As some of you may know – I work for, and for that matter, head up, a small web consultancy in Liverpool. The company’s Interconnect IT
It’s a funny business, working the web. We know all sorts of cool stuff to make things work very well for clients, but persuading them of this is proving to be something of a challenge. I had one chap recently who had probably seen too many of those adverts that offer websites for £50 or £100 and so thought he could have something pretty sophisticated for £250.
Well here’s the truth… we could do sites for £250. We could even do very sophisticated sites for that price. But we’d need to sell thousands of them, to the same kinds of business. Why? Because no matter which way you do it, if you’re selling original work you’re going to be spending a fair bit of time on it. Few businesses in the UK can get by charging less than £20 an hour, so that would mean the site would have to be completed in about 12 working hours. That means everything, the sales/consultation meeting, the installation of the site, the configuration, purchasing the domain, developing the theme (or, if using an old one, re-jigging it for the client), editing the content to fit, finding images, laying it out and then testing on various browser, with various operating systems.
Web design, let’s face it, is hard. Browsers are truculent and buggy, standards a mess, and accessibility (ie, can anybody view your site, whether disabled or otherwise?) is an issue too. Try and get one thing right, and another thing will break. In the past I could quite cheerfully put together simple but hard to maintain websites. They worked, everything looked ok, and people made suitable noises. But by jove, adding anything meant a lot of pain.
Now we build sites that are driven by databases, wrapped up in sophisticated stylesheets, and managed by increasingly complex pieces of software. The expertise required to get it all just right is significant, yet the rewards appear to be diminishing.
So we have the answer – improved efficiency. I think that increasingly web designers will concentrate on industry niches in order to make the time it takes to build a website. After all, if a dentist needs a web presence then by and large he’s going to have pretty much the same things to say about teeth whitening as any other dentist. Similarly, many design cues will also be more popular within one industry.
It’s only like cars – the very first were quite random in design, built with specific clients in mind. As time passed, the market became ridiculously competitive. To survive, there was a need to generalise designs… and to productionise them. Software, like websites, is a little different, but this is effectively what has to happen now in the web industry. Work out how to do a lot, in as short a time as possible.