Jeff Croft

I’m a product designer in Seattle, WA. I recently worked at Simply Measured, and previously co-founded Lendle.

Some of my past clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the University of Washington.

I’ve authored two books on web and interactive design and spoken at dozens of conferences around the world.

I’m currently accepting contract work and considering full-time opportunities.

Blog entry // 10.01.2006 // 3:53 PM // 167 Comments

What does it mean to be a “professional” web designer?

There was a time, not all that long ago, when making a professional website was not an especially complicated thing to do. The web consisted basically of images and HTML, and the differences between what could be produced by professional and amateurs weren’t all that great. There was little to no programming involved, and the web’s limitations meant that graphic designers weren’t able to create something much more aesthetically pleasing than anyone else with a copy of Dreamweaver.

That time is past. Nowadays, most serious web sites requirie a good deal of programming and there is an expectation that they be on a similar level design-wise as their counterparts in other media (such as print and desktop computer applications). But there was a mindset created in the 90s that anyone could make a web page. That line of thinking led bosses to direct secretaries and copy editors to produce corporate sites and a whole wave of self-proclaimed “designers” to start selling their services as web professionals.

And you know what? I was one of them. I have no formal design training, and back in the mid-ninties, I had no informal design training, either. As someone who always enjoyed writing, I was excited by the idea of of self-publishing, so I created a personal website. Before long, people started asking me to produce sites for their business — and who was I to turn down a buck for doing something I enjoyed?

At some point, I realized something: creating web pages, as I was doing it, wasn’t that hard. Anyone could learn HTML and anyone could buy a copy of Photoshop. And I could see there were things coming down the road that would make web design more complicated (Javascript, Flash, CSS, the ability to do serious graphic design on the web, etc.). In short, I realized that my skillset — which was basically HTML, Photoshop, and the ability to change a few variables in a Perl CGI script — wasn’t going to cut it. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to make a career out of this, I need to get some skills that can’t be learned in a few weeks by any old shmuck.”

And it was at that point that I decided to become a designer (which also meant learning CSS inside and out, since it was to be the design language of the web). I could have also chosen to become a programmer, a copy writer, a Flash guru, an accessibility and usability expert, or a few other things - but I chose designer. I read as much about design as I could get my hands on, and I continue to do so today. In my opinion, this was the point at which I became a professional.

There is a serious problem in our industry that I believe we professionals need to address. The problem is is simply that many people never made that leap from hobbyist to professional. And yet, these people are working in our industry. They’re taking our jobs out from under us, and making money doing it. I’ve worked with these people. At Washburn University, I worked behind a Manager of Web Services and senior “designer.” Each of these people had learned the basics of HTML in the mid-ninties and, insofar as I could tell, not really learned anything since (and you’ll agree that Susan Jarchow’s website indicates as much).

To be clear: I still think the low barrier of entry to self-publishing on the web is one of its killer features. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I think it’s absolutely awesome that my 11-year old daughter could make a personal website if she wants to. Where I have a problem is when these people start to sell their services or get senior-level jobs in the industry. Whereas most of us go from amateur to professional, they go from hobbyist to hack.

And yet they succeed. They continue to get jobs and they continue to roll out tag soup, tabled-based layouts with amateurish graphics full of Photoshop filters and all-Flash sites full of unnecessary and cheesy animation. They rip off well-made sites, stealing graphics and layouts and pawning them off as their own work to unsuspecting clients.

There are several reasons for their success — and we need to address them. I believe the biggest one is simply that consumers of design are uneducated. Your typical small business owner doesn’t always understand the value of design, and certainly doesn’t understand what it takes to produce a quality website. They probably know a dozen people that have websites they built themselves — so in their mind, there’s no good reason to pay a professional’s rate. They believe they could probably do it themselves, or at least pay one of the buddies a much lower price for what they perceive as the same quality of work.

I also believe most clients don’t know what they’re paying us for. Most people think web design is a technical field. And, of course, it is — to some degree. But it’s also a creative field, and I don’t think most people understand this. When I tell people I’m a web designer, their response is often, “oh great, you can help me fix my printer.” Or, “oh, I have Dreamweaver, myself.” In other words, they believe we’re geeks. And maybe some of us are. They don’t seem to understand that a huge portion of what we do is design — layout, typography, color, communication, problem solving — these are the areas where we really earn our stripes. But clients hire us in much the same way as they hire a moving company. They say, “Put this over here, and that over there. Make this bigger. Now change this color.” They don’t realize these are the decisions that they’re paying us to make.

I think at least part of this misunderstanding comes from people mistaking the tools for the job. This seems to happen in other creative industries, as well. People buy a nice digital SLR and decide they’re a photographer. The buy a guitar and call themselves a musician. And, they buy a copy of Photoshop or Dreamweaver and call themselves a web designer. This is a little baffling to me. No one thinks if they have a hammer they’ve got the skills to be a professional carpenter. No one decides they don’t need a doctor if they’ve got a stethoscope of their own. For some reason that I can’t seem to figure out, people believe that if they have the same tools as us — a computer and some software — they can do our jobs. And worse, the clients believe that, too. When a designer is charging $150/hr. and a “designer” is charging $30, they’ll usually pick the cheaper one because they just can’t comprehend what the difference could possibly be.

Mark Boulton recently wrote about the idea of a professional body for the web design industry in which memberships would be based on peer review, creating a sort of “union” of serious, quality web designers. Most of the commenters on that post seemed to be in disagreement with Mark. Christopher Fahey summed up this viewpoint when he said, “The solution is right in front of us: make your decisions based on portfolios and recommendations from people you trust. That’s all we have that we can count on, and thatâs all we need.”

And that’s a great idea — if there was some way to ensure clients would do it, and do it well. But there’s not. Many clients are not especially well-equipped to review portfolios and choose a quality designer based on them. Do we really expect clients to peruse the source of potential designer’s (X)HTML for web standards compliance? Do we expect clients to know that the beautiful all-Flash site is inaccessible by blind visitors? Do we expect clients to understand that the visual style of one designer may not be appropriate for their brand? I think these are unreasonable expectations.

I personally think I would be in favor of some kind of professional body for our industry, although figuring out exactly how it would work and what it would do is extremely difficult. We, as professional web designers, need to come together to find some way to educate clients and companies on the difference between us and the hacks that permeate our industry. I’m not sure what the best way to do this is, but something needs to happen. It’s simply not fair that Frontpage jockeys and ripoff artists continue to take our business.

So, I ask you — what are some ways we can combat the hacks and ensure that the quality design professionals in our industry get the jobs they deserve?

Comments

  1. 001 // tiffany // 10.01.2006 // 5:41 PM

    Design is one of those places where you get what you pay for. Yes, I could buy those $15 “Faded Glory” jeans from Wal-Mart, and they’ll cover me. But I buy the $130 jeans from Seven (or whomever) *because they make my butt look better.

    See, the client who hires the $30/hour “designer” is someone who otherwise might not hire anyone. They’re not a part of your MARKET NICHE. And that’s what it’s all about these days: finding your market niche.

    (*Actually, I buy the $30 jeans from Old Navy, but you get my point.)

  2. 002 // Jeff Croft // 10.01.2006 // 5:58 PM

    You definitely make a good point, Tiffany. I guess it just seems to me that the difference between the work of the hack and the serious professional is a way bigger gap than it should be.

    Your jeans example is a good one. Let me try another: I can get a haircut at Fantastic Sams for $7 or so. Or I can go to a good salon (as I do), where I pay $30. Or I can go to a high end designer and pay hundreds. But even the Fantastic Sams haircut is done with some level of standards. Stylists are licensed by the state, and if you don’t meet the requirements, you don’t get a license. So, even if you prefer the cheap haircut, you still are getting a cut of reasonable quality.

    In the web design industry, if you go cheap, you’re likely get something that is ugly, inaccessible, ripped off of another designer, unusable, and just downright bad. And, in some countries, in might even be illegal.

    I don’t think clients understand this. They think it’s like getting a haircut. They think, “Sure, a high-end designer would do even better, but this guy will be plenty good enough.” But is it really plenty good enough? I’d say no.

    (FWIW, I don’t think certification or accreditation is feasible in our industry, because it moves to fast. But still).

  3. 003 // Nate K // 10.01.2006 // 6:19 PM

    Man, I have been pondering for quite some time about this. I used to get real annoyed with it. I even wrote a post about it a while back.

    What I have found is that there are some developers that are REALLY convinced they are doing things the right way. They don’t understand web standards, css, design, or programming practices. In their mind, they REALLY think that they are a professional developer because they have flash or a WYSIWYG. It is even harder approaching these types of people - they are somewhat dangerous.

    I have gotten to the point where I ignore most cases - and in other cases I help where I can. Just as you mentioned, we all started somewhere. I started in 1998, simply because I could. And, just as you - started doing sites for others. I, too, came to the realization that if it was that easy - ANYONE could do it. That was the point where I decided to immerse myself into my passions. I read books, I listened to those wiser than myself, and I continued to PRACTICE what I had learned. I dove into PHP and took the time to become a Zend Certified Engineer. I am working on my MySQL administration exam. I am constantly reading books (2-3 month) about web design, development, css, programming, database, server administration, etc.

    I didn’t want to be just another web designer - I wanted to take my skillset to the next level.

    So - what about those who simply DON’T want to go there and are happy making dishonest money? I listed some local companies that charge for things like SEO - yet have no idea where to even start with SEO. Companies touting CSS/HTML as the way to go - yet have a tag soup, tabled mess in their own site and portfolio sites. The catch is they are cheaper - and with that they can easily pull the wool over the clients eyes. How can we better educate clients on what to look for?

    The approach to get the developers to change is tough - why change if its working for them? However - its a case of the blind leading the blind. A client is trusting them, and they are feeding a client false ideas/statements.

    So, who/how do we educate? The client? The ignorant developer?

    And - Who rips off designs and then sells them - geez….

  4. 004 // Daniel Spronk // 10.01.2006 // 6:31 PM

    It’s a good idea because it’s good for the freelancers/companies who invested in their l33t skills but also for the client because they get a better product. But it’s not just the l33t designing/programming skills, but the process of getting to that end result that is just as important. No communication, or not applying any ie. user centered development processes can result in a bad experience/result for the client as well. So the second part, equally important is rather intangible. And for thatyou need peers and client recommendations.

    What we could ideally have is some kind of “LinkedIn” website where freelancers/companies are rated by peers and clients. To be honest I think it would be extremely difficult to get a thing like that to really work.

  5. 005 // Daniel Spronk // 10.01.2006 // 6:33 PM

    OT: 1. The comment success page is awesome, I love it! 2. The font size of the comments is way too small! People who post long comments like Nate require me to push “Apple =” a couple of times ;)

  6. 006 // Matt // 10.01.2006 // 6:39 PM

    Jeff writes:

    They think, “Sure, a high-end designer would do even better, but this guy will be plenty good enough.” But is it really plenty good enough?


    Isn’t that their decision to make?

    If they go cheap and get a bad site and their business suffers as a result, they wear the consequences. If they go cheap and happen to get a perfectly functional site, then they’re happy.

    Rather than jeans or haircuts, the best analogy I can think of is writers (that’s what I do). Anyone can call themselves a writer — or even a journalist. Just like in the design world, there are plenty of people who have very questionable writing skills but make a living as writers or journalists. And there are plenty of businesspeople who think they can write themselves rather than hiring a professional.

    Another similarity is that exactly what makes someone a professional designer or professional writer is hard to tie down. There are people in both industries who are self-taught and lack qualifications but are just plain brilliant. Basically as I see it, if you make a living from writing then you a re a professional writer - no two ways about it, even if you are relying on the uninformed decisions of employers.

    The same applies for musicians. If you buy a guitar, call yourself a musician and sell enough records (downloads) to make a living, you’re a professional musician, even if some other musicians don’t like your music. Same again for photographers. If you take photos and enough people buy them, you’re a professional photographer, even if others would say your photos have no merit.

    I think there’s little “good” or “professional” writers or designers can do about that other element of our industries, bar highlighting the best work and outing the worst examples of practices such as plagiarism. Otherwise, we just need to do all we can to slowly educate people about the skills of professional writers and designers.

    I’m not convinced a peer-review system is a practicable idea for either industry, though I find it hard to explain why. I think perhaps it’s because there’s too much risk of a “clique” or “elitist” culture developing, and because both industries need people who break the mould and are innovative.

    And I guess, basically, I have a fundamental objection to one group of people being able to say, ‘you’re not a writer’, ‘you’re not a musician’, ‘you’re not a photographer’, or ‘you’re not a designer’.

  7. 007 // Greg // 10.01.2006 // 6:47 PM

    Yes! I’ve had similar discussions and ideas but it always comes down to who’s going to do all the work to set this up and maintain it. Sadly, AIGA doesn’t seem interested otherwise they would have done it already (which is weird to me considering this problem isn’t unique to the web). They would be the best to work through considering they already have a national infrastructure but my conversations with existing members falls upon empathetic ears.

    It might be possible to get started as a grass roots movement started by a group to form what it means to be certified, what is the process for certification, and then determine how much work this means and what would be necessary to charge for membership, initial portfolio review, and managing certification each year. I’m ready to get started.

  8. 008 // Kevin Hamm // 10.01.2006 // 7:01 PM

    Shave and a haircut? I think that’s perhaps the best analogy out there, actually. The salon pros have to have tested well on their ability to understand the technical side of the business - they need to know a lot of chemistry, medical issues and concepts, and safety training. The web pro has to understand databases, data structure, user-interface concepts and methods, etc.

    The artistic side of the salon has to understand the technical side of creating a look, eg “How do hairpins work?” The web pro needs to understand the artistic ramifications of technical items, such as “What does the ‘em’ tag do?”

    Where the salon has a testing procedure for this, it’s a realtively new procedure. Until the early 1930’s most states did not have anything of the sort, but now all do. Given that web-design is only 15 years old at most, it’s pretty amazing that we have tools like CSS Zen Garden to showcase, and the bodies in place to support the concepts that took thousands of years for salons to get.

    After all, Cleopatra got a perm, but it wasn’t from someone with a license to do so. I suspect we’re well on the way to providing for Web Professionals the same way we do for Architects, and licensing should be pushed for.

    (Bit of interesting history, Cleo’s perm came from someone realizing that if they mud-packed her hair in curls with mud from one side of the nile, the curls lasted for a few weeks after the mud dried and was combed out. If they used mud from the other side of the river, the curls would wash out with water. Guess where the animals went poo? Was all that really worth two bits?)

  9. 009 // Nate K // 10.01.2006 // 7:07 PM

    RE: Daniel What? Are you making fun of my long comments? hehe :)

    RE: Matt The issue I see with your argument is that the client doesnt always KNOW when they get a crappy projects. They could be told by a developer that their site is ‘standards compliant, css, html, blah blah blah’ - but the client doesn’t know how to check that.

    There was a local company that wanted a quick and dirty website - just for exposure. They got a quick and dirty website - and absolutely NO traffic to that website. To them, everything was ok - they got a website for cheap - but what does it matter if no one knows it exists or its built improperly making it hard to locate in search engines?

    In situations like this the client is the one losing - without even knowing it. They are trusting the developer to know - so they don’t have to. When BOTH parties DONT know - then they cant even gauge if business is better/worse due to the website.

  10. 010 // Brian Ford // 10.01.2006 // 7:32 PM
    It might be possible to get started as a grass roots movement started by a group to form what it means to be certified, what is the process for certification, and then determine how much work this means and what would be necessary to charge for membership, initial portfolio review, and managing certification each year. I’m ready to get started.

    Sounds like you’re after something like “board certification” for doctors.

    The question: Once you’ve got the membership set up, what’s to make a potential client care one way or the other? Board Certification works for doctors because people are putting their lives in the hands of doctors. When you’re going in to have an operation for something like cancer (for example) you want to know that the doctor you’re paying is certified in some way in the field he practices. Further, no one gets cancer and thinks: “I wonder if I can find a guy who will do this on the cheap.” If you have cancer, you seek out the best doctor you can find — whether you can afford it or not.

    Regarding web design - people are (often) interested in paying as little as possible to get what they will see as an acceptable end product.

    I think some sort of certification (as discussed by this post and Greg) is a great idea — as a first step. (Or even just “a” step.) However, I think it does nothing to educate customers as to why they should seek out a certified designer. (Or that such a certification even exists.)

    The trouble is, web design isn’t seen in the same sort of light as cancer treatment and therefore I’m not sure that certification for web designers will ever be seen in the same light as certification for physicians.

    i think educating people on the importance of solid design is a fundamental step — board certification won’t mean anything at all until that happens.

    Until you can prove to clients that there is a financial benefit involved with a serious designer who knows his/her shit — they’re not going to care (or know) that they are losing money by going with a hack.

    I suspect the trouble is: This is probably not easy to prove when considering the type of company who might hire a hack in the first place.

  11. 011 // Wilson Miner // 10.01.2006 // 7:49 PM

    Great points, well said.

    The distinction between amateur and professional is really interesting to me. The way you could describe it, you could almost look at it the other way around. The amateur, by definition is somebody who does it because they like to do it, and continues to learn and progress because they enjoy it. A professional is just somebody who gets paid to do it. They might love it, or they might not. They might learn to advance their career, or they might not care. I think the best ones in any profession are the amateurs who can’t believe they got lucky enough to get paid to do this for a living.

  12. 012 // R // 10.01.2006 // 8:05 PM

    Reinforcing Wilson’s point, I am a teenager who does know the “right” way to do web design: CSS, strict XHTML doctype, etc. In fact, it’s the only way I know how to make web sites: the first book on web design I bought was Ian Lloyd’s “Designing Web Sites the Right Way.”

    However, I don’t anticipate becoming a professional web designer after college. I do, however, anticipate continuing to learn about CSS, XHTML, JS, and other technologies. Here’s my thoughts: If you are to make this professional body of web designers, that it has a place for me, the passionate amateur who is an actual designer.

    Let’s remember: Most Olympians start out, and remain, amateurs.

  13. 013 // John Faulds // 10.01.2006 // 8:33 PM

    We, as professional web designers, need to come together to find some way to educate clients and companies on the difference between us and the hacks that permeate our industry.

    You need to be careful doing it though because trying to paint yourself as being better than someone else can often backfire from a business point of view.

  14. 014 // Greg // 10.01.2006 // 8:54 PM

    Once you’ve got the membership set up, what’s to make a potential client care one way or the other?

    Good question, it’s still an ideas in progress. I see this as something akin to a Get Firefox campaign where those who are members help evangelize why it’s important to chose a good designer. Members get a Good Housekeeping seal of approval that links back to a certified record of that person/companies membership. This is in line with other professionals that have to display their certification openly in their place of business. Like I said, it’s an idea in progress.

  15. 015 // Tony // 10.01.2006 // 9:01 PM

    Great post, Jeff. I am not a designer, though I like to design for fun. I am also not a professional programmer (I even turned down a web developer job opportunity, because I felt it should be left for someone who is not only more skilled, but has the desire to be an excellent developer), though I like to dabble in programming. Maybe the reason I don’t think more of myself in these fields comes from an appreciation of the great work the real pros do. Maybe it’s because I was, at one point, an accomplished musician, and I know what it is like to put innumerable hours into music only to see any schmo with a guitar or a keyboard claim to be a musician. There seems to be no distinction between being skilled in these fields and just participating in them.

    As far as clients go, I think it benefits everyone if clients become more educated. Bad design (from web sites to stationary to collateral) can damage a business’s image, be a barrier to achieving business goals, and even lead to legal trouble. The good news is, 5 years ago, these businesses were probably “hiring” the owner’s nephew to hack together a site. Now they’ve stepped up to paying for lowest-bid sites from hacks. That is a baby step forward. :)

  16. 016 // Christopher Fahey // 10.01.2006 // 9:10 PM

    I don’t understand the motivation behind this whole desire to have a standards body for design. Can someone please explain how this helps good designers? By weeding out the competition?

    Is it because some designers are mad that a potential client hired a bad, unqualified designer instead of hiring them?

    My feeling is this: If a client looks at your awesome work and checks your glowing and articulate references and still doesn’t hire you, besides the obvious potential reasons (the competitor was better, cheaper, or got along better with the client personality-wise), it’s probably because that client just doesn’t “get” good design. And you don’t want someone like that as a client, do you?

    If you can’t compete with a crappy designer/firm, it’s probably because either (a) you’re an even crappier designer/firm or (b) the client is unsophisticated about design, loves chrome logos and blinking text, and doesn’t know anything about HTML… and you probably don’t want to work with someone like that anyway.

    Hmm, maybe that’s what you want — to create more educated clients who can readily distinguish a good designer from a bad one. Is that it?

    Well, if so, I contend that a standards body would have the exact opposite effect: Yes it would weed out the terrible designers, banishing them to designing spam and porn. But it would also lower the bar for the rest of us: not only would it would make all designers who “passed the test” equal in the eyes of clients, but it would also excuse clients from the task of educating themselves about design. It would be a crutch for lazy clients, not a solution.

    A better idea is to keep pushing for more design education, more design advocacy, more business world consciousness about design, usability, branding. This is happening already: Businessweek’s new focus on design, the recent resurgence of the AIGA, the popularity of design blogs like this one. That’s how to make clients smarter and more discerning.

  17. 017 // Christopher Fahey // 10.01.2006 // 9:24 PM

    I also wanted to repeat (from my post at Mark Boulton’s site) that certification in other fields, like project management and computer programming, is to many hiring professionals in those fields pretty much useless at finding excellence. Terrible programmers and project managers get certified all the time, and excellent ones will often avoid certification completely. Many firms get by by hiring only mediocre staff, and the certification systems make this strategy easy for them.

    This is the reality how certifcation systems actually work, and it’s folly to think that the design world would be any different. It would probably be worse, insofar as programming and project management are easier to test/measure in terms of basic skills.

    Sure, a design certificate will ensure that the bearer is not completely incompetant, but it does not ensure that the designer is excellent. If it’s mediocrity you want, a certification will at least guarantee that.

    That’s the problem with certification — if you want to operate on the level of excellence (and looking at the names who have posted above I believe that is the level at which Jeff’s reader’s work), certification will only lump you in with the mediocre.

    Excellent designers who want excellent clients always have and always will get hired based on their portfolio and their reputation. Leave the certifications to the hacks.

    If you find yourself competing with hacks and 11-year olds in your potential client pool, perhaps it’s time to swim in a bigger pool with better clients. This is a business development/strategy issue, and is obviously a whooole other can of worms.

  18. 018 // steve // 10.01.2006 // 9:50 PM

    oh man have you hit the nail on the head! multiple times!!!!

    consumers of design are uneducated”

    so true! is it our job to educate them? to some extent, it is. but then, is the money worth it? i know i’ve been guilty (aka am currently guilty) of picking up jobs where i thought i’d use awesome design, web standards, CSS, etc and the client wants/demands the web circa 1998! i chalk these up as lost causes. am i wrong? how much effort should be dedicated to forcing these clients to unlearn what they “like” and start to like what is “good”?

    so i guess i’m fueling the problem. in the future i know not to take these clients on. i will try to weed them out before i get involved, but sometimes it’s hard.

    the thing is, EVERYONE is a designer. whether they own a copy of photoshop or not. everyone BELIEVES they have design sense. we all dress ourselves in the morning, right? that’s design! we all don’t look like rock stars, but we have varying levels of success!!

    great post, and something i’ve been thinking about for some time.

  19. 019 // Jeff Croft // 10.01.2006 // 10:01 PM

    Wow, just got back from dinner to find that this post has sparked some discussion. That’s great! So, I’m catching up…

    Isn’t that their decision to make?

    It is, but shouldn’t we look out for them? Do you think they’re capable of making that decision well? In my experience, most aren’t. So I think we should be looking out for these clients.

    You need to be careful doing it though because trying to paint yourself as being better than someone else can often backfire from a business point of view.

    This is very true. The “hows” of creating such a body would be very, very tricky, and I’m not sure it could ever please everyone.

    Once you’ve got the membership set up, what’s to make a potential client care one way or the other?

    Yup. Great point. Also, it would be key to ensure that membership is maintained, not just received. In other words, one needs to keep learning and keep progressing in order to keep being a member. Just because someone can “pass the test” today doesn’t meant they’ll be able to a yea from now. The speed at which our industry moves and the multi-diciplianry nature of it would make this difficult.

    Let’s remember: Most Olympians start out, and remain, amateurs.

    Great point. And it would also be important that we understand that everyone starts somewhere. People new to the industry ought to be able to get junior-level jobs at design firms and the like without having to pass some kind of test first.

  20. 020 // Jeff Croft // 10.01.2006 // 10:01 PM

    It’s probably because that client just doesn’t “get” good design. And you don’t want someone like that as a client, do you?

    I see your point, and I agree with it — but having been through it myself, I can assure you that some people want — no, need — any damn client they can get. Not everyone has the luxury of turning down clients that might be a pain. 37signals loves to talk about how they turn clients down, and that’s great. But suggesting everyone do that is absurd. People just getting started in freelancing need all the clients they can get and simply can’t afford to do this.

    Hmm, maybe that’s what you want — to create more educated clients who can readily distinguish a good designer from a bad one. Is that it?

    That’s exactly what I want, as outline in the post. I want to find a way to educate clients on what makes a quality website.

    Well, if so, I contend that a standards body would have the exact opposite effect…

    You’re under the assumption that said “standards body” would include membership and a test of some kind. I’m not convinced that’s the right way to go (although I’m not convinced otherwise, either). I’m personally more interested in a body that served to educate clients — I’m just not sure how it would work.

    This is happening already: Businessweek’s new focus on design, the recent resurgence of the AIGA

    True, but very little of this deals with web design.

    Terrible programmers and project managers get certified all the time, and excellent ones will often avoid certification completely.

    Absolutely. Hell, I’ve heard programmers say they actually view certification as a turnoff when hiring other programmers.

    If it’s mediocrity you want, a certification will at least guarantee that.

    It would be a giant step forward. Fantastic Sams’ stylist are mediocre, but it’s a hellvua lot better than trusting my nephew to cut my hair (like some people do with their websites).

    certification will only lump you in with the mediocre.

    It’s a good point, and definitely worth considering. like i said, Im not too sure about the whole membership thing. I think educating clients is the bigger issue at hand.

    If you find yourself competing with hacks and 11-year olds in your potential client pool, perhaps it’s time to swim in a bigger pool with better clients.

    I’ll say again that not everyone has that luxury. Everyone has to start somewhere.

    Great discussion, guys. Thanks so much for all of the good comments. Keep it going!

  21. 021 // Jeff Croft // 10.01.2006 // 10:08 PM

    how much effort should be dedicated to forcing these clients to unlearn what they “like” and start to like what is “good”?

    The real education problem here is teaching them that you are designer, not a web monkey. Explaining to them that you are there to help in decisions regarding designerly things like color, typography, layout, etc — and that you’re trained to do so — will go a long way. Like i said, most people think they’re paying us to code, not design.

    People should treat web designers the same way as architects. They should be telling us their problems and goals and asking us to solve them. Instead, they’re usually already sure they know what the solutions are, and they just want us to implement them.

  22. 022 // Brian Ford // 10.01.2006 // 10:27 PM
    Like I said, it’s an idea in progress.

    I want to be on record as saying I think it’s a -great- idea in progress. My comment was in an attempt to brainstorm and highlight what might be good points to look at in refining the idea in progress. (As I’m not a web designer, take what I say with a grain of salt.)

    With that said, I think that it’s an avenue that designers will need to go down.

  23. 023 // Jared // 10.01.2006 // 11:22 PM

    I have to agree with one of the early posts by Matt. A professional body is definitely a positive move but the actual processes involved may make it unfeasable.

    I too would be worried that ‘elitism’ may come into play with peer review, and may stop younger developers in their tracks. Most of the people posting on this blog are accomplished and well respected in the field, but what about designers such as myself? I believe I am a good designer - I have a graphic design background and go out of my way to ensure I meet the standards of web design (Valid CSS/HTML, accessibility etc…) set by my peers.

    But would I be accepted? Other industries with professional bodies generally have qualitfications for acceptance that are seperate from work experience, meaning newbys have a pathway in - the web industry has no qualifications. As such, we get a chicken and egg argument - without a portfolio I will not be accepted, but I cannot build my portfolio because I am not a “registered” web designer and hence may not be hired if I compete with registered equivalents.

  24. 024 // Matt Brown // 10.01.2006 // 11:35 PM

    @Christopher Fahey:

    Excellent points—the notion that a standards body will save us from the perils of bad design is unrealistic at best. I agree it’s not a matter of businesses not ‘getting’ good design or good web practices, but rather that they 1) don’t have the budget or time to invest in such things or 2) they have a market they’re targeting that may not be most effectively reached by ‘good design’ (along the lines of your articles on class and design).

    However, I do think that you brought out something very important in Jeff’s post—there really is a lack of solid and clear client education resources on the web today. Sure, we can all do our best to (calmly) wave our hands about web standards, maintainable code, clean design, etc. but most of the advocacy out there is directed at our own community, and not the larger business world. What I wouldn’t give to have just one good URL to get a new client ‘caught up’ on why building a website/webapp is an serious investment—one that, to do it right, they also need to be very involved in.

    @Jeff Croft:

    If you’re serious about this project, specifically building a community that primarily promotes client education—count me in. I’d love to help build a community like this. I think it would be a great help to individual designers, as well as the web-design community at large. Perhaps such an organization could define its membership as those who are consistent content contributors—the more helpful you are, the more recognition… Just a thought.

  25. 025 // Matt Brown // 10.01.2006 // 11:38 PM

    As an aside, I’m not sure that I agree with your assesment that it’s gotten harder to make a real website… Hasn’t it gotten much easier? Where it used to take weeks to debug a CSS issue, Goggle finds the answer in a second. Where it used to cost a significant amount of money to host/register a website, it’s now nearly free. And on and on…

    As for the notion of most sites requiring a “good deal of programming”—what do you mean? “Most” websites are simply clear, digital ‘brochures’ for a client looking for online exposure. And this is fine—it’s usually all most clients need—a clear place to promote their product/service/brand. Aside from a CMS (which I think is a trivial issue now, with WordPress, Expression Engine, Drupal, Django, all so readily deployable and relatively easy to use/train), few companies really need to develop custom web applications.

    To digress, there’s one thing I think that just about every corprate website could use—better writing. There’s a much ‘design’ to writing and organizing good copy as there is to comping up a nice logo. Sometimes it’s the basic things that get missed.

  26. 026 // Christopher Fahey // 10.01.2006 // 11:59 PM

    Jeff, good point that there is a vacuum in the world of educating clients about web design. Again, the AIGA is stepping up the pace in that department, and you’d be surprised at how many corporate leaders in tech and marketing read Jakob Nielsen or Forrester’s research reports about web design. Still, there’s a lot more to do.

    Also, I wasn’t trying to be snobby about rejecting “bad” clients, really. I was basically saying that if you are an excellent designer, you need to slowly but surely steer your career path towards clients who appreciate good design and have enough money to afford a professional. You don’t want to get paid $15/hour if you’re worth $50/hour.

    Yes, you have to pay the bills and sometimes you take clients who aren’t the hippest out there — beleive me, we do this at Behavior, too. We also lose projects to dorm-room designers occasionally, but we can usually chalk that up to the client’s obscenely low budget. I guess I’m just saying that in the big picture you have to hunt down clients who get it, or try to work for a company who can do that hunting for you. It’s the hustle, and it’s part of the job.

  27. 027 // Keith // 10.02.2006 // 12:10 AM

    I’ve got to agree with Christopher Fahey here. I’m really not sure how some kind of “professional designers union” or something would help this specific problem. I’m not really against it, provided it’s done correctly, but I think the answer here lies in education, both of clients and the “misguided” designers.

    (Aside from all that — he makes a great point about choosing your clients carefully.)

    We tend to vilify people for not being on the bandwagon, and when you’re talking about people who steal design it’s warranted, but what about all the people who simply don’t know better?

    I’d love to see some work done to help provide even more resources for learning designers, I feel like many of the people who’ve got something to teach tend to talk directly to their peers as opposed to writing for the new kids. And if your talking about a client facing educational outlet, I’m all for it, but have a feeling it’d be much harder to do than you might think.

    I know at work we’ve been talking about splitting our messages clearly between clients (on our corporate site) and community/peers (on another site that’s in the works.) These things would be related, but give us ways to tailor our messages. We’re looking at that for exactly this reason. We don’t know yet if it’ll work, but I think we need to have a way to talk directly to clients in language that’s targeted towards them. What I’ve already come to realize is that writing to clients is much harder in many ways than writing to your peers.

    My hope is that it’s worth it.

  28. 028 // Keith // 10.02.2006 // 12:14 AM

    Oh, one more thing: This isn’t unique to Web design. My brother does tile work and they’ve got the same problems. As do tradition graphic designers, television producers, photographers, writers, etc.

    Not sure if it means much, but it’s probably worth noting.

  29. 029 // kyle // 10.02.2006 // 12:45 AM

    I agree with client AND developer education. Many on both sides of the line are completely ignorant to good design—both graphically and semantically. Something needs to be done. I originally became interested in Web design after observing some of the very problems mentioned here. The lack of adequate attention to detail drove me completely crazy. I wanted to make things better. After spending the last year or so reading books and articles (on design, CSS/XHTML, Web standards, accessibility, etc.) I began to better understand what it was I didn’t like about all the crap I saw. I also became fascinated with where the industry was headed and how great it would be to join others who strove for excellence in Design. I recently constructed a simple resume page listing a few of my competencies and employment desires—and to my surprise—I was chosen by a local group interested in adopting and integrating logical, standards-based approaches to Web design. They’re using a propriatary CMS that is a bit outdated but their desire to realign goals and redesign products made me want to take on the challenge. Hey, ask for rain and it pours. Right? So keep the discussions alive. It’s only a matter of time before others in the industry catch on.

  30. 030 // Sean Sperte // 10.02.2006 // 1:30 AM

    People should treat web designers the same way as architects. They should be telling us their problems and goals and asking us to solve them. Instead, they’re usually already sure they know what the solutions are, and they just want us to implement them.

    Uhm, yes. You could sum up your entire article in that statement. May I have permission to print it and post it on my office wall?

  31. 031 // Tomas Jogin // 10.02.2006 // 2:10 AM

    I absolutely agree. I also know from personal experience that many employers think of programmers and/or developers as nothing more than glorified typists; they don’t see the creative of qualitative aspects of the job.

  32. 032 // Mark Boulton // 10.02.2006 // 3:35 AM

    Great post Jeff and some fantastic comments here also.

    There are some very familiar points coming up here. One of them - the old ‘clients just don’t get good design’ - is, to be frank, getting a little boring. Clients shouldn’t have to. Simple as that. As a designer, it’s your job to solve a problem for a client, not provide them with good design. Most often, that is what a client sees. There’s a subtle, but definate distinction.

    As a member of a professional traditional (typo)graphic design body, I can only say what that organisation does for me, and what a similar model could do for web design:

    1. Advice and professional practice. As I recently set up in business, this was a place I could go to find up-to-date, relevant advice on current business practice in design.
    2. Educational promotion. I first heard of the iSTD at university. They came in and set briefs and based upon your performance, you were awarded membership. The important thing to note is that they were getting into educational establishments and enthusing students with current best practice. After spending some time with some interactive design courses here in the UK, our industry could benefit from this.
    3. Client education and Certification. I don’t think either will work. Client’s don’t generally care (and why should they), and certification is just, well, a nightmare to implement.

    So, to recap. I think a professional body is a great idea as a place to promote best practice across business and education.

    I think.

  33. 033 // Steven Hambleton // 10.02.2006 // 3:43 AM

    I have come across countless situations were a friend or relative of an employee/board member etc is doing the site.

    My first questions are

    Do they use Web Standards? Do they cater to impending disability/accessibility guidelines? Do they use tableless design for quicker and easier maintenance down the road? Do they consider the typography, colours and context of their existing collateral? Will they react well to criticism and is someone willing to dish it out without fear of upsetting the office?

    We are professionals and things are moving in a new direction and soon new techniques will move quicker than the hack can keep up.

    I point people to my portfolio and give examples of my work and stuff from Web Sites that Suck to highlight the importance of a professional job over a job.

    To finish off I will give you an example. I quoted for a job that involved a company that produces high end scanning software. They wanted to explain to the customer the benefits of the product, how it can help etc. Instead they used the cheaper service and got an HTML version of their brochure with long paragraphs of spec and no selling.

    The point here is that people need to understand that the web is not print. People read and digest differently than a brochure. The fact the brochure was badly designed probably didn’t help either. Businesses waste obscene amounts of money on crap services such as dodgy brochures with no idea of typography and layout and they assume this is good and this then gets transferred to their opinions on web design.

    Have you seen how many bad websites are out there and how happy the owner is about them!?

    It will make you laugh…

  34. 034 // Simon Clayson // 10.02.2006 // 3:45 AM

    There are some great points in this article and comments, and this discussion follows on nicely from Mark Boulton’s post, and also fits in nicely with the kerfuffle over alcoholic design rips at Airbag Industries.

    All the analogies are interesting particularly in regard to Architecture (which is very difficult, and more complicated than designing for the web), but I think the fundamental thing as you highlight is the whole “I’ve a camera so I’m a photographer” thing. Well, yes, you are, but perhaps not a particularly good one. Now then I HAVE got a hammer, and a screwdriver, and a drill… I’ve lived in my house now for 7 years, and I’ve done things like put up shelves and they are level, they do the job, and they’ve stayed up. But am I a chippy? No, because if you look at the edges and the way that the shelf interacts with the wall, it’s more of a bodge job, but, as a designer, I can see that it’s not great because I just want to do it again and better. So, now why did’nt I get in a proper carpenter and get the job done right and well? Because I can’t justify the cost for the job, and I can do the job ADEQUATELY. So now we come full circle to web design and we see the wider world view of web design, with access to the cheap tools, we can all be web designers to a point, and there are a lot of people out there who are happy with ADEQUATE and CAN tell the difference between good and bad design. If you want mediocrity, you’ll do it yourself, or you’ll pay pittance for your crap. I’m not a writer either as you can tell.

    I’m pulled both ways on the professional body thing, but I’m erring more and more towards one. And the best way to combat hacks and make sure the good designers get work? Keep on getting better, be expressive, be passionate and be optimistic. And remember there are people in the world like nurses who can save lives.

  35. 035 // Steven Hambleton // 10.02.2006 // 3:49 AM

    Hi Mark!

    Anyway yes it is up to us to sell ourselves and our services. how many times has a customer tried to chip in with their ‘design input’.

    I will take it on board but politely tell them my view ‘as a professional designer’ and give an example if possible.

    MArk is right that the customer shouldn’t have to know anything about design. It is up to us to convince them we know better than the next one and the reasons why :)

  36. 036 // d.loop // 10.02.2006 // 4:21 AM

    a very good and well said article. it’s obvious alot of people are thinking the same thing.

    however, something i’d like to touch on is that a client who chooses a $30 per hour designer, would also be the same client who would not care if a designer belonged to some professional body industry union. especially one that is delegated by a set of peers.

    most designers make terrible salesmen. most designers who charge $30 per hour i would guess, don’t have a whole lot of freelance experience. thus, they charge less, to ensure a sale. your average client can relate to someone of that nature. most clients i know, aren’t looking for the next award winning design, if their standards are low, then a low price would seem reasonable.

    one thing that professional designers seem to create is an illusion that if someone doesn’t recoginze a great, perfectly executed design, that they are stupid or have bad taste. design comes with a broad set of opinions. what may seem a pile of crap to you, could be a stack of gold to the next guy.

    sean sperte summed it up… alot of clients are looking people who know how to use the tools, because they dont have the desire to learn, dont have the time to learn, or are just too busy/lazy. it comes with our profession.

    the term web designer is still relatively new. some people just havent grasped the concept that we want to be hired for our judgements in all aspects of it. so they dont care how many hours you spend on typography, they cant tell the difference between arial and avenir.

    i think over time things will weed themselves out. its not like we didnt see this coming. the internet exploded over night. and with it, came a new career, that you dont need an education for, you dont need a degree for and you dont actually have to be good at. that appeals to a heaping load of, most likely, young people. especially if you dont have to leave your house and your computer for your job.

    the way i see it… if the client chooses the $30 designer, let them… move on, you are better off going after bigger fish. and we all can tell stories of a client or two who did choose that cheap designer and payed for it, or came back to you crying…

  37. 037 // Christopher Fahey // 10.02.2006 // 7:12 AM

    I really like Steven Hambleton’s suggestion that designers who know they are competing against 11-year olds, kids in dorm rooms, and the client’s cousin, should make their sales pitch explicitly state why it is important to hire a real pro like him or her, including side-by-side comparisons of hack and pro designs, the differences in the level of service, results, etc. A professional organization can help designers with the vocabulary they need to make this sale, but there’s no need to wait: start doing it now.

    Great idea, Steven. Again, it’s all about the hustle.

  38. 038 // M. Jackson Wilkinson // 10.02.2006 // 7:47 AM

    Great post, Jeff. I think that the model we should really be looking to is the Realtor model. There are lots of people who work in real estate, and lots of them even have a real estate license, but being a Realtor means (or is projected to mean) more than that, and they, as an organization, do a good job of showing why you should look for an actual Realtor when selling your home. It helps real estate businesses large and small, and people understand it.

    Perhaps being a member of the given web design organization means that you not only have a mastery of the skillset, but have a devotion to certain principles that we determine is synonymous with professional and effective web design. At that point, you can sell those principles, either specifically or vaguely (“we abide by a set of principles”). By breaking these principles against the wishes of the client, the member jeopardizes their ability to stay in the organization.

    Some people still won’t understand, and will hire the $30 designer or the kid in the basement, and that’s their call, but I do believe it’s important for us as an industry to make that differentiation and make it in a way that most people can understand.

  39. 039 // Adam Spooner // 10.02.2006 // 8:10 AM

    In which I shamelessly ask Jeff to coerce WO to create a jr-level position.

    Jeff - I’ve said this before, and your comment sparks me to say it again - when are you going to have a jr-level design position at WO so I can apply? =)

  40. 040 // Dave Simon // 10.02.2006 // 9:31 AM

    You can’t teach people taste, it seems. They either have it or they don’t.

    Just look around at signage in your hometown. Or flip through the phone book. Look at the logos. How many of them are well designed and how many are clipart? How many of them use type well, how many just use typefaces (around here, the “rustic” look of Papyrus is particularly overwhealming.)

    However, creating an exclusive “club” (let’s call it what it really would be) isn’t the solution. The solution is to sell yourself better than the hack.

    Seriously, if we REALLY believe our skills to be better at selling a product or service, shouldn’t it start at home?

    Now, I wish I had time to work on my own materials… my site was done in a weekend over a year ago. My business cards never got printed… oh well.

  41. 041 // beto // 10.02.2006 // 9:44 AM

    On my little corner of the (third) world, you would be considered extremely lucky if, as a professional, you get to charge thirty bucks an hour and have clients pay it. Reality is, average earnings are more like a fraction of that amount, even if you freelance like crazy.

    I have done web design and development for a living for about ten years, always aiming to make things the right way - web standards, web-optimized design, usability and such. I currently work for a mid-sized company serving Fortune 500 clients, and I feel it’s the best thing I could have done with my career so far - sure, you can go and try freelancing your way, but having to fight over creative control and having clients micromanaging and nickel-and-diming you? Been there, done that many, many times over. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Talks about establishing a “serious” designer’s union that formalizes the profession and validates real professionals have been on and off over time. However (again, at least here on my surroundings) it is the designer’s ego clashes, and the fact that most don’t seem to take their own profession as seriously as they should, that usually mar any attempts to establish an union as strong as that of doctors or architects. I don’t have great expectations for something like it to happen if we don’t let go of the self-righteous, egotistical BS among ourselves first.

  42. 042 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 9:50 AM

    You can’t teach people taste, it seems. They either have it or they don’t.

    Yeah, but it’s not just about taste. Taste has to do with style. Design is far more than style. Design has to do with communication, solving problems, making things enjoyable to use. Style is a matter of personal opinion — quality design (largely) isn’t.

    On my little corner of the (third) world, you would be considered extremely lucky if, as a professional, you get to charge thirty bucks an hour and have clients pay it.

    Yeah, the numbers were totally made up and definitely have a western bias. Please feel free to substitute whatever is appropriate in your area.

    I currently work for a mid-sized company serving Fortune 500 clients, and I feel it’s the best thing I could have done with my career so far - sure, you can go and try freelancing your way, but having to fight over creative control and having clients micromanaging and nickel-and-diming you?

    I also work on an in-house team and basically agree with you — but this problem isn’t exclusive to freelancers. Even in-house “clients” sometimes don’t understand that we’re more than “web monkeys” to order around. This was especially a problem at the Universities I worked at.

  43. 043 // James Adams // 10.02.2006 // 10:31 AM

    A think a great example of the very problem you are talking about is the kcchiefs.com web site redesign. How on earth could you take a happycog creation and decide that “well, that really doesn’t quite do it for us.” WTF on that decision? Do we not all agree that the HappyCog crew most assuredly told the powers that be at the Chiefs’ front office what this new design would do/mean for their organization? I mean, if even the outstanding work from HappyCog can get downgraded, what does that mean for the rest of us? Are we all destined to have the same outcome?

    I have recently been through a similar experience with a site that I built. I spent several hours creating valid code and presenting semantic markup. All my efforts were a wash however when the company decided to join with a network of other similar shops who hired a design company to do all of their sites. Even after I explained all of the new things that their site would give them, at the end of the day, the company still didn’t understand that they should care and went back to a meaty table based design that doesn’t pass any validation tests at all. I just want to “TOGGLE” and I can’t. Oh, how my stomach turns when I see the new site.

    I always try to tell them in my initial speech when hired “why” what we do is so important and how sites from 4 years ago just don’t “cut-it’ and here’s what I can bring you. Heads are nodded in agreement as if undertood but they just don’t. Even if you were to provide a portfolio or resume with all non-myspace look and feel, companies don’t understand screen-readers, semantic markup or nested tables. They don’t see the value in all the “hidden” extras that their new site could offer. They don’t care because they dont’ get that they should care. I think that the only way to fight ignorance of any kind is education.

    I am positive that “some-day” it will get better for us. CMS’s that take into account valid code and accessbility will help with this. The problem is that sometimes the right tool is used by the wrong person. Clients need direction when asking for a redesign. They’ve seen something cool (animated mailbox gif) and want the same thing. I simply state why that might not be the best solution and here’s 5 other professional samples of similar companies doing something different/better. IMHO, that’s the only way to make the web better, by replacing all the junk out there with “better” stuff. That’s what a professional designer is, someone who recognizes the state that something is in and strives to make it better - constantly. You are never “done” with something and that’s something that should be taught to all those wishing to make the leap over to the professional world. I have not yet made the leap, but at least recognize that there is a difference.

    Hilarious digg on the Washburn IT person. So much for applying there. I’d much rather work for World Online. :D Any idea how many “air-quotes” I used? Geez-Louise.

  44. 044 // Reinmar Müller // 10.02.2006 // 11:51 AM

    In reality and practice right now, the only way to fight the “nephew design syndrome”, as it’s known here in Germany, is to educate clients. This can be an awkward task. You have to be careful to not let the client think you’re insulting his/her judgement or the competence of his/her employee, buddy, nephew or other potential “web designer”. At the same time you do need to deliver the hard facts about what differentiates professional work from amateur work. Using vocabulary and explanations that make sense to the client without overwhelming them is the key.

    I have found, though, that a client who is a sensible and flexible businessperson in general will usually listen, and some are even downright grateful for that kind of “enlightenment”. Those that don’t want to listen and are not willing to pay for solid work are probably clients you should steer clear of anyway.

  45. 045 // Rob Weychert // 10.02.2006 // 2:09 PM

    Jeff, you accuse people of mistaking the design tools for the design job, but doesn’t this technology certification you’re talking about do just that? After all, as you said, the skills that really earn us our money are our problem-solving skills, our understanding of typography and color theory, etc. And it used to be that the “certification” for those skills was a design degree from a reputable college or university. Yet, for better or worse, I’m guessing that the majority of web designers have a degree in something other than design, if they have a degree at all.

    So what ever happened to the ol’ “Education” part of the resumé?

    [Apologies if I’m reiterating any previous comments; I didn’t have a week to read through everything. :) ]

  46. 046 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 2:21 PM

    Jeff, you accuse people of mistaking the design tools for the design job, but doesn’t this technology certification you’re talking about do just that?

    To clarify (again), I’m not in favor of a certification. I don’t think it’s practical, and I agree that it would probably place too much emphasis on the tools, rather than the skills. I guess what I wrote must have been confusing, because you’re not the first person to misunderstand, but I am more interested in a group that served to educate clients and designers, not one that tried to certify them.

    You’re right about education, Rob — but what Universities do you know of that offer high-quality web design programs? Is it really practical to expect web designers to have these degrees? I don’t think so. Maybe someday, but not today.

  47. 047 // Brian Ford // 10.02.2006 // 2:29 PM
    I guess what I wrote must have been confusing, because you’re not the first person to misunderstand, but I am more interested in a group that served to educate clients and designers, not one that tried to certify them.

    I think both options should be considered as a two-pronged attack.

  48. 048 // Joey Marshall // 10.02.2006 // 2:31 PM

    From my experience, the people who are looking for their websites done cheaply aren’t going to be any fun to work with anyway. As I like to put it, they are the customers from hell.

    My opinion is to let them be. The ones that are only willing to pay $30/mo are going to be the ones that want to controll every single detail of the website.

  49. 049 // Rob Weychert // 10.02.2006 // 2:36 PM

    Fair enough, and please pardon me for misunderstanding. As for universities, there are plenty with solid graphic design programs, but it’s true that few—if any—of them have an up-do-date focus on the web. It’s not shocking, if you consider the degree to which the web at large still doesn’t get web standards, and I expect that the more widely web standards are understood and incorporated, the more likely you’ll be to find them in schools. We mustn’t forget that in the grand scheme of things, the web is still a very young technology. It’s as exciting a time as it is frustrating, and these issues amount to inevitable (and probably necessary) growing pains.

  50. 050 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 2:38 PM

    I think both options should be considered as a two-pronged attack.

    Perhaps. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of a certification, I just think it would be extremely tricky to do it well (to the point of being impossible?) and it’s not what I personally am interested in.

    From my experience, the people who are looking for their websites done cheaply aren’t going to be any fun to work with anyway. As I like to put it, they are the customers from hell.

    People keep saying this, and they’re right — but I think it shows a lack of concern for the clients, the web, and our industry as a whole. If you don’t want to work with a particular client and you can afford to let them go, fine. But that client is still going to get a website from someone, and if that website is a piece of shit that they paid someone for, they’re furthering the devaluation of design on the web because you chose not to work with them.

    I’m not saying you should work with shitty clients — I’m just saying that being ambivalent about the fact that someone else is going to create a steaming pile of shit for them doesn’t help our industry.

  51. 051 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 2:40 PM

    Rob, you’re absolutely right, and I’d say any organization that served to educate clients and designers ought to work on getting better web education in schools, as well.

  52. 052 // Lea // 10.02.2006 // 2:44 PM

    Maybe the best course of action is to present our cases to the classrooms — but not just design faculties. We’ve got to hit the BUSINESS faculties. Maybe we can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when the future of business is still in school we can help shape their thinking for the betterment of the future? Maybe? And how?

    Perhaps we’ve been focusing too much on the design community when we need to start presenting to the rest of the business world…?

  53. 053 // James Bennett // 10.02.2006 // 2:54 PM

    The question: Once you’ve got the membership set up, what’s to make a potential client care one way or the other? Board Certification works for doctors because people are putting their lives in the hands of doctors.

    Make a similar case about web sites: you’re putting the life of your business in someone’s hands, so shouldn’t you be seeking out the best person you can possibly get?

  54. 054 // Matt Howell // 10.02.2006 // 3:31 PM

    A professional organization could go a long way to serve everyone’s interests — designers and the public included.

    The main point of doing all this is to serve the public better. It’s in all of our interests to build a better relationship with businesspeople and marketing people and anyone who ever has a need to commission a website. The more comfortable they feel with knowing what to expect out of us, the better we look, and the more respected our work becomes.

    I think the first step for a professional web design association is to define just what constitutes a web design professional. I don’t know, let’s get it started:

    • What makes a professional web designer professional? How does he conduct himself? How accessible should he be? What should I expect him to do — and when am I expecting too much?
    • What kind of fee structures are typical in the field? Should I expect to pay a deposit? What are the benefits to paying a flat fee versus by the hour? Is it normal for the designer to charge me for changes? Is it necessary to get the terms on paper?
    • What should I do if we have a dispute? What are some red flags I should look for when dealing with a web designer? What should I do in case things go wrong?

    Obviously it could go further from there. But aren’t these pretty basic questions that we could agree on and answer in an objective way?

    Also. If you want ideas, check out the website for the AIA - the American Institute of Architects. If there is an analogy between our profession and any other, I think this is just about the closest one.

  55. 055 // Scott // 10.02.2006 // 6:49 PM

    You could form a brute squad to strong-arm others out of the market—or to bully clients into chosing Designers of “Designers.”

    I find this a sticky subject, because it sometimes sounds like people are saying professional designers are entitled to the choicest clients and projects. Clients choose to work with one person over another based on what they have and what they know. There’s a balance to be struck between the cheapest price and the knowledge that a higher price would net superiour results. The problem as I see it isn’t “clients are choosing the cheaper designer and how dare they snub my superior skills” but that clients don’t understand the choice. Therefore, educating potential clients seems the best goal.

    Unfortunately there’s no one way to educate folks about the value of professional design. Perhaps an organized body is a great way to do it, or perhaps that has too many problems of its own. I feel the best place to start is a strong portfolio with powerful case studies, that clearly show the value that others have gained from your services. Educate your prospects one at a time; some will see the value in your services and others won’t.

  56. 056 // Matthew Croft // 10.02.2006 // 7:26 PM

    Jeff-

    As you well know I do not have any experience in this area; and I do not claim to. However, I want to point out the definition of “Professional”, from Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary: Professional: participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs. I believe that, by definition, anyone who gets paid for his or her work is a professional. You, however, are stating that they are still amateur.

  57. 057 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 8:09 PM

    Matt-

    That’s why “professional” is in quotation marks in the title. The word professional carries with it many connotations, only one of which is a person who gets paid to do a particular task. Another meaning that the word connotes is a person with an insistence that something should be correct or suitable in each detail. Yet another is a person who does something at a very high quality. And yet another is a person who acts with a certain degree of class.

    Some synonyms for “professional” include expert, accomplished, skillful, masterly, polished, skilled, proficient, competent, able, experienced, practiced, trained, seasoned, businesslike, and deft (thank you, cmd-ctrl-D!)

    You, however, are stating that they are still amateur.

    I am? Where? I don’t believe I ever said they weren’t professionals — they are, by your singular pedantic definition. But they don’t live up to the other connotations of the word, do they?

    If you want to argue about the semantics of a particular word, we can do so a later date. Right now, there’s a meaningful conversation about the state of our industry going on and this is only serving to sidetrack it.

  58. 058 // cpawl // 10.02.2006 // 10:48 PM

    To me, “professional” designers should not have any care or issue over this. Being a “professional” means you work in the industry and on great projects already. You create “professional” work. Designers need to stop whining about how hard work is and how no one understands how much they put into it and how much knowledge they obtained to be a “professional”. The proof should be in the pudding and if a client fails to see this then so be it. Being a martyr for “professional” designers and taking on clients or (attempting to) doesn’t seem very appealing from a “professional” standpoint. This is the world wide web for heaven sakes, there are zillions of sites, billions of clients, and millions of industry “professionals’. In the same regard that you should not always trust the cheapest guy you should not always assume that the more expensive guy knows anything more. You work, your professionalism, should be the deciding factor.

    Also, some projects have no need for true self proclaimed expensive jeans wearing nice haircut “professionals”. A small town mom with the dream of selling self-made baby items that she decided upon once she installed her AOL disk might only need to sell to others with the same AOL connection. Is she less professional than the babygap? Maybe, but her crappy site that she only paid $300 for generated $12,000 for her that year. If she went the ‘professional’ route she would have paid half that just to sit and talk over the concept.

    I am off topic a bit…

    My point is this is a huge industry, and there are indeed people with hammers in the real world who claim to be carpenters too. Regardless if you realize this, such things exist in EVERY industry whether it be designers, carpenters, painters, car salemen, whatever. I think we should spend less time worrying about such things and get to work. Hell, I am currently billing for a “professional’ job right now but instead of working I am typing about this crap.

    No doubt there are many people claiming to be professionals that are not, I can not disagree there, but how and why is that a true “professionals” problem? Because they are stealing your jobs? Hmm… take a look at the woman who you referenced Jeff, and the industry jobs she has performed and tell me how many you wish you were hired to do. How is she really effecting your position in the industry? Sure, her clients can do better… that is besides the point really. As a professional you should be one of the only not effected. You work and merit should keep you busy plenty.

    Maybe my work, dedication, love, and interest is not ‘professional” as I feel it is because I rather not be associated with self righteous designers. I rather be honest and fair. I have offered cheaper services many times. Maybe it’s because I am a hack or maybe it’s because doing something you love and know and care deeply about isn’t really that difficult, It is more of a blessing than a curse.

  59. 059 // Jeff Croft // 10.02.2006 // 11:25 PM

    How is she really effecting your position in the industry?

    You’re missing the point, and this comment illustrates it. I’m not talking about this because I’m not comfortable with my station in life. I’m happy with where I am — and you’re right, she is not affecting me in any way (at least anymore — she fired me once and it had a profound impact on where I am today). But she is still out there, creating pages on this web of ours.

    And that’s why I’m talking about this — because I care about the web, and because I care about the clients that aren’t getting served properly when they unknowingly hire these hacks.

    It’s not about me. It’s about the web and the clients.

  60. 060 // BigA // 10.03.2006 // 4:10 AM

    All your points are valid but I do think there is a way to make such a ‘union’ work however you’d have to come at it from the viewpoint of the client and all the things we know/assume about them. If we take as a given that they cannot fully comprehend what it is a designer does, then perhaps you need to start speaking in languages they can understand - money & safety. If there were a union of designers who all pledged to a certain code of work ethics which outlined a series of client protections then I believe you’ve suddenly got a rather attractive incentive for using only designers beloning to that union. The client knows that the work will be of high standard but more importantly they know there’ll be a level of support and recourse should something go wrong along the way. I doubt very highly that their 14 year old nephew with the bootleg copy of Dreamweaver can offer as much and frankly I think the reason people go for the cheaper route is not usually becuase of cost at all, but more that they don’t understand the process and feel like they’re being ripped off. If you address this core fear then I think you’re well on your way.

  61. 061 // Ben Perry // 10.03.2006 // 12:17 PM

    It’s hard to take this rant serious when the author got his start the exact same way he’s advocating against. The tone comes out rather arrogant (“We professionals, those amateurs”) and the line between amateur and professional is both blurry and relative. The market sorts out the professional from the hack - the hacks might make a few bucks, but the professionals make a living. Mark was absolutely right - the portfolios speak for themselves. If you’re upset that clients aren’t looking at port folios when dishing out contracts, then you’re obviously not selling yourself hard enough.

  62. 062 // Brian Ford // 10.03.2006 // 12:32 PM
    It’s hard to take this rant serious when the author got his start the exact same way he’s advocating against.

    The author actually got his start when working in HTML was “the way to go” if you wanted to design web pages.

    Your argument would work a lot better Jeff had started his career by illustrating web pages by hand (with pencil and paper - handwritten type, too!) only to scan the pages and upload the drawn image to the internets — rather than by utilizing the same HTML that everyone else was using at the time. Jeff has always worked with what would be considered “best practice” at the time. You can criticize him for a lot of things being hypocritical with this rant isn’t one of them. (Choice of Halloween costume is.)

    The rant isn’t that some people are utilizing crappy techniques — the rant is that they are doing so rather than learning new techniques and calling their work professional. (Even though such techniques haven’t been considered professional in years.) The same issue would arise if a Doctor was using deprecated/outdated technology in the medical world. (Especially if the technology wasn’t as useful for his patients.)

    While there may not be anything that can be done — raising the issue is important, as it proves that “some” people do have standards (no pun intended) that they will live up to. Letting hacks promote shitty work uncontested validates that work.

    If you’re upset that clients aren’t looking at port folios when dishing out contracts, then you’re obviously not selling yourself hard enough.

    Nice leap of logic. At no point does Jeff complain that “his” clients aren’t looking at portfolios — yet you make the inane assertion that Jeff is somehow unhappy with where he’s at due to not selling himself hard enough.

    This article isn’t about Jeff — it’s about the state of an industry that he cares about.

    Quite frankly — his work speaks for itself, but you lost me with that last point. You clearly missed his point and have decided to wing it with your criticisms.

  63. 063 // Ben Perry // 10.03.2006 // 12:45 PM
    Nice leap of logic. At no point does Jeff complain that ‘his’ clients aren’t looking at portfolios — yet you make the inane assertion that Jeff is somehow unhappy with where he’s at due to not selling himself hard enough.
    • I meant “you” as any designer trying to sell his/her service, not Jeff in particular. Jeff’s work in particular is very good relatively speaking. Certainly better than anything I could ever hope to put together.
    The rant isn’t that some people are utilizing crappy techniques — the rant is that they are doing so rather than learning new techniques and calling their work professional.

    Again - the line between professional and amateur is relative. Being a professional musician, I can pick up just about any instrument I’ve never played before, practice on it for about 30 minutes, and play a broad range of music on that instrument. Does that make me a professional at that instrument? Obviously not, but compared to a beginner musician, it’s actually really good quality. The main point is that it’s all relative.

    And that’s the key - many clients need certain levels of professional service. They get what they pay for, they pay for what they need.

  64. 064 // Jeff Croft // 10.03.2006 // 1:01 PM

    It’s hard to take this rant serious when the author got his start the exact same way he’s advocating against.

    I started in 1994. If you know of a university where I could have gotten a quality web design education in 1994, let me know.

    And, for the record, I’m not advocating against it at all. What I am advocating against is the people who learn a few basic tools (like Dreamweaver) and then decide they don’t need to learn another thing for the rest of their careers.

    If you’re upset that clients aren’t looking at port folios when dishing out contracts, then you’re obviously not selling yourself hard enough.

    I’m not a freelancer, so this point doesn’t really apply to me.

  65. 065 // Jeff Croft // 10.03.2006 // 1:08 PM

    I meant “you” as any designer trying to sell his/her service, not Jeff in particular. Jeff’s work in particular is very good relatively speaking. Certainly better than anything I could ever hope to put together.

    I’ll retract my last comment. I hadn’t read this yet when I wrote it.

    And that’s the key - many clients need certain levels of professional service. They get what they pay for, they pay for what they need.

    This is a good point — but it assumes that clients know what they need. But do they? Do clients know they need sites that are built with web standards in order to meet accessibility guidelines (or even laws in some countries?) Do they know they need a designer that has studied typography? Do they know they need a site designed specifically for them, rather than a generic template in order to further their brad identity? Do they know that some designers will simply ripoff other sites and sell them as their own, thus putting the client in an unfortunate legal position? Perhaps more importantly, do they know what they don’t need?

    I think most clients don’t understand these things, and that is why I am advocating for some sort of group/orginazation/site/wahtever that serves to educate the consumers of web design.

  66. 066 // Ben Perry // 10.03.2006 // 1:16 PM
    What I am advocating against is the people who learn a few basic tools (like Dreamweaver) and then decide they don’t need to learn another thing for the rest of their careers.

    It’s hard to believe that one could do well in an industry without keeping up with the state of the art. Again, the market sorts this kind of thing out. Those who are good make a living, those who are hacks make a few bucks.

  67. 067 // Jeff Croft // 10.03.2006 // 1:18 PM

    It’s hard to believe that one could do well in an industry without keeping up with the state of the art.

    I assure you, several of these people continue to do well. The afore mentioned “Manager of Web Services” makes more money than me, and look at her web site.

  68. 068 // Ben Perry // 10.03.2006 // 1:25 PM
    I think most clients don’t understand these things, and that is why I am advocating for some sort of group/orginazation/site/wahtever that serves to educate the consumers of web design.

    I think this is a good point; many clients aren’t aware of the industry standards and what actually goes on behind the scenes. A lot of times, all they really care about is what the final product looks like on their web browser.

    Many times, designers are chosen simply by their credentials - the port folio, their degree(s), and any industry certifications. Are there any industry-accepted certifications handed out in the design field? If not, maybe that’s one area that could be looked into by a standards group.

  69. 069 // Brian // 10.03.2006 // 2:05 PM

    We have delt with these same issues over the years, and when ever we come across a business owner with the “My Cousin Timmy can do it” attitude. We try to bring up that for a lot of people the web site is going to be the first exposure to the owners business and that first impressions are everything.

    It helps some times but others there is nothing you can do. The other problem we have run into is taking over clients only to find out that the shoping cart that was being used was not licensed correctly and serving other things that are illegal. It’t stuff like this we try to fight in out community cause it gives any developer a bad name.

  70. 070 // Joey Marshall // 10.03.2006 // 3:22 PM

    Ah OK, at first it wasn’t clear to me that you were concerned about the state of all those unfortunate people who have to pay for terrible websites and for the unfortunate people that browse them.

    This is just my opinion, so I could be dead wrong, but I think that there is a 0% chance of educating enough people to make much of a difference. The noobs are making money, in their mind, why should the do things any differently?

    The only feasible way I see of making the websites on the net better is to see the entry level higher for web design (make it harder for people to publish websites). But I would hate to see that happen.

    I also see search engines doing a pretty good job of putting the bad sites last… and who ever sees past the third page on google?

    For some reason, I don’t really come across hardly any terrible websites… maybe it’s just because I mainly visit sites with a more geeky audience….

  71. 071 // M. Jackson Wilkinson // 10.03.2006 // 4:13 PM
    And that’s the key - many clients need certain levels of professional service. They get what they pay for, they pay for what they need.

    But many of them don’t understand the true consequences of doing a website on the cheap.

    It’s as if you did the electrical work in your new house on the cheap. While your lights might turn on, that won’t be comforting when your house burns down weeks/months/years later because of the poor job.

    I guess that might be the challenge— not of showing who is best able to design web sites, but instead showing the consequences of a poorly-done one. Once they realize that they are sacrificing a) lost opportunities and b) their public image by going with the cheaper option, then they’ll be in a better position to make an informed decision.

    Now, some folks might make an informed decision to go with the cheap option, but they’ll recognize the risks they’re taking.

  72. 072 // Jeff Croft // 10.03.2006 // 4:41 PM

    Now, some folks might make an informed decision to go with the cheap option, but they’ll recognize the risks they’re taking

    Exactly. Well said.

  73. 073 // cpawl // 10.03.2006 // 6:34 PM

    I still think it’s all whining. Clients who need something big need to look, talk, and get the right people for the job. This is no different than an average home owner hiring the wrong plumber. How much do you know about about plumbing? How much do you care? If their business is worth it, they will figure it out. If any said client went to that website you presented for a service and still they could not figure it out that such a person has nothing to offer them at any rate… well then it’s sad.

    A union of designers would end up with a bunch of pretentious knuckleheads, the industry already has more of them then it does “hacks”.

  74. 074 // Hack // 10.03.2006 // 8:13 PM

    If the website does its job, it does its job.

  75. 075 // Jeff Croft // 10.03.2006 // 9:54 PM

    If the website does its job, it does its job.

    Yep. I’m talking about the ones that don’t do their job. Thanks for your insightful commentary on the matter.

  76. 076 // Brad // 10.04.2006 // 4:29 AM

    The biggest problem is that since web design is still in its infancy, it is not recognized as a legitimate profession by Joe Schmoe. In most cases there is not a degree that directly relates to it, and there’s no professional organization.

    Like Matt stated, something like the AIA would be appropriate, and being a member would show businesses that you are a legitimate professional. In fact, one can’t call themself and “architect” until they have completed a certain amount of internship hours and have taken the architecture equivalent to the BAR exam for law. For web design, a portfolio review of sites that adhere to standards and accessability could be one part, while a design review could be another component.

    You’re analogy with people thinking they are photographers or musicians just by picking it up is because they do not recognize the skill involved. People recognize the skill in construction, because there is quantifiable knowledge that they do not know. To them, photography and web design has only a qualitative quality, and that they will eventually get good enough, not knowing about the quantitative requirements.

    Basically, the profession of web design isn’t being treated like a profession because it isn’t ACTING like one. It’s time for the AIWD: the American Institute of Web Designers (although “web designer” has a cheap, tainted ring to it.)

  77. 077 // Candice Harris // 10.04.2006 // 6:22 AM

    I think at least part of this misunderstanding comes from people mistaking the tools for the job. This seems to happen in other creative industries, as well. People buy a nice digital SLR and decide they’re a photographer. The buy a guitar and call themselves a musician. And, they buy a copy of Photoshop or Dreamweaver and call themselves a web designer. This is a little baffling to me. No one thinks if they have a hammer they’ve got the skills to be a professional carpenter. No one decides they don’t need a doctor if they’ve got a stethoscope of their own. For some reason that I can’t seem to figure out, people believe that if they have the same tools as us ‘? a computer and some software ‘? they can do our jobs. And worse, the clients believe that, too. When a designer is charging $150/hr. and a ‘designer’ is charging $30, they’ll usually pick the cheaper one because they just can’t comprehend what the difference could possibly be.”

    This paragraph is the funniest Jeffï? It’s really a problem if people want to spare money and are ready to get any design with one aim to save their money. The quality of design is not so important for them. The problem is in the people’s attitude about web designers and their works which could be so different. Nevertheless, I think it’s not so seriously because if the person really needs a professionally designed website this person will find the best professional designer and will pay for this with pleasure. The reason is that some people do not realize all the variety they could get from designers depending on these designer’s professional skills.

  78. 078 // Andrey Kovalenko // 10.05.2006 // 2:58 AM

    There had been different attempts to create professional bodies for the web design industry over last 10 years, i don’t see many of them around anymore.

    Now, with all that 2.0 stuff, it’s very easy to envision some social networking group building up recommendation points for designers and design companies, but you can imagine how different would be reviews by satisfied client and direct competition, if anybody would be able to comment openly. We were going to implement something along this lines on our site, but it does not look like a very good idea, at least not now.

    We, at World Wide Design Directory went old fashioned way about this. Every submission to the directory is being reviewed by our editors, and everybody involved understands that the task is to build respected resource that represent the companies and design professional we can vouch for. This approach definitely gained us some popularity among the people who are looking for designers to hire. At least from our experience and i have statistics to back it up, clients tend to look for who does the proper job, not for the ones who come cheaper.

    Also i personally think our common denominator for what is to be considered a quality design company is sat a little to low, but than of course there so many people searching for a reasonably good designer not a designer rock star. There are a little over 2000 companies listed in directory at the moment, and they have been selected from over 6000 submissions, and you definitely would not find non professional designers listed there.

  79. 079 // pauldwaite // 10.05.2006 // 5:55 AM

    In the web design industry, if you go cheap, you’re likely get something that is ugly, inaccessible, ripped off of another designer, unusable, and just downright bad. And, in some countries, in might even be illegal.

    I don’t think clients understand this… They think, “Sure, a high-end designer would do even better, but this guy will be plenty good enough.” But is it really plenty good enough? I’d say no.

    Sure, you’d say know. But again, I query how many clients would. I’m not freelance myself, so I don’t know, but my instinct is that “the market” will hire web professionals that are just as good as they want.

    Then again, a well-reputed body could generate demand for web professionals who generate higher-quality work.

  80. 080 // Kyle // 10.05.2006 // 10:22 AM
    I also see search engines doing a pretty good job of putting the bad sites last… and who ever sees past the third page on google?

    If this were true, perhaps WaSP could assist in petitioning search engines to ackowledge and adopt industry standards as well. Then they could legitimately claim the rights of standards based designs and rank sites accordingly. The cleaner, more accessible designs would be shown first. This might be enough incentive for a client on the edge to lean towards our side.

  81. 081 // Kyle // 10.05.2006 // 10:28 AM
    It’s time for the AIWD: the American Institute of Web Designers (although “web designer” has a cheap, tainted ring to it.)

    Why not link up (if only by association) with already established entities such as the W3C (known for promoting standards) and name this new body the “World Wide Web Designers Association” or “W3DA”?

    On second thought… scratch that.

  82. 082 // WhereIsThatDeafGuy // 10.05.2006 // 2:11 PM

    This post has provided excellent discussions and I’m really glad to see that I’m not alone in this.

    Certification: I believe having a so-called “web professional” accreditation process won’t work. Would a company really care if you had a web professional certificate? This will probably be useless. Is anybody a member of WOW?

    Portfolio: This is something I strongly believe in. Why? Because one’s work speak for itself. Anybody can see a distinction between a hack’s portfolio and a professional’s portfolio. The difference between the two is one cares about web standards and takes his/her job seriously.

    In order to combat the hacks that don’t deserve the jobs, I think some kind of a grass roots organization would be beneficial to have for mentoring, networking and support that we all needed. Also, maybe some sort of “stamp of approval” support from various well-known names for sponsors (WaSP, Happy Cog, Meyerweb, Jeff Croft ;)? The idea behind the stamp of approval support will help make an obvious distinction for companies to understand the difference between the job of a professional and a hack.

  83. 083 // Maleika E.A. // 10.06.2006 // 9:57 AM

    An excellent article.

    I think the biggest problem is that Webdesign - in terms of being a professional field - has still not really found its global acceptance and place in the industry. Here in Germany, for example, you cannot even study the field at University. It simply does not exist, except for one or two academies who offer interactive media design as a whole. Webdesign, specifically modern webdesign, is still in its baby shoes. And while it might not appear that way to a designer as he usually is involved in the webdesign/standards scene, in the real world, it’s nowhere close to being a recognized body yet in my opinion.

    In my view, this will change with the years to come and then it’ll probably be easier for any customer to tell the difference between a hobbyist and a professional. At some point, going to find your appropiate designer might be as natural as finding your appropiate medical doctor or architect …

  84. 084 // Matt Howell // 10.06.2006 // 1:27 PM

    Here’s a thought.

    I’m interested in this concept and I’m not the only one. If it’s done well, a professional web design association could really benefit the profession and the web as a whole.

    The question is, what’s stopping us from taking the initiative here and building this thing? It doesn’t have to be perfect (at first), and it doesn’t have to have the full support of the entire web design community — it just needs to be a serious, professional resource with real promise. If it really is worth having, and there are enough motivated people to make it happen, then it’s worth taking the initiative on and creating.

    I think if we’re waiting on some sort of consensus to emerge before starting, it’s just not going to happen. (Try getting just 5 people to agree on where to go to lunch.) It’s best to press ahead and build something so valuable and so worthwhile that it earns the respect and trust and support of the community over time.

    So, debate aside about whether there should be a professional web design association, the better question is, what could we do to create one that is really worthwhile?

  85. 085 // Johan // 10.06.2006 // 3:03 PM

    Let the clients decide, and above all if you feel strong about bringing innovative, beautfiul and strong designs to the world that is a bonus. You bring your skills with your portfolio, when clients are satisiied, you are bound to get more clients.

    Unions for photographers, developers, webdesigners is a bad idea. All you need is a international agreement/law about quality services

  86. 086 // Jeff Croft // 10.06.2006 // 3:41 PM

    All you need is a international agreement/law about quality services

    Oh! Is that all?! Wow, that’s so simple. I’ll just have the UN whip that up right now. Why didn’t I think of that?!

  87. 087 // DG // 10.06.2006 // 10:01 PM

    LOL. just found a link to this post. Shakespeare said it best, “What is aught, but as ‘tis valued?”. The web is a wonderful place, and a majority of companies only need a phone number and address to pop up in google. What should a local contractor care if they’re site is filled with wonderful standard, and proper typography when they may only get a hit a month. Some of us enjoy doing half ass sites for friends, or local businesses who need just that, a sign that says, I too am here.

    If you want to justify the difference between a professional rate, and me doing it for a case of beer, why don’t you come with your portfolio and show clients how the last one who spent 10 grand on a redesign saw their profits increase by such, and saw new business opportunities increase. If you can’t prove ROI, then your rate means nothing. Frankly, the web isn’t any different than any other business venture. Those who use it as a tool of business will pay top $$$ for your services, the others, will not and should not. Its not a matter of educating your clients, as it is understanding how (and if) the web fits your clients needs, and then finding your place amongst them.

  88. 088 // Jeff Croft // 10.07.2006 // 1:27 PM

    DG, you’re missing the point. This isn’t about how much a company has online, it’s about the quality of what is there. You say:

    Some of us enjoy doing half ass sites for friends, or local businesses who need just that, a sign that says, I too am here.

    If all they need is a “sign” — a name and address on a page, that’s great. But that name and address on a page should still be crafted well, using modern web techniques and quality design. This should be easier than ever if you’re only putting up a “sign.” Why would you “half-ass” something that shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours anyway?

    If you want to justify the difference between a professional rate, and me doing it for a case of beer, why don’t you come with your portfolio and show clients how the last one who spent 10 grand on a redesign saw their profits increase by such, and saw new business opportunities increase.

    I believe that’s what everyone does, isn’t it? If not, then it’s their own fault they’re not getting the clients.

    Those who use it as a tool of business will pay top $$$ for your services…

    That’s simply not true. It should be, but it’s not.

    Its not a matter of educating your clients, as it is understanding how (and if) the web fits your clients needs, and then finding your place amongst them.

    You said yourself that many designers can prove their ROI. Many of them can prove that their quality work increased revenues and opportunities. You said yourself that the designer should sell themselves to the client with this information.;

    And now you’re saying it’s not about educating clients? Huh?

  89. 089 // Steve B. // 10.07.2006 // 5:32 PM

    Jeff + other skilled designers: I have a question: within the last 2 years how many “real” new business pitches have you been on where the prospect’s CEO/decision maker ultimately hired his nephew (or another design firm whose skill set is severely deficient)?

    Real” defined as: including an RFP from the prospect that includes budget considerations.

  90. 090 // Jeff Croft // 10.07.2006 // 5:44 PM

    Steve:

    For me, I believe the answer is four (I can think of four off the top of my head — could be more, but that’s probably right). That’s a bit of a skewed number, though, as I stopped doing much freelance work about 10 months ago.

    I’m not sure I understand the point of the question, though. You seem to be making the point that this doesn’t really happen in the “real world.” Either you’re simply wrong, or I misunderstood what you were getting at.

    Also, I’m not sure I understand why “real” has to be defined as ” including an RFP from the prospect that includes budget considerations.” All of those clients who don’t have the foresight to create an RFP with the budget considerations are still potential clients, right? Just because they don’t know how the process works as well as others certainly doesn’t make them any less “real”, in my opinion. That those people who don’t create an RFP are going to hacks for work is no less damaging to the industry than those who do know how the process works going to hacks, is it?

  91. 091 // Steve B. // 10.07.2006 // 7:20 PM

    Jeff. I (honestly) thought your answer would be 0. So yes, it appears I am wrong.

    My point was not all prospects are created equal. When you’re on a new business pitch and budget is addressed and you hear a number so incredibly low that it won’t even cover your time to write the web proposal - you know who’s getting the business. A design firm that can not compete with your skill set.

    Now, does this hurt the entire web design industry. In my opinion - no.

  92. 092 // Jeff Croft // 10.07.2006 // 7:55 PM

    Now, does this hurt the entire web design industry. In my opinion - no.

    That really depends on exactly what kind of work that firm does. If that firm produces accessible, semantic work that simply isn’t as “high-end” design wise, then it probably doesn’t hurt the web as a whole.

    If, on the other hand, that design firm is one of the hacks we’re talking about that rips off other sites, violates intellectual property laws, and creates sites that are inaccessible and unusable, then it certainly does hurt the industry (not to mention the client).

  93. 093 // Fernando Lins // 10.09.2006 // 1:40 PM

    I think the biggest part of the issue lies on the clients themselves. You see, they have a design problem, and they decide it’s time to hire someone to fix it. But when they do, they hardly ever trust the designers to create the best solution they can - and pay a few thousand bucks for it. They usually go for the nephew’s sister’s friend who will do what they think is a good solution (usually a full flash site with stuff blinking or that really original company-name-inside-an-aqua-bubble logo). If clients had any design notion, they wouldn’t need us, right? So I think it really is all a matter of trust, you have to trust your designers - and look for the best ones - as much as you trust the guy that inpects your house roof yearly.

  94. 094 // Jeff Croft // 10.09.2006 // 2:22 PM

    I think the biggest part of the issue lies on the clients themselves. You see, they have a design problem, and they decide it’s time to hire someone to fix it.

    Yep, I agree. I think it boils down to the fact that clients, in general, don’t really think of us as designers when they hire us. They think of us as people who build their webpage.

    Sadly, when they don’t take advantage of our design experience and understanding, they lose out on a huge portion of what makes us good at what we do. I know I personally believe that my ability to build a webpage is a very small percentage of what I consider my job to be, and of what I consider to be my skill set.

  95. 095 // johan // 10.09.2006 // 8:29 PM

    Oh! Is that all?! Wow, that’s so simple. I’ll just have the UN whip that up right now. Why didn’t I think of that?!

    You really are reading this too literally. Man, you are too cynical. The UN failed miserably in doing politcs. For example in former Yugoslavia they let people get shot because they let it all be. But lobbyists seem to do much better. Microsoft is worldwide, do they dictate the law? In some ways they can, since they have money power.

    I believe locally you need to achieve first your goal. Also you need to make clients aware that they have rights and duties. Just like we do. If you write a book, do a publicity campaign, a website. All have three sides: the client, the artist and the public. We should be able to handle the business side. If I buy a house, I get a loan. I need to sign a contract. These are mutual agreements. The biggest problem is when I buy or rent something online. i can be easily robbed from all my money. The Internet is the Wild West. We need to control it but that is not easy at all;

  96. 096 // Jeff Croft // 10.09.2006 // 8:31 PM

    You really are reading this too literally. Man, you are too cynical.

    Relax, my friend, I was just joking. :)

  97. 097 // Johan // 10.09.2006 // 8:39 PM

    Yeah, but I can get really worked up when freelancers are working in third world condtions. I just dont get it.

    If I a client is the difficult type you wind up with tables and frames and boxes and confined design.

    Luckily you have wonderful clients too. We are the expert and communication is king.

    But content content and again content. If you do a redesign you have content but they dont have pictures. Clients aspect you write the content. That would be Lorem Ipsum

  98. 098 // Disgruntled Employee // 10.10.2006 // 10:01 PM

    @Jeff: As a university employee (a little too nervous to come out and say which one), your example of a person who makes plenty of cash but hasn’t updated the skillset hits close to home. These kinds of people are all over the place at my U.

    Unfortunately, the terrible, inaccessible work that these people are doing on my campus has convinced most departments that they can get similar results by hiring their nephews or making their secretaries build their websites, and I’m sorry to say that they’re right sometimes.

    This situation is also playing a role in my boss’ refusal to reclassify me (from copywriter to web designer), even though I design standards-compliant, usability-tested websites in addition to editing and designing all of our print publications.

    Would my membership in a professional web design organization help me get reclassified? Unfortunately, I don’t think even that would be enough.

  99. 099 // John Wilson // 10.10.2006 // 10:07 PM

    It’s web development, Jeff. Folks with graphics talent who need job security should find a job in advertising or go pre-med if they’re that elitist and brilliant.

    You love design and the industry isn’t adapting to your aspirations. Adapt or move on.

    Do you know what other countries are willing to be paid for web design?? Yeeeshk. A tenth of what I get paid that’s for sure. Don’t tell my clients.

    JW

  100. 100 // Jeff Croft // 10.10.2006 // 10:19 PM

    It’s web development, Jeff. Folks with graphics talent who need job security should find a job in advertising or go pre-med if they’re that elitist and brilliant.

    What’s web development? You might be in web development, but I’m in web design.

    What I gathered from your post is that design doesn’t matter on the web. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant, but suggesting that designers should “move on” to “advertising or go pre-med” certainly insinuates that.

    If you think design doesn’t matter on the web, then you haven’t been paying attention.

  101. 101 // Johan // 10.11.2006 // 3:14 AM
    If you think design doesn’t matter on the web, then you haven’t been paying attention.

    I recently did a interview with Andy Budd, guess what my first question was … 1. Is the profession of webdesigner moving more towards interaction design that is graphic design + information design + human-computer interaction?

    Read the answer.

  102. 102 // John Wilson // 10.11.2006 // 11:32 AM

    If by design you mean forethought and logical structure I would agree. But if you’re arguing that because you have a $20K box of software you can’t use on live projects you may need to rethink your profession.

    Hacks’ can organize, too.

  103. 103 // Jeff Croft // 10.11.2006 // 12:32 PM

    If by design you mean forethought and logical structure…

    Is there another definition of design? Design, to me, is the process of planning, organizing, and doing any one thing. It’s a process that is mostly about communication and problem-solving.

    But if you’re arguing that because you have a $20K box of software you can’t use on live projects…

    Huh? Haven’t I been extraordinarily clear that I don’t think design has anything to do with tools? And, for the record, I have no such $20,000 software package. I have a text editor and Photoshop, and that’s about it.

    Hacks’ can organize, too.

    If by “organize,” you mean “design,” then maybe they aren’t hacks.

  104. 104 // Richard Kriheli // 10.12.2006 // 12:29 PM

    This is a great post. Just like some of the others that have chimed in, count me in on any sort of client-education project. Something needs to be done. And I would love to help in any way.

  105. 105 // Johan // 10.13.2006 // 4:53 AM

    Paul Rand on Design: a cliché but there is some truth in it

    To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.’

  106. 106 // Damian Madray // 10.14.2006 // 8:45 AM

    Very interesting points. I especially agree with the governing body suggestion and it is annoying to see many hacks out there taking our jobs when serious designers spend hours learning the principles of design and the steep curves of programming. I also agree that you believe that web design is part of the creative field and it’s annoys me when people think it’s not and even worse, when people who design thinks it isnt. My opinion is have the discipline and honour to learn your craft. I’m a web designer but as of late I focus mainly on the design aspect of it rather than programming. However, I sincerely agree that to be an accomplished web designer, you need to know more than just design but the backend of it.

    In closing, I’d just like to point out something. As a professional in the industry, isn’t it wise to make links open in a new window? Reason I asked is because I was checking your porfolio and when I click the images, it takes me to another website. To get back to yours, I have to use the browser back buttom. I’m almost no one to tell you this but I believe thats a mistake o your part.

    Great article.

  107. 107 // Jeff Croft // 10.14.2006 // 8:54 AM

    In closing, I’d just like to point out something. As a professional in the industry, isn’t it wise to make links open in a new window?

    Personally, I almost never have my links open in a new window. The browser provides tools for the user to decide how he/he wants a link to open (in a new window, a new tab, etc.), and I prefer to honor the choice of the user rather than forcing a choice on them. I think you’ll find most standards-aware web designers and developers agree with me — but this is certainly a matter of opinion, and I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to open links in a new window — it’s just not the way I usually do it, myself.

    But really, let’s not sidetrack this conversation with that sort of talk. It’s interesting to discuss, just not that relevant to this topic. Thanks a lot for your comments — I’m glad you agree. :)

  108. 108 // Ashok S // 10.15.2006 // 12:43 AM

    Hello,

    I am ashok from India. I have just started blog in wordpress. I like this article a lot. I am webdesigner and have 3 year experience .

    Some time I am facing some resolution problem whilemaking website. It looks cluttery in differet browser. I have started making design in css based. But I am facing many problem in browse compability.

    Can we add some code in css so my design will look good in all browser.

    any way.. your articles is so great

  109. 109 // Paul R. Redmond // 10.15.2006 // 5:48 PM

    Jeff- I have also thought about something similar to what you are proposing. I think it is a step towards establishing a solid foundation of designers and web professionals.

    Most don’t understand the fees we present. I could never expect them too. I just wish that designers and web professionals could have some form of accreditation beyond a degree. That’s not the hard part though, the challenge is educating business owners and decision-makers.

    I have just consulted with a company that is fed up with their website and the company that developed it. They paid thousands of dollars for a website that was nothing but images in the markup—apart from four links and their address. Every other piece of text was an image. They had a lengthy form that took their clients vital private information such as name, address, CC#, SSN, exc. They were using the popular FORMMAIL.PL TO DO THIS…and no SSL connection. All from a “Professional Designer.”

    Now I come along, and their budget for a website is all but exhausted. So is their trust level. I wish I had a selling point such as you discuss, that would have resolved many concerns.

    There are as many opinions about “what the web should be” as there are unmatched socks in my drawer. I don’t expect clients or the general population to understand the difference of using a doctype or not, but I think there is a large gap of education about the web that needs to be overcome.

  110. 110 // Ryan Berg // 10.15.2006 // 10:54 PM

    I just wish that designers and web professionals could have some form of accreditation beyond a degree.

    Maybe a part of the problem is the lack of web design-related degrees from modern programs?

    Graduates with computer engineering degrees are on their own to pick up design sensibility, and graduates with visual communication degrees are mostly on their own to learn HTML and basic programming to become full-fledged web professionals.

    Of the roughly 70 students currently admitted to the Graphics program here at The University of Kansas, I only know of one (besides myself) with any real knowledge of HTML and CSS as they relate to designing for the web. On an even more grim note, many of these students have been shown how to slice a Photoshop document in Imageready to create a nice table with image as text, and import this file into Dreamweaver.

    Clearly, a degree in graphic design does not equate to accreditation as a web designer.

  111. 111 // Jeff Croft // 10.15.2006 // 11:19 PM

    Clearly, a degree in graphic design does not equate to accreditation as a web designer.

    No doubt, and I wrote another post a long time ago about some of the reasons why very few Universities have implemented really great web design programs. I think the main one is that our field is so incredibly multi-diciplinary. In order to get a really good education on what we do, you really need to have at least some experience in graphic design, programming, HTML/CSS, vector-based illustration, writing, human/computer interaction, psychology, marketing, journalism, and probably a few others I’m forgetting right now. Almost all of which exist in different departments of the typical University.

    And, if there’s one thing I learned from my years working at Universities, it’s this: school suck at working cross-department. Every department is fighting for funding, and no department ever seems too happy to be working with another one.

    To compound the problem, most of the real experts in this industry would never get hired to teach at a University. Most schools insist on masters degrees as a requirement for being a full time professor — and they’d really prefer you have a doctorate (they need a certain percentage of their faculty to have these degrees to keep their rep and their accreditations). They’d also like it to be in a related field. Well guess what? Many of us never finished school, and for most of us there wasn’t really a very closely “related field” we could have studied if we’d wanted to. So what happens? Most schools end up hiring some washed-up Perl programmer who wrote some CGI programs once back in the day to teach “web design” — because he was a big enough computer science nerd to get a doctorate in a “related field.”

    Sadly, I don’t foresee schools getting much better at teaching quality web design anytime real soon.

  112. 112 // Ryan Berg // 10.16.2006 // 1:41 AM

    And, if there’s one thing I learned from my years working at Universities, it’s this: school suck at working cross-department. Every department is fighting for funding, and no department ever seems too happy to be working with another one.

    Very true. Which is why I was impressed by the “Design Management” course that was offered here last spring. It was offered from the Industrial Design program, but was filled with students from ID, graphics, and business.

    On the other hand, my attempt to get the Illustration program to work with the J-School and the Kansan never got off the ground because I couldn’t get a meeting with the design department chair.

    Sadly, I don’t foresee schools getting much better at teaching quality web design anytime real soon.

    I’m going to see what I can do about this problem here at KU. So many other students, after seeing my web work, say “I wish I knew how to do that.”

    This week I’ll be pitching to the faculty an independent study for next semester where I’d work with the most web savvy of the bunch to develop a semester-long curriculum for a web design elective.

    I don’t know what the response will be, but it’s worth a shot if they’re open to diversifying their program and fully embracing new media.

  113. 113 // czheng // 10.16.2006 // 1:50 AM

    As a hobbyist-turned-amateur who is (I hope) stumbling in the direction of professionalism, I have to say that the broader idea being discussed here is one that is exciting and has the potential to make a significant impact. But the voices of caution and hesitation here are making good points. When you’re talking about a professional body of some sort, be it a union, association, or whetever, you’ve automatically got to face questions about mechanisms and criteria of inclusion/exclusion, issues of elitism and prejudice, etc. etc.

    How do we handle that? It seems like whatever we push for, we’d want to assess the possibilities using two criteria: + what would clients be likely to trust and commit to, + and what would other designers (both pros and aspiring pros) be likely to respect and take seriously.

    As I sit here thinking about the pitfalls of institutionalization (e.g. forming an association or a union), I keep coming back to the phrase that caught my eye here in the first place: “peer-reviewed.” My most recent job was actually as a manuscript editor for an academic journal, so I’m familiar with how the peer-review process in that context is supposed to work.

    What makes peer-review meaningful in academia is that, supposedly, we can trust content to have met at least a minimal standard for scholarly rigor. What is unspoken is that this trust itself rests on other systems: the university, academic publishing, professional social networks. Peer review in this context works because we trust, among other things, the meaning of a PhD, of a tenured professorship, of a history of publication by respected presses, etc.

    What’s the point? Well, first, as others have pointed out, we don’t really have the luxury of these basic systems of trust. Degrees, certificates, these things don’t quite work here, as others have pointed out. But we can rely on some other things: portfolios (analogous to a scholar’s publication history), and social networks. If we start there, where do we go? How do we get to a point where we’ve got a system that clients trust and designers respect? (cont…)

  114. 114 // czheng // 10.16.2006 // 1:52 AM

    (..cont.) My suggestion, and of course it’s just a brainstorm so take it for what it’s worth, is the creation of an online community that builds on these two basic systems of trust, and tries to become one itself. To join the website, you have to be able to submit at least one website to begin your portfolio (and maybe it could use a verification like Google sitemaps does to prove you have access to the site’s files). Once they join, users (designers) gain professional stature by having their work reviewed by their peers. The more esteem they gain in the community (more works, better reviews), the more influential their own reviews/ratings become. I’m imagining a sort of Digg-meets-iKarma-meets-CSSBeauty or something like that.

    Picturing an ideal implementation of this sort of thing, clients would be motivated to trust in designers whose work is well-respected among their peers, while designers themselves would be motivated to adopt best practices and hone their skills in order to improve their stature within the community (in order to get better gigs).

    You could even mirror the idea of a peer-reviewed academic journal by having the website, once every few months, highlight the very best peer-reviewed sites submitted in that time frame, with in-depth written reviews.

    Of course, there are pitfalls to this sort of thing too. It would take a very well designed and complex architecture with tons of safeguards against abuse. And we’d have to generate a whole lot of buy-in among web designers everywhere to get it off the ground. But I think something like this could really leverage the few resources we have for professional quality assurance and create a system that clients and designers alike can rely on - one that isn’t static and doesn’t rest on certifications or membership dues or admissions but that is dynamic and (ideally) focuses solely on the work and its quality. Of course, what is meant by “quality” is open to interpretation and discussion, but that, in the end, is what peer review is all about.

  115. 115 // Jason // 10.16.2006 // 6:32 PM

    I think we’re just dealing with an industry still in its infancy. I’m sure if you go back far enough in time you could come across a proto-“architect” who was upset because his “professional” wooden huts were so much better than the average dwelling, but nobody noticed because they were perfectly happy living in trees.

    The public doesn’t treat architects, doctors, or any other professional the way they currently treat web designers because the public just isn’t educated about web design yet. But they will be.

    So-called “doctors” sold a hell of a lot of cure-all tonic before the public became educated enough to evaluate them. That’s the situation we’re in.

  116. 116 // Mic // 10.17.2006 // 7:51 PM

    This whole issue is in all almost every other trade/industry and can’t be fixed by certification. A piece of paper or membership doesnt mean squat in reality and we all know it!!!

    I think we have to move away from the actrual word ‘professional’ bcoz even doctors call what they do as a PRACTICE. No matter what job you have - you get better and better over time and your past work proves what you can do. We’re all learning but some others are just more advanced than others.

    At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing and that is - EXPERIENCE.

    Clients are almost always uneducated and clueless about the web and at the end of the day will go with someone who can talk their language and can deliver what they want. So instead of trying to see who’s ‘pro’ and who’s not - we should focus on the bigger issues of how we can provide real value to our clients.

    My main challenge as a designer/developer is really this - how do I reduce my client’s costs and increase their revenues using the web. If you focus on this then you’ll be very successful.

  117. 117 // Ryan Chapman // 10.20.2006 // 1:51 AM

    Who knows, maybe I’m still at the hack level but I don’t know that this problem is as unique as it seems. My father is a general contractor and so growing up around construction I’ve become very critical of craftsmanship. Even with licensing and all the regulations that are out there in the building industry, you still see poor quality as the standard. Really the only way around it is to learn to sell. To articulate the real value that comes from hiring a true designer to do the job. If you find yourself fustrated with this senario playing out over and over then most likely you could simply learn a better way to enlighten the prospect as to what to look for in a designer and how they can judge for themselves what makes for a good investment in a website. I use an audio presentation that I broadcast online to explain the key characteristics of a successful website and in that audio I help my prospect see that there is really only one option if they don’t want to toss their money in the garbage. This is awesome for me because it quickly eliminates the cheap skates that would drive me nuts any way. I want the client to have enough confidence in my ability to create a website for them that they will give me free reign to create what they are really looking for. Again, I never went to a ‘design school’, unless you count the thousands of generous articles made available, by authors like you, that teach the would be professional what it means to be a true designer and the years of trying new techniques, a school of design. All that being said it still blows me away how much some of what I’d call true hacks who could careless about improving their skills are able to charge for pure junk that might have been OK ten years ago.

  118. 118 // Clinton // 10.23.2006 // 7:29 PM

    I just discovered your site today, Jeff. What an awesome topic and one that is long overdue.

    In my 5 odd years of being a pro web designer, I have experienced many days of hopelessness, of feeling like a fraud. I too have asked myself: What are the tangible skills that I have to offer. What is it that I actually do? Code some markup, layout some nice graphics, wrestle some CSS and hack up other people’s Javascript and PHP.

    A hundred websites later, and I still don’t know. What I do know is that reading through this post and through Jeff’s other posts has really reinvigourated my interest and passion for my career.

    The basics of graphic design, HTML and CSS are all easily learned and can be grasped by most humanoids of average intelligence. Lately, the realization that my core skills lie in those 3 years has distressed and puzzled me at the same time. What I do is not that special.. or is it? And i’m getting paid to do something anyone can do, right?

    As you may suspect, that kind of thinking has caused much career crisis for me and I am still pondering what I would be qualified to do other than web design. But I have a job as a web designer and my work is highly valued by not only my clients but by the people I work with. Is my HTML always adhere to specs? Rarely. Is my CSS always elegant and airtight? Ha! I still think CSS is in dire need of a w3c overhaul because it is such a barbaric layout tool… lightyears ahead of table-based layouts.

    Furthermore, I still use table-based/CSS hybrid techniques to build sites. Sometimes the project just doesn’t allow time for me to wage war with CSS and wonky browser discrepancies. Does that make me a bad designer? Maybe. At the end of the day, I still get paid, my boss or client still gets an attractive, profitable and functional website and the Bottom Line is met. Sometimes the difference between bloated tables and DIV Soup is no difference at all.

    We get into this gray area of setting standards and getting carried away with an elitist mindset. I’m as much as a web designer as a Jeff is, just as a rookie is as much a designer as I am. We’re all trained, educated and paid to do the same thing. Only… and ONLY when there is a governing body that certifies all professional web designers can we begin to make distinctions on who is legit and who is not.

  119. 119 // Clinton // 10.23.2006 // 7:34 PM

    This is what happens when i comment while in the midst of a bad cold. Correction in the third-to-last paragraph. It should read:

    I still think CSS is in dire need of a w3c overhaul because it is such a barbaric layout tool… lightyears ahead of table-based design but still a generally horrendous tool for doing the simplest of design tasks.

  120. 120 // Ricardo Carrasco // 10.25.2006 // 4:28 PM

    So this guy’s site is listed on w3c, cause he’s a standards example, now he has chitika junk all over his site(stu nicholls), then you have some rank amateur like Dustin Diaz badmouthing other designers and misquoting them all over the net, and he works for yahoo. No, peer review won’t work. And just think, it’s even worse in IT, It’s incredible how dumb they are.

  121. 121 // Jeff Croft // 10.25.2006 // 4:37 PM

    Ricardo: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who is listed on the W3C site? What is “chitika junk?” I’m not familiar with that phrase. I don’t know what Dustin Diaz is saying around the next, but I do know that he’s nowhere near a “rank amateur.” He’s a well-respected JavaScript guru who works on YUI, probably the most well-respect Javascript library out there (keep in mind that Dustin isn’t as much a designer as he is a programmer and developer).

    So where were you going with this little rant? Because it only served to confuse the hell out of me.

  122. 122 // Baz L // 10.25.2006 // 7:15 PM

    As one of these “hacks” I need to speak up. I especially like the example of the hair cut. It may be a matter of how I grew up, but no one I knows pays over $100 for a hair cut, that’s for rich folks. The other thing to understand is that $7 hair cut range in quality all over.

    With that being said, there are designers suited for companies the likes of IBM, Microsoft (ugh), etc. I don’t feel it’s fair to classify everybody else as a hack. There are some quite large companies that have websites designed. Now just by the size of the company, I can assure you that they did not pay some “hack” to do those websites, but one look at the code makes you think otherwise. There are ugly tables, sites broken when viewed in other browsers, etc.

    I’m not saying that people should go around untrained, but you need to understand that shitty work can also cost a lot.

    On another note a lot of the blame goes on the clients. They often want cheap work. That’s why they come to me. When I quote a price their response is “you’re a college student”. Fine, then go to a big designer. I do my design in a team. Everybody has a specific tasks, whether design, CSS, web standards, etc. Clients want cheap work, simple as that. They don’t want to hear about CSS, SEO, table less designs. They don’t care what it looks like in Safari, Firefox. It looks fine to them in IE so they’re happy.

    Bottom line, clients don’t want to pay for the costs of good Web design. I say let them get what they pay for.

  123. 123 // Jeff Croft // 10.25.2006 // 7:59 PM

    With that being said, there are designers suited for companies the likes of IBM, Microsoft (ugh), etc. I don’t feel it’s fair to classify everybody else as a hack.

    When did I classify everyone else as a hack? I don’t work for a big company like that. I work at a small, family-owned media company in the midwest. Being a professional has nothing to do with who you work for — it has to do with whether or not you have the passion and drive to keep on top of this industry, which moves very quickly.

    I can assure you that they did not pay some “hack” to do those websites, but one look at the code makes you think otherwise.

    I don’t think otherwise at all. I think both Microsoft and IBM have quite well-designed sites. As for the code — I’ve never looked at it. And why would I? The sites work fine for me. I don’t see any reason to go picking apart their code if nothing seems broken, do you?

    I’m not saying that people should go around untrained, but you need to understand that shitty work can also cost a lot.

    What shitty work are we talking about? If you are referring to MS and IBM’s site, then your idea of “shitty work” and mine are not even in the same ballpark. I’m talking about the work of Frontpage jockeys, not the work of professional web developers working at major technology companies.

    On another note a lot of the blame goes on the clients. They often want cheap work.

    Cheap, or shitty? Because it’s two different things. You make yourself out to be a hack, but it seems to me that you do pretty good work. If don’t think you quite get my definition of “hack.” What makes you think you are one?

    And, it’s not fair to blame the clients. No client wants shitty work. They might want a fair price, but they don’t come to you for shitty work. And I assure you that if you tell your next potential client that you do shitty work, you won’t get the job.

    When I quote a price their response is “you’re a college student”.

    Ohhh, that”s why you think you’re a hack. Well, that’s absurd. This has nothing to do with experience or price. It has to do with passion. Seems to me that you’ve got the passion or you wouldn’t be commenting here.

  124. 124 // Jeff Croft // 10.25.2006 // 7:59 PM

    They don’t want to hear about CSS, SEO, table less designs. They don’t care what it looks like in Safari, Firefox. It looks fine to them in IE so they’re happy.

    And it’s your job, as their designer, to train them on why this stuff they “don’t want to hear about” is important. It’s your job to make them understand. Your job, as a designer, is to solve their problems — even the ones they don’t know they have.

    Bottom line, clients don’t want to pay for the costs of good Web design. I say let them get what they pay for.

    Whoops. Maybe you don’t have the passion. If it’s okay with you that clients get shitty work and that the entire web medium and web design industry suffers for it, then maybe I had you pegged wrong. Maybe you are a hack after all.

    This is all for the good of the web and the good of our industry. It matters.

  125. 125 // Baz L // 10.25.2006 // 10:21 PM

    I just used Microsoft and IBM as abstract examples. There are some big name companies with shitty websites that I guarantee you they didn’t get from college students. They paid top dollar and got shitty work. So I’m saying your commenter’s point you get what you pay for, isn’t always right.

    If you don’t look at code, I don’t think that you have the passion you speak about. That’s what a designer does. See’s a website and see how it works. You said that these sites “work for you”. A lot of shitty sites work for a lot of people. That’s why they still exist.

    As I said, I’m am not yet that financially secure where I can turn down jobs from people if they don’t want to pay up what I I consider standards. I take it for what it is, a job. I do what they user wants and works within their budget. I often try to explain to the clients the benefits of CSS, SEO, etc, but they don’t want to hear it. They simply don’t want to hear it. Some do, but the majority don’t.

    Again I say, let them get what they are willing to pay for. I don’t advocate over charging for shitty work. I also don’t advocate undercharging for good quality. There are fair prices and there are ridiculous prices.

    I even forgot to touch on an interesting point: creation of dynamic websites that they can update themselves.

    Maybe you get a different crowd since you seemed to have already established yourself as a company, but as a college student a lot of companies come to me with the idea that I should be volunteering my services for my “resume” or charging $200 for $800 worth of work. I’ve been doing this for a while now, I’m way past that and this is what a lot of companies don’t seem to understand.

    I used to work for a design company who charged thousands for doing custom PHP websites. I have, many times, done the bulk of entire projects on my own. When you get into the market on your own it’s a whole other matter.

    Maybe I’ll see things change when I get into the industry later.

  126. 126 // Jeff Croft // 10.25.2006 // 10:39 PM

    If you don’t look at code, I don’t think that you have the passion you speak about.

    You misunderstood what I was getting at. I don’t stumble across a website and look at the code for no good reason. That wouldn’t make me a passionate web designer — it would make me a nerd. I look at code if I want to figure out what’s going on — how they did something, or why something isn’t working right. Once the code issues on those sites impact me personally, I’ll take a look at the code. Until then, it’s not my business.

    …I’m am not yet that financially secure where I can turn down jobs from people…

    I’m not that financially secure, either. But I consider it part of my job to try to educate these clients on what makes for quality web design. It’s not my job to just do what they ask me to. Instead, my job is to help them solve problems. If I just did everything a client asked me to, without asking questions, without ever challenging them, and without ever offering my opinions and advice, iI wouldn’t be a designer at all — I’d be a web lackey.

    I often try to explain to the clients the benefits of CSS, SEO, etc, but they don’t want to hear it.

    Maybe your approach is wrong. I never mention technologies or buzzwords to my clients unless they ask about them. Maybe you should talk to them about things they understand, like ease of use, ease of access, and their bottom line (i.e. $$$). Clients usually respond better to discussion about money than discussions about CSS.

    Again I say, let them get what they are willing to pay for.

    I can’t let myself do this, as it shows a complete lack of caring and understanding for the client. You’re basically saying, “they’re cheapskates and idiots, and they deserve what they get because of it.” I don’t agree with that philosophy. Sorry. They’re not stupid — they’re just uneducated because they’ve never had a reason to get educated. Give them one.

    …you seemed to have already established yourself as a company…

    I’m not a company. I’m not even a freelancer. I work for a news organization — one that has created, in my opinion, the best news publishing system in the world. So yeah, I know a thing or two about dynamic websites. :)

    …I should be volunteering my services for my “resume” or charging $200 for $800 worth of work.

    I remember those days. It sucks. And I also remember being in your shoes — even though $200 sucks, you still need the $200, so you do it. I understand. What you don’t seem to understand is that this isn’t about how much you charge. This is about how good a job you do once you’re hired. From what I can tell, you probably do a pretty good job. Therefore, I don’t think you’re a “hack.”

    You seem pretty caught up on the expensive versus inexpensive thing — and that’s not at all what I’m talking about. I’m talking about quality versus shit. I don’t care how much either one costs.

  127. 127 // Baz L // 10.25.2006 // 10:50 PM

    LOL. We’ve both been doing this for a while. Let’s agree to disagree.

    Again understand my position: maybe it’s my geographic position, maybe it’s my approach, maybe it’s the fact that I am indeed a college student, but a lot of clients don’t want to pay for much, regardless of how good the work is.

    Also, gone are the days when I would work like a horse and deliver a $800 job for $200. I do have classes to attend, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deliver shitty work by any stretch of the imagination. What I am saying is that, for me, there is a difference between a $200 job and a $800 job.

    I do like your passion though. At least some people still feel the need to deliver quality work.

    Again, no disrespect was intended.

  128. 128 // ReTodd // 10.26.2006 // 10:49 AM

    Great post! I get the same “I know someone who will do it cheaper” line all the time. Even one of my clients (a CEO of the Company) thinks he will get the same results using Frontpage! I posted something similar on my blog Designreverb.com in March. Keep up the great work.

  129. 129 // Steph // 10.26.2006 // 11:44 AM

    I think I came into web design similarly but maybe backwards? I started with programming and slid into web design. I have creative talent, but my degree is technical and not design, per se. I hand code…everything. I care about formatting and standards to the extent where its still reasonable. My favorite thing in the world is CSS.

    Some customers will care and some will not. Explaining is hard. You have to talk about maintainability issues, like updates and restructuring…all problems that long-timers have run into. You have to put the pros and cons of the different approaches down.

    Now, have I ever tried to do that to someone that isn’t technical? hmm. not too lately. And I think that the artistic pride in myself would have a really hard time putting claim to having provided a crappy site. But some people can be “sold” and some cannot. Some people care about the quality of work and some do not. Isn’t that like buyer-beware info? Maybe we as web designers should take the efforts to publish this information. Does somebody already? Sounds like an article topic that someone wouldve written somewhere.

    Anyways. I really like this topic. Thanks for the thoughts!

  130. 130 // Bob // 10.27.2006 // 1:05 PM

    I agree with you on most everything.

    But, honestly, I don’t think a major corporation’s site - let’s take a movie website for example - cares about a Flash not being able to be read by a blind person. I think they are a bit more concerned about creating a memorable, entertaining website that will intrigue the vast majority of it’s viewers than a boring html site that can be read by an extra 1% of their target market.

    When done right, Flash is the best marketing tool on the web. Period.

  131. 131 // Jeff Croft // 10.27.2006 // 1:22 PM

    When done right, Flash is the best marketing tool on the web. Period.

    I agree with the spirit of your comment, but I think you’re misunderstanding the technology is you really believe that HTML sites are boring and Flash sites are ” the best marketing tool on the web.” Both technologies can be used to do amazing work and shitty work. They’re both just tools, and both can be used very well, and very poorly.

  132. 132 // Edison // 10.27.2006 // 2:48 PM

    Can one of you “professionals” please put out a self-help brochure titled “So you’ve discovered that you’re a hack designer.”

    Maybe a little cosmo-style quiz too, to check if you’re a hack or a pro.

  133. 133 // Baxter // 10.27.2006 // 2:51 PM

    When done wrong, Flash is the worst marketing tool on the web - a masturbatory, self-indulgent waste of the visitor’s time and attention. Period.

  134. 134 // Bob // 10.31.2006 // 10:34 PM

    I agree with you guys. If done wrong, flash is horrible. I think I wrote my post wrong :P.

    Flash and HTML are both excellent marketing tools, I believe it depends on the target market.

    I strongly feel, however, that if designed at the same level of skill, HTML will not be able to excite the viewer like Flash can. A large company (I forget the name) did manage to accomplish a seemingly entirely Flash based site in HTML, but it turned out horribly compared to how it would have in Flash.

    Nothing matches Flash (in certain markets at least) in terms of marketing power. A user will (again if developed at the same skill level) almost always be more interested in the Flash site.

    As we all know, Flash does have it’s problems: poor SEO, tricky for the average user (and even the large design firms) to integrate deeplinking and browser button functionality, etc.

    And of course, even if it is an amazing site with some crazy flash, nobody on dial up will be able to see it, what is that, almost 30% of average users?

    Even with frames (shudders), HTML will never be able to offer the type of seamless interactive experience that Flash can.

    And the same goes for HTML - When done wrong, HTML is an absolutley horrible waste of time - and screams “I have no idea what I am doing but I will make a site anyway.” My favorite are the ones with horrible animated .gifs :P

  135. 135 // Jeff Croft // 10.31.2006 // 10:58 PM

    Bob, I understand what you’re trying to say, and I probably agree with you, but this is the reason your point isn’t being articulated very well:

    A user will (again if developed at the same skill level) almost always be more interested in the Flash site.

    Why? Because it’s Flash? I don’t think so. The user probably doesn’t even know that it’s Flash, and they certainly don’t care. Why will the Flash site be more engaging? What will it do that the HTML site won’t?

    If you want to convince someone that Flash can do it better than HTML/Javascript, then you need to provide concrete examples of what Flash does that HTML/Javascript can’t.

    Even with frames (shudders), HTML will never be able to offer the type of seamless interactive experience that Flash can.

    Really? Why not? What does Flash do that HTML (even with frames), doesn’t? It’s not that I don’t believe you — you might be right — but you’re being very, very vague.

    In order to convince someone, you probably need to say things like, “Flash’s xxx subsystem supports xxx, and there’s simply no way to do that with HTML. Users love xxx, so they’ll likely be more engaged by the Flash app, since it has xxx and the HTML version doesn’t.”

  136. 136 // Bob // 11.01.2006 // 10:17 AM

    Jeff, just want to say first off I am not smack talking HTML, as that is how I choose to develop most sites.

    Not sure how to make a quote on here :P. No, not because it’s Flash, but because it allows for movement and interactivity that HTML does not. Here are a few links:

    http://www.travelersinsynch.com/… http://boardroom.deepblue.com/db…

    http://www.chevrolet.com/silvera… http://boardroom.deepblue.com/db…

    While both are designed amazingly, I (and most other users) am much more enticed by the Flash sites (even if the loading times are much greater). I don’t care if it looks like it’ Flash or not, it is simply more exiting. I would love to see an HTML/Javascript site that can accomplish the kind of interactivity and seamlessness as the flash sites above. It can’t, and even if it could, it would be a horrible decision for the client.

    Here is an example that makes HTML look even better than usual:

    http://www.rr.com/rdrun/ http://www.rr.com/flash/

    The Flash site is more seamleass and has no page reloads, etc. HTML cannot be that seamless, it will always have page reloads, sporatic loading on each page, …

    I will be glad to provide you with a ten page list of what Flash can do that HTML cannot.

    As I said before though, in most cases Flash is a poor choice for clients due to usability issues, etc.

  137. 137 // will // 11.01.2006 // 4:36 PM

    No one thinks if they have a hammer they’ve got the skills to be a professional carpenter. No one decides they don’t need a doctor if they’ve got a stethoscope of their own. For some reason that I can’t seem to figure out, people believe that if they have the same tools as us ‘? a computer and some software ‘? they can do our jobs.”

    That’s because carpentry and medicine actually matter. Web development does not. At all. If your site goes down or has a ‘poor conversion rate’ it doesn’t really matter in any meaningful way. If you bathroom floor gives in or you feel a grave pain in your chest, we’re in the realm of meaningful.

    Interesting article.

    Will

  138. 138 // Leslie Hastings // 11.02.2006 // 6:48 AM

    Just - thanks.

    I’m one of those people who just hung out a shingle when I decided to “become” a web designer. I’d been writing sites for a couple of years at that point - I had LOADS of experience - how hard could it be?

    It was hard. Because I hadn’t kept up with the HTML standard, and I had no idea what CCS meant, let alone how to use it.

    I do now, and I learn more every day. I am not yet the best designer I can be. Hopefully, I never wil be. But hopefully I will always be better today than I was yesterday.

    And hopefully, I’ll learn a little something about some new (to me) technology along the way, every day…

    This was a great reminder, Jeff; thanks.

  139. 139 // Nate K // 11.12.2006 // 5:27 PM

    Well, I just re-hashed this topic to catch up on what others are saying. I must say, I am somewhat disappointed that so many people will settle with ‘hack’. It seems so many are afraid to educate the clients (maybe for fear that they, themselves, do not know). If you DON’T educate the clients, then I see that as dishonest (in ANY profession).

    I found the comments about ‘doctors’ and ‘plumbers’ being more important somewhat like a slap to the face. You are comparing something tangible, with something digital. To some people, if their site is down for just a few hours it is lost revenue. It CAN be a big thing to some businesses.

    Ill be honest, I am still struggling with this question. I have been asked to help a local developer with some of his sites, but he really doesn’t have the first clue, doesn’t want to listen, and is far from a quality designer. So, do I try and help him as best I can, dealing with his ‘designs’? Or do I simply pass on the opportunity, and let him create yet another disaster on the web? It is tough for me. Especially when he won’t even listen. It is even tougher when I sit through a meeting with a potential client and listen to him spout off things that simply aren’t true. I want to help, but I don’t see much care from the developer (and the client likes the developer as a person, even if the job is crappy).

    So, this question continues to come up daily, and I still haven’t found a perfect answer or a great analogy.

  140. 140 // Stevie D // 11.13.2006 // 7:10 AM

    A different analogy - rather than jeans or a haircut - would be an electrician or a plumber. I don’t know much about either of those, apart from that you don’t want to get the two mixed up. If I have my house re-wired, I want to be sure that the guy who comes to do the job knows what he is doing, and not some oik who has skim-read through “Electricity for Dummies”.

    Clients mostly don’t know about web design, we can all attest to that. But as an industry, don’t we owe it to them to help? If they know that Stevie’s Superior Sites is going to charge them £500 for a site but Will’s Wonky Webs can do it for £100, they might think I’m ripping them off. They don’t know better, and we can’t (and shouldn’t) expect them to. I can explain why my work is more expensive, but Will is a smooth talker who can convince the laymen otherwise.

    But if I can show accreditation to an official body, that’s a different matter. They might still choose to go for Will’s Wonky Webs if they are on a tight budget, but they have a better possession of the facts on which to base that decision.

    Yes, it’s about enlightened self-interest, to some extent - keeping undeserving competition out. But it’s also because I care about the web - I want to see more top-quality accessible, usable and aesthetically attractive websites, and the only way to do that is to make sure that the cowboys and con-men can’t take advantage of clients and customers who don’t know any better.

  141. 141 // Stevie D // 11.13.2006 // 7:24 AM

    A user will (again if developed at the same skill level) almost always be more interested in the Flash site.

    I won’t. I have no disability, but I usually browse the web on a 7 year old computer running Opera (latest version). As a highly experienced web user, I know most of the tricks and tips for getting the most out of a website - but few of these work with Flash. So not only will it run really slowly and clunkily, but will give me a considerably poorer experience.

    And that’s not even mentioning that if I’m browsing the web at work on my lunchbreak (line now!) we don’t have Flash installed on our computers…

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is no place for Flash - but there has to be a text-based alternative to it.

  142. 142 // Julian Bennett Holmes // 11.17.2006 // 8:37 AM

    I both agree and disagree with what you are saying.

    I do think that there needs to be more of a distinction between professional designers and hobbyists. And simply writing good clean standards-compliant and accessible code doesn’t make one a professional designer. Take me for example. I write fine code, it’s the designs themselves that need work.

    I think it takes some amount of real design training, not web design training, to become a pro.

  143. 143 // Greg Paulhus // 11.17.2006 // 3:36 PM

    I see a lot of problems with this article. Creating a website requires planning, information architecture, design, content development, coding, and often programming. I see lots of CSS ‘gurus’ with sites that aren’t that well-organized. So do they get to be certified? What if a site has a great architecture and design but was implemented using tables? How about a CSS site with good design, but the back end content system is wacky and causing the site to crash and run really, really slow (that’s the case right now as I’m attempting to read through jeffcroft.com, it literally takes one minute for every page to load). Would you meet the standard as a self-taught programmer, or would you have to hire programmers with a Masters in CompSci?

    I measure the quality of my work by the result for the client. Things like increasing sales by 40 percent, or tripling traffic to a site, and so on.

    I don’t think it’s wise to try for some kind of certification, it just gets too messy, there’s too many variables.

  144. 144 // Jeff Croft // 11.18.2006 // 12:52 AM

    And simply writing good clean standards-compliant and accessible code doesn’t make one a professional designer. Take me for example. I write fine code, it’s the designs themselves that need work.

    I highly recommend you read this post again. I clearly suggested that one needs to learn about design in order to be considered a professional designer. I never suggested, nor do I believe, that “writing good clean standards-compliant and accessible code” makes one a professional designer.

    Consider the following line from the original article:

    They don’t seem to understand that a huge portion of what we do is design ‘? layout, typography, color, communication, problem solving ‘? these are the areas where we really earn our stripes.

  145. 145 // BilleeD. // 11.18.2006 // 9:09 PM

    Bravo! I recently published an article that runs in the same vein as this one (in which I also included an update and I now cite this article as a reference). I could not have summed things up any better than you have here.

    To be honest though, and certainly in defense of some of my own designs, time is money. Most of the projects that I have worked on outside of the Government (and some within) were not well funded. Rushed and haggard from the email barrage of a never-ending moving target, a great deal of the “design” portions of my work suffer from both poor funding and way too much client/project manager input. Ultimately the clients are the ones paying us and if they want small-caps on tiny headings then that is what I give them. It’s the “give them enough rope to hang themselves” approach to design. Let them suffer the public faux pas ;-)

    There are so many client projects I have worked on that I wish could be revisited and/or revised. That is the key; we need to be willing to stand-up to the client a bit more about our decisions and be willing to accept no as an answer at times.

    Thanks for sharing this article with us since there are numerous folks out here who share your thoughts.

  146. 146 // Peter Kytlica // 11.21.2006 // 10:38 AM

    Since sometimes clients are gravedigger of great ideas, we have to advise them and stand up for our ideas (that come from our experience, skills).

    What you said about education clients is for damn certain. That’s why I still like to be freelancer, I am very close to the clients this way.

  147. 147 // some guy // 11.27.2006 // 2:13 AM

    what’s the point of this post? the free market economy can take care of itself. there has to be an even distribution of labor, because not every client is willing and able to pay a lot for a site. furthermore, crappy real estate companies deserve crappy real estate websites. high-end photographers deserve high-end websites. there are people out there who will cater to both needs.

    i further reject the call for a body like the AIGA to be formed as a “guild” for web designers. no more rules, no more professional certifications. things like that stifle innovation and strangle creativity. ask an architect what he thinks of the AIA, and chances are, he will lament the fact that the general public won’t respect him without those initials after his name, regardless of the quality of his work. the AIWD (American Institute of Web Designers) would be obsolete the moment its site goes live.

    in short, stop trying to quantify the unquantifiable. if “hacks” are stealing your work, you either didn’t really need the work to begin with, or you need to step up your game. instead of trying to bend reality to fit your wants, try to be flexible and aware of the situation at hand. try to keep in mind that a site like eBay is making millions without the help of a trendy web designer. and try to remember that not everybody likes Cholla Sans or your pink and gray color scheme. we provide a service to clients - everything else is just background noise.

    (major typo throughout the article: “mid-ninties” should be “mid-nineties”)

  148. 148 // Jeff Croft // 11.27.2006 // 2:35 AM

    Some Guy:

    Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment. It’s unfortunate you had to resort to anonymous type geek machoism (which would have been more impressive if you’d identified the font correctly — it’s Cholla Unicase, not Cholla Sans) and pointing out petty typos — because your post was actually really insightful and valuable up until that point.

  149. 149 // Stevie D // 11.28.2006 // 8:19 AM

    furthermore, crappy real estate companies deserve crappy real estate websites. high-end photographers deserve high-end websites. there are people out there who will cater to both needs.

    Yes and no.

    A “crappy real estate” company may only want/need/afford a very basic website, but basic doesn’t have to equal crappy. Basic means that it has few functions. Crappy means that it doesn’t work very well (eg accessibility and usability problems).

    Most clients who end up with bad websites probably don’t realise that they have got bad websites - at least, not until some time afterwards. They don’t understand the difference between “good but basic” and “flashy but crappy”, so they aren’t able to make an informed choice without an inordinate amount of research. But because they don’t know what they don’t know, they won’t know they need to do that research.

    People are being conned.

    Up and down the country, all across the world, website clients are being ripped off by cowboy designers who are taking advantage of them. In any other field, there would be regulations and accreditations to prevent this, but nothing is done for web design.

  150. 150 // James McNally // 12.27.2006 // 11:13 AM

    I have no opinion on whether there should be a union or not, but I just wanted to say thanks for a kick in the pants. I’m one of those hacks who learned HTML in the 90s, and I’m making a New Year’s Resolution to learn more about my craft. Wish me luck!

  151. 151 // Jeff Croft // 12.27.2006 // 11:24 AM

    Good luck, James. :)

  152. 152 // Dave // 01.03.2007 // 9:19 AM

    Amen to all the above. For the past 3 years I’ve worked with two so-called ‘web designers’ - one of whom did a 6 month course in ColdFusion and the other with a degree in software engineering.

    Neither had a clue about semantic markup, layout, colour choice or any of the primary concerns of a true web professional.

    I’ve made hiring professionals a central point in my New Year’s Resolutions list for website owners. I’ve also resolved to stop explicitly offering services I’m not really qualified to do, or learn more about first - instead, I’m outsourcing Flash work (for example) to experts so I can concentrate on my core skills.

    It really is time for us all to become web professionals rather than web monkeys.

  153. 153 // Monique // 01.08.2007 // 3:40 PM

    I realize that I am coming into this discussion very late, but I would like to add my 2 cents briefly. I probably qualify as one of Jeff’s “hacks”. I work hard to use proper mark-up and design principles. I try to stay educated, which is why I read this. But, it is difficult to get excited about spending the time to learn all the CSS hacks to make everything work correctly in all the browsers when you take classes and have real professionals tell you why you shouldn’t bother! I am serious. I took a class in Dreamweaver (because I just switched in 2006 from Notepad to Dreamweaver) and was told by the instructor who is a professional designer that it was pointless to go for the tableless layout. Why? Because it takes too much time and money, simple as that. His clients are all Fortune 500 companies. They don’t care about the mark-up as long as the site looks the way they want. Talk about a let down when I had been wrestling so hard to create my first ever tableless layout! I think the real issue is that companies do not realize that this is all about communication. We talk about web design and how it’s all about communication. It isn’t for the majority of the companies out there (including my own who actually still believes it is just a necessary evil) - it’s simply about a presence and that requires only the basic level of skill.

  154. 154 // Jeff Croft // 01.08.2007 // 3:57 PM

    Hey Monique:

    First off, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re a “hack” like what I was talking about. You’re here, you’re reading, you’re trying to learn — that’s the main thing that differentiates a hack from a “professional,” in my mind.

    Your experience with that instructor does sound depressing. But I’m pretty hesitant to believe it’s true. If you look at most of the top sites on the Internet, they tend to lean pretty hard towards standards (even if they don’t 100% validate, it’s obvious that’s their goal).

    Any company who says their web site is “just about a presence,” is really missing the boat. I have no doubt those companies are out there — but I really don’t think there are many of them being successful on the web with that mentality.

  155. 155 // Joanna // 01.13.2007 // 9:54 AM

    Again, I’m coming to this rather late, but I had an idea.

    It sounds to me like you could do a lot of good by creating the equivalent of ‘browsehappy’ for web design. browsehappy pointed out the evils of Internet Explorer and encouraged people to use an alternative, and thus hugely increased the popularity of firefox (which was a good thing).

    Similarly, create a site which lays out the reasons why validation is important, why good html and css are worth paying more for, and exactly why hiring a designer who promises these things will increase profits. Information on bad web design and how it can harm you business, and finally how to check whether a page is valid (even as simple as a link to a validator), and hints such as always validate the designer’s own page to see what you’re getting. Getting such a site wider exposure and pointing your clients towards it would surely make a positive difference.

    There could even be, and I’m wary of saying this, a list of designers who do adhere to these standards, but along with that a statement emphasising that these are by no means the only people who do things right. I’m not sure if this would encourage elitism, however.

    It strikes me that what is needed most is education, not accreditation. If you tell people what they should be looking for, they can pick the designer they want from a more informed position.

  156. 156 // AC // 01.17.2007 // 11:26 AM

    Yes i have to agree with what (Aldrich Ct. Townhome) said. It pisses me off too. I dont think people know the meaning of the word professionals. We are could professionals because we are trianed to use the dreamweaver tools and design a site properly and professionally.

    The only way us professionals can beat the amateurs in this matter, is pretty simple. Okay they are charging a cheaper price, so therefore businesses are after a cheaper deal. But at the end of the day, we as professionals obviously show we know what we are doing in our feild, why well because if you are making a comparison with a amatuer to a professional site, you know whitch one know’s what they are doing. So i dont think businesses make comparison with price’s, they make a comparison with designs and us as professionals stand out of these amateurs, when it come’s to showing off our work. Thats the good thing.

    But the bad thing is when i tell people “i am a professional web designer”, they think i can do anything on a computer, so they just think we are geeks. But in my opinion that’s a good thing, I would rather be called a geek, than an idiot because i take it as a compliment.

    Yes people buy the Dreamweaver software and automatically call themselves web desginers and it’s pretty obvious who know’s what they are doing when it come’s to a professional.

    People are just ignorant when it come’s to web designing but the time will change my friend, when people start to give a professional web designer the credit they deserve.

    When it come’s to working for an web designing firm and become employed to that firm. Who do they choose a qualified professional or an idiot. Well i dont need to tell you the answer to that.

  157. 157 // Steve // 02.13.2007 // 3:18 PM

    In regards to the above comment

    We are could professionals because we are trianed to use the dreamweaver tools and design a site properly and professionally.”

    Real professionals don’t need Dreamweaver! ;)

    That’s all I have to offer on this rant.

  158. 158 // Jeff Croft // 02.13.2007 // 3:39 PM

    Real professionals don’t need Dreamweaver!

    If you mean this sincerely (I realize it might just be a joke), then you missed the point of the article. Real professionals are professionals because of their skills, passion, and dedication — not because of their tools.

    I know some great web designers who use Dreamweaver every day. I know some great web designers who don’t, too. I know some horrible web designers who use Dreamweaver. And I know some who don’t, too.

    Tools don’t matter. Results do.

  159. 159 // Daniel Chege // 11.13.2007 // 4:23 PM

    Hi Jeff,

    I see you went to Washburn University as well. Your web design piece is very interesting because I found out that I was following your footsteps in many ways.

    I taught myself how to design websites and I have helped many people and small businesses create and promote their businesses online effectively. Your story is motivating and high appreciated.

    Best Regards, Daniel Chege Poppa Productions Web Designs

    Poppaproductions@gmail.com

  160. 160 // http://search.netscape.com/search/search?query=site%3Axboxoffer.com // 11.06.2008 // 9:12 AM

    http://www.mahalo.com/Special:Se… “>xbox portable http://www.answers.com/xboxoffer… “>xbox games http://www.snap.com/classicsearc… “>xbox 360 halo 3

  161. 161 // best odds to play in craps // 06.10.2009 // 12:29 AM

    That may be the literal definition, but that’s not the meaning implied. The term “professional” is heavily weighted and shouldn’t be bandied about lightly. As a professional web designer working at a company that manages about 30 pages right now, nothing is more frustrating than having one of our clients accept bids on redesigns and turning us down for someone cheaper, only to receive a piece of garbage written up in front page that we now have to maintai

  162. 162 // Text to speech // 07.17.2009 // 1:22 PM

    People are just ignorant when it come’s to web designing but the time will change my friend, when people start to give a professional web designer the credit they deserve

  163. 163 // Web Site Design Companies New York // 07.23.2009 // 5:26 AM

    An informative article. Thanks for sharing.

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  165. 165 // Jakseo // 01.15.2010 // 4:25 AM

    Just look around at signage in your hometown. Or flip through the phone book. Look at the logos. How many of them are well designed and how many are clipart? How many of them use type well, how many just use typefaces (around here, the “rustic” look of Papyrus is particularly overwhealming.)

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