way to ruin an otherwise we’ll designed site.

    2) Good taste usually means higher quality work, which always means more money. Justifying that to a ‘frugal’ customer isn’t going to happen easily.

    The cycle goes on.

  37. September 1, 2006 by just a passing reader

    Most people in the Web industry are clueless

    This has got to be the most backwards thing I’ve heard in a long time.

    CLIENTS are clueless! Clients are clueless and web developers, designers, and programmers are PULLING THEM KICKING AND SCREAMING INTO THE PRESENT! And the companies (the CLIENTS) whine and dig in their heels and act generally like they are psychotic. They carry on like the least little drop of progress burns their skin like battery acid (or holy water).

    Yes, there are a lot of web workers who could put in a lot more effort, but the mangled sites you see online are because of the clients. They will hack and slash and undermine and ignore and generally sabotage until a halfway decent website launches looking and working like it was built by a team of psychiatric patients on experimental drugs.

    If people in the Web industry are clueless, it is because clients have beaten us over the head so many times we have brain damage…


  38. The real issue is that most of the human race is clueless - unfortunately some of them happen to think they are web designers/developers.

  39. September 1, 2006 by Don ulrich

    Roger, Nate and others:

    When looking at a CMS most clients see the present need not the future. I always ask if they believe their choices will sustain them six months, twelve months, even two yars down the road. This gets the lights on. Then we discuss a sustainable framework based on the future. To look forward you have to start there and look back.

  40. I think a CMS can be a good thing if needed. Anytime I’m presented with a new project, I always check out what’s available to see if there is any way I can utilize what is already there to save my client time and money. However, if it is not absolutely perfect (and there has only ever been one time that it was), it’s back to the drawing board for me.

    I think the most important thing to remember is that you are designing the website not for the client, but for the client’s visitors. And I always make sure that my client is both aware of and agrees with this simple fact before I ever agree to do their site. Ultimitely, this will lead to client guestbooks with “your website is so helpful, I can’t wait to do business with you” comments, which results in client satisfaction with you.

    That being said, a CMS can be a good choice for a lot of applications if it gives the visitor what they need without too much undue distraction and allows the client to actually afford the website (which is often a large concern for small start-ups). A CMS is and will always be a compromise between function and time/cost. If it didn’t work for a lot of people, then it wouldn’t be there.

  41. “Most people in the Web industry are clueless.” Wow you are arrogant moron, you don’t sound like a “web professional” to me, more like “arrogant web noob”.

  42. September 2, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Steve: Of course a CMS can be a good thing. In most cases it is a very good thing. My point is that many organisations fall for the sales pitches used by CMS vendors and buy something that cannot be adjusted to suit their needs, follow web standards, or be made accessible. That’s the problem with many CMSs.

  43. Clueless for sure. I recently started a web development corp in an economically depressed area (its’s something that can be done from anywhere, right) and tried to recruit talent from the other web developers in the area. It turns out I couldn’t hire anyone. No one did any programming. Many didn’t even know what PHP was. Most people just used an app like GoLive or Dreamweaver and called that web development! But yes, clueless for sure!

  44. I do second Roger on this one.

    Dreamweaver is an awesome tool. Especially when you use it to do your data bindings and server-side scripting. I have found it very helpful regardless of the back-end language I am using: ASP, .Net, Coldfusion, PHP.

    If you only use it for laying out pages through the WYSIWYG (or Design) view, then you might as well use Word.

    Unless you are done with your design and using it for a bit of content management (with .dwt), then it comes handy.

    DW’s code hinting is great and their ‘preview’ tool, while not perfect, is a decent one, I rather preview it with the browser itself

  45. September 2, 2006 by Anonymous

    You are a terrible writer. Just throwing statements about without backing anything up with even so much as an example.

    That said, many web developers do not know what they are doing. Sometimes that’s good enough. I think the problem is that back in 1999 you could code HTML. Now development projects require many different languages of code to work. That’s a lot for one person.

    Should all the IT people who aren’t perfect with EVERY web language get new jobs? I don’t think so. Not only doess this border on shady labor practices (btw, I would never work with you) but it also means that you will have poorly trained people doing things that they are not trained to do at all — that can be dangerous!

    Have a little common sense and realize not all people are on the internet 24/7. Write for people who know how to read, not just to troll forums. Geeze…

  46. September 2, 2006 by Anonymous

    Who the heck is 46? At least have the guts to say who you are.

    What’s with the agression?

  47. September 2, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)


    Should all the IT people who aren’t perfect with EVERY web language get new jobs?

    No, but they should stop claiming to be experts in areas they know little about. Like, let’s see, HTML and CSS for example.

    Write for people who know how to read, not just to troll forums.

    Ok, you lost me there. This is not a forum, and I’m sure most people who come here know how to read.

    #47: I don’t know who posted it, but I do know that I only get comments like #46 on articles that end up on “digg”.

  48. I agree with all the points, although some more so than others.

    However, it is one thing to create a list of problems but quite another to actually do something to address them.

    It seems silly to let new clients go through the same problems that we know our previous clients faced in the past.

    By devoting a little more time to educating new clients at the start of a new project, we could probably avoid a lot of problems further down the line.

    From now on, I intend to give all new clients a printout of this article (and Esther’s one too).

    Does anyone have any other suitable articles/materials that they recommend we give to new clients?

  49. September 3, 2006 by Jon Wood

    I’m with you on most “Web Professionals” being clueless - I work at a web agency where our standard (and only official) tool is Dreamweaver, which is used almost exclusively in design view.

    Dreamweaver can be a very powerful tool, although I still use TextMate, but it can also be dangerous - my projects have to render correctly in IE, Firefox, Safari and Dreamweaver, because our designer is unable to hand code anything.

  50. “Most people in the Web industry are clueless. It may sound harsh, but I really think that’s the sad truth. The majority of Web workers out there should either update their skills to what is required in the 21st century or find something else to do.”

    I am definitely guilty of this one. I’m a college student, and I make websites on the side for people (granted they are all up-to-date with the latest web standards set by the W3C). However, I still feel like I can take my skills a bit further (i.e. I know a lot about CSS, but absolutely, and I mean absolutely, nothing about Javascript, DHTML, PHP, etc.) At least I am trying to fix myself by reading sites like this!

  51. I came to this post from a list thinking I would learn something about either how to set up a business site or what should go into the site. (I am in the process of planning a new business)

    I was really disappointed that it is a list of vague platitudes and criticisms. To prove my point you you could substitute ANY human field of endeavor instead of web design and say almost the same things for almost all the points!

    Instead, how about some tips on content, and communication, and building community— in my humble opinion that’s what the web does best and tips from pros would be very useful.

    But perhaps the purpose of the article is to justify ever more complicated sites, ever more lists of skill sets needed, and ever more expensive design rather than offer assistance to improving the web sites.

    It would be more helpful to write about how to make the business site more effective perhaps improving one of the three C’s listed above rather then bemoan the imperfections of the human race. “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

  52. Very nice article, I’ve been looking for something like this for months. It’s also easier for us web designers to understand what customers need if they do know that information themselves.

  53. Some funny stuff on this page and a hilarious comment by John Wozniak. LOL

  54. i posted a follow up to that post too at here.

  55. Janet from #52 has a valid point. For those of us who are experts to some degree or another we should be leading our clients to the best end result for their project instead of whining about what they do or do not know. I work primarily with small owner managed business and most of these people are clueless only becase they rely on experts to do the work as it should be.

    I don’t let clients tell me what the site requirements are, I help them look at their business and marketing goals and determine what we need to put into a project to achieve those goals.

    By letting the client dictate the work is like hiring an electrician and then telling him/her how the wiring should be done instead of the ideal situation.

    I am not an enterprise level developer by any stretch of the imagination and I hire better qualified people in the necessary fields to complete projects. Few if any developers hold expertise in every facet of website success, from marketing, to interface design, to photography and visual design, to information architecture and database structure and programming.

    We need to educate our prospective clients as to the benefits of working with a high quality, high standards development firm vs. pseudo dev departments in Ad firms or Design houses. If prospects are lacking in information and direction give it to them. If they go with the lower bid let them go. There are too many businesses who are willing to work with a consultative firm rather than a facilitative firm.

  56. It’s not about the tools, the programmers proficiency in anything or how techy the client or their users are.

    It’s about getting a good understanding of what’s required from the business before undertaking a web site. What’s required and WHY is more important than anything used as a tool to create it. This is No.1 on the list above and the priority to understand the client needs so you and they can come to terms with that before launching into development. What is this need, how will it be serviced and then, how is that acheived. Then you can start outlining the full implications of all the parts that make that happen. Then when you have the ‘vehicle’ designed you can see what the ‘road map’ for the marketing/usage can be and how it’s to be planned for. So yup, always more complicated than ‘creating a web page’, even a brochure had to be ‘designed’, ‘printed’ and ‘delivered’.

  57. 1. I was one of the clueless from ‘98 - 2004.

    From ‘98 - 2001 I created my own NYC Real Estate firm’s website using FrontPage.

    A few months after I lost my firm on 9/11 - I got the webmaster job where I am presently. I switched to DW 4.0 and taught myself php (while still writing junk html code for 2 years). Upgraded to DW MX which helped a little.

    In 2004 I found my first clue when I gave up using IE for Firefox as well as upgrading to DW MX 2004.This was the first DW to really help with CSS.

    I started finding clues every day. And since upgrading to DW 8.0, my CSS skills have improved dramatically.

    I use at least 2 to three hours every day looking for new sites in which to learn something (hence my finidng this fine place, today).

    2. For those of us who are coding (browser and server side) 12 hours per day, DW 8.0 is a great time saver. We spend 90% of the time in “code” view - then quick check it in “design view”.

    Anything that lets me work faster is a God send (hey, it checks for broken curly braces!!! - I have some pages with over 4,000 lines of php and I KNOW I’m going to either miss a brace or semi-colon somewhere, usually after coding for 10 hours straight - this alone is gold).

    DW 8.0 as a WYSIWYG web editor for beginners is worthless. But for those who are finding clues and having the scales lifted from their eyes, DW 8.0 deserves due credit as the first editor to get away from auto-generating junk html and forcing users to use styles.

    Never knock the tools. It is always about the person using them.

    Firefox was the hand that pulled back the curtain to reveal the false IE Wizard to many “working” web coders. Those of us whose heads were buried in IE for decades finally saw the truth … albeit, some of us faster than others.

  58. You should think of a web site as a shop. You don’t understand how the shop was built and neither do you really need to, but to maintain it you need to understand certain elements..

    • Shop window, you can only put so much on display (screen res) and people standing from different distances and angles see it differently (web browsers)
    • You need to rearrange your products to maintain a freshness to the shop (Web site overhaul)
    • The building (web server) that holds the shop (web site)
    • The front counter (people visiting the site)
    • Behind the counter (your back office login for CMS’s)


  59. Very good article. My top tip would be “Word of mouth”. If you need a Web designer/developer ask around. Find sites you like and approach the owner, ask them who they worked with and would they recommend them. If I had £1 for every business owner who had a genuine complain about their Web designer, I’d have alot of pounds!


    Business Management

  60. January 3, 2007 by dave

    I think the magor problem in software development is that the managers and top IT people are not confident enough to suggest good paths. They just want to complete 40 hours per week.Some of them don’t have right managment skills. They just say they have experience in Hacking company, bank, Gouvernement etc. These are good for nothing. These type of professionals should be put out of their job and find them a dishwashing job. IT professionals should be respected by senior IT professional. Some managers ask marketing guys to check how his developers are doing.

  61. January 4, 2007 by Max Bode

    Great…just great! Does anyone want to translate this article into german??? It’s not like I’m not able to but I’m busy right now… I’ve got a client right now and she is soooo clueless it makes me sick…

  62. For a new company setting up a website for the first time, do you think they should start completely from Scratch, or look for a high PR website with a domain name appropriate to the company, and buy that domain?

  63. Yup. Absolutely agree with you. And most of them work for big I.T. consultancy companies…

  64. It’s especially frustrating to work with a manager who hasn’t a clue about the web and wants shiny rollover buttons all over the place. Contact buttons, ordering buttons, informational buttons. It hasn’t been 1995 for a few years yet they want the site to look as though we just rang in the new year (1995). Crazy.

  65. I don’t let clients tell me what the site requirements are, I help them look at their business and marketing goals and determine what we need to put into a project to achieve those goals.

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