Lame excuses for not being a Web professional

Rant time. I need to vent some built-up frustration I get from some of the people and attitudes I encounter in my dayjob, in comments on this site, and when reading articles elsewhere. What frustrates me is that the Web industry is overflowing with lazy, ignorant, incompetent people who do not seem to have the slightest interest in learning how to do things properly.

If you don't like rants, don't read this. On the other hand, if you do like rants and have an interest in creating websites that work for as many people as possible, you might enjoy this. Especially if you're also feeling frustrated by the following excuses that some people have for not always striving to do the best they can.

Visual consistency

Ah, the top graphic designer excuse for making the user's job harder. Coloured scrollbars anyone? Unidentifiable form controls? Non-recognisable links? Unreadable text? The list goes on. This excuse is normally used by visually oriented Flash designers or ad agency art directors that create design profiles which simply do not work on the Web. Instead of adjusting their design when they are made aware of the problems, they stubbornly push ahead and make users think and work harder than they should have to in order to use the site. If your design - or you as a designer - cannot handle the fact that the Web is the Web, please do everybody a favour and stick to the safety of your printed brochures.

Engaging user experience

Whenever you hear someone mention "engaging user experience", run. All too often "creating an engaging user experience" on the Web means filling the site with enough pointless Flash bling-bling and/or library-based JavaScript effects to completely ruin any chances of the user actually getting anything done. People who talk a lot about creating a good user experience are more often than not completely clueless about usability and interaction design. Ironic, isn't it?

Target audience

Having a good grip on the demographics of the people you are trying to reach is obviously a good thing, but every time I hear someone mention "target audience" my spider-sense starts tingling. "Target audience" is a very dangerous weapon when it is put in the hands of the wrong people. It is way too convenient to use it as an excuse for excluding pretty much any group of users. Things you might hear include "Our target audience doesn't use Macs.", "We have no disabled customers.", "Nobody in our target audience will have JavaScript disabled.", and "Everybody in our target audience has a fast computer, broadband, and Flash." These claims are, of course, almost never backed up by facts.

Optimising your design choices to make your site appeal to and work well for your main target group(s) is one thing, but you need to have a very - no, extremely - good knowledge of exactly who will visit your site, with what, and under what circumstances, to let those design choices make the site hard or impossible to use for other groups. This is the Web. The only thing you know about who will come is that you do not know who will come.


This excuse is very closely related to the "Target audience" excuse, in that those who use it tend to be looking for ways of making the number of people their bad design or development choices turn away seem insignificantly small. This is accomplished by dividing the total number of people who cannot use a site properly into a number of small groups that each may be seen as acceptable collateral damage. Using the statistics defence is letting your (bad) design and/or technology choices determine who your target audience is.

HTML-challenged IDEs and frameworks

Many back-end developers for some reason I cannot understand seem to be completely dependent on having an IDE or a framework create all front-end code for them. It seems like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are all way too complicated for most back-end programmers. And that is really unfortunate since the IDEs many of them use create front-end code that is nothing but pathetic.

Look, it's very simple. You're a programmer. You should be smart enough to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If your IDE or framework produces rubbish for front-end code, don't let it. Twist its arm to make it produce sane markup.

This is the reality we live in at my dayjob. One of the content management systems we use is based on ASP.NET, with all the sloppy front-end code that brings into the game. We simply work around it. If we couldn't, we would use something else. So should you. Don't just accept that your IDE/framework/CMS creates junk by default.

The real world

Some people like to shoot down arguments from people (like me) who want to improve the Web by insinuating that we don't have real jobs, and don't build real sites used by real people. Well, let me assure you that I, and everybody else that I know who pushes the same ideals I do, have real jobs with real clients and real deadlines. The difference is that we (ok, make that I - I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth) regard what we do as a craft and have an inner drive to always deliver top quality stuff.

It gets the job done

"It gets the job done" really means "It works with the default settings in my browser, my manager's browser, and the client's browser. That's good enough for me. I want to go home and watch TV now."

Why are you working in the Web business if you're not interested in it? Go flip burgers instead.

Some excuses may occasionally be valid

Most of these excuses may occasionally be valid, but only in very special circumstances. The disturbing fact is that in the vast majority of cases when I encounter somebody who is using one or more of these excuses, they are just using them to hide their laziness and lack of knowledge.

One more thing: I know that there are highly skilled Web professionals who sometimes use some of the phrases I have mentioned here. Please understand that I'm not picking on you.

What other lame excuses are there?


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Posted on April 10, 2007 in Web Standards