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Embracing The “M” Word

Yes, I maintain websites after I’ve designed them. Yes, I maintain websites designed by other people.

Apparently a lot web designers want to just that: design websites.  They don’t want to do minor changes or, God forbid, touch a site someone else originally created.

Many of the calls I get are from tired business owners who want to change some things in their site, but they don’t need — or want to pay for — a complete overhaul. They report problems finding someone who can help them.

Sometimes their original web designer has found a full-time graphics design job (a lot of web designers seem to be frustrated or underemployed graphic designers).  Other times the business owners report that their original designer doesn’t do maintenance.

I think we web designers have to be available to make changes and tweaks to our customers’ pages.  Phone numbers change, photos get outdated,  new products come out, business hours expand!  All of these updates belong on your website.

Sometimes the business owner needs more substantial changes. They want to add a video or a series of pages about new things they’re doing.  The owner wants to update their site, but they aren’t up for a total re-do!

I get asked to help with all sorts of websites, even sites created on WordPress or other platforms that supposedly allow non-technical users to update content. WordPress, Joomla, and proprietary systems by Wix, GoDaddy, and others all require some computer skills.  Although they do not require special software on your computer, these tools take time to learn and tame.  Many owners are too busy running their business to spend hours coming up to speed and implementing changes.  I am happy that they call me!

Doing maintenance may not be as fun as creating an eye-catching design from scratch. And, when I work on a site that someone else created, I have to adjust to whatever style that person had.  I also have to find out where they have put the images, layouts, and styles I’m being asked to use and modify.  And, of course, the original designer is never as organized and clear as I am!

Still, I am happy to do maintenance.  I have done one-time updates, and I have some clients whose sites I change several times a month like Theatre Rhinoceros, a San Francisco theater company.  I like making all of them reflect the owner’s current activities.

By |2014-10-07T15:40:50+00:00October 7th, 2014|Professional Services, Web Design|0 Comments

Letting Users Update their Website

People who don’t know technical terms or pay attention to trends in web design are asking if I can use WordPress for their site. Maybe they don’t even remember the name “WordPress” or want that specific software tool for creating web pages, but they ask if I can design a site that lets them make changes to their site whenever they want.

Sure, I can.   I am happy to adapt to any tool a client wants to use. In fact, I am helping one client who came to me having started her website using GoDaddy’s Website Tonight,(and I think GoDaddy is the lowest of the low).

But, using WordPress or another system generally means that complete customization control is much more time consuming: you need to settle for 90% customization or pay 900%. Plus, the process of creating and updating the pages is slower (and therefore more expensive)  because we have to find and figure out the widgets and often design work arounds to get the effects we want.

Overall, I question the value of most of these tools for most of the websites I do.

  1. Even the web development tools that are specifically designed for non-technical business owner stump most non-techy people.  They are just not simple enough… yet.
    • Today I just spent 2+ hours helping a friend figure out how to create three new blog entries on her WordPress site.  They were each about one paragraph long, but one included a picture, one included an embedded YouTube video, and one included her own video clip.
    • Designed by professional designers at GoDaddyThe site I mentioned that was created in GoDaddy’s Website Tonight tool was, in fact, also created by GoDaddy professional designers using a stock template.  My client didn’t do it herself — she didn’t have the time to figure out how to use the GoDaddy widgets. My first task for her was to remove one link on the navigation bar widget.  Not difficult, but the procedure was not  obvious to her and she didn’t want to spend the time on web work that was not her job’s main focus.
  2. Over half clients I  set up to use Adobe’s Contribute or other tools to make changes to their website on their own have given up. They now email me with their new photos or text.
  3. Putting the content on the web page isn’t the issue for any of my clients.  Creating interesting, unique information is their challenge. I spend a fair amount of time brainstorming with clients about what should go on their site.  Then when we identify good material my clients are just so busy dealing with the operational side of their business, most don’t have time to write  up their achievements to share online — they ask me to write their content.  They certainly don’t have time to figure out how to publish their news themselves.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want clients to have to come back to me for their web changes.  I believe clients should have all the usernames and passwords for their sites.  They should be empowered to make their own changes or to take their needs to another web designer.

But, WordPress? Or, another, more arcane content management system?  Only after you’ve convinced me that you’re really have updates that you’re comfortable making yourself!

By |2012-09-08T15:33:43+00:00September 8th, 2012|Web Design, Wordpress|0 Comments

Why NOT Use Word Press and CMS for your Web Site?

Tech maven Leo LaPorte has been saying on his radio show that you should use a Code Management System (CMS) for your website and not have a designer create a site for you.

I like to think my disagreement with Leo comes from a valid intellectual position and not my desire to protect my business position… just as I trust that his touting of CMS is impartial and does not stem from his desire to accommodate a sponsor of his program.

Actually, I do believe that Leo comes by his opinion honestly, but I honestly think he’s wrong.  Leo is a techy, geeky person.  Most people who hire me are looking to offload a task and they’re not looking to learn new tech skills.  They don’t want to take responsibility for building and maintaining their web site, even with user-friendly interfaces.  They want someone to do the web work for them.

A good CMS lets non-technical people create, update, and delete web pages.  And for fast moving businesses with staff dedicated to creating and changing web content, CMS is a good fit.

But, most of my clients don’t match this profile.  They don’t have scads of information to publish and change and republish on the Internet.  In fact, my biggest challenge with 90% of my clients is to get them to give me ANY content that I can publish.

I know what questions to ask and what hard copy materials to get copies of so that my clients can have a good-looking, informative web site.  These businessmen don’t need help getting content to the web;  they need assistance writing content!

Reason #2 that CMS doesn’t fit my clients is Control! Most code management systems come with templates and options that typically look 85% like what a client envisions.  That’s a great percentage, but in my experience 85% isn’t close enough to make a client happy.

At first look they say, “Oh, wow! Great!”

The next call they ask if the blue borders could be a shade darker.  That’s usually no problem.  But, then they want the search box to fit on the other side of the page under the date.  The technical problem for the designer is that the pre-made Search widget comes at a specific size (or location or something).  Of course, it can be customized, but only with an unreasonable amount of time and effort (and client money) for the benefit.

After explaining the cost of modifications to move up from a 85% match of client expectations to a 99% match, the client suspects that the designer is being difficult.  Even when the customer acknowledges that they are buying a template based product, it’s obvious that they are wondering WHY moving a box from one side of a page to the other would cost hundreds of dollars.

And, the payoff for all of the tradeoffs is the ability for the customer to do his own updates in the future.  And, that’s something he is likely to do very infrequently, if ever.

I believe that CMS templates will become more robust, easier to modify, and easier to use. But, up to this point, I am not willing to risk client frustration and dissatisfaction for a functionality that the customer isn’t going to use.

Leo?

By |2011-04-28T23:10:14+00:00May 15th, 2011|Web Design|0 Comments