Fix My Site

Does your site suck? Do you need professional advice? Do you not want to pay for this advice? Send me an email, and I'll take a look at your site and provide you with some real suggestions. By real, I mean real.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tip for Newbies: Hire a Pro

Dan and Ann, co-conspirators for, write:
Great blog! I have enjoyed the education.
Thanks, I enjoy giving it.

We are lost (obviously), a middle aged couple starting a business that's time has come. I know you hate Frontpage, but it was highly recommended to us.... So that is what we used. We did hire a "pro" to help, but he did nothing but lower our bank balance. Nothing he did was usable.

How do you find a good site designer / developer, how long should the turn around be and how much should we expect to pay?

Our site is for education purposes, we don't sell on the site. We have received emails from other businesses who needed the info we offered & thanked us, so our content has some value.

We wanted a site that we could alter constantly, adding & changing text & pics without having to study software for months. Is there a simple way for amateurs to do a decent job on websites?

Okay, so I wrote pretty much your entire review, and then someone called and I picked it up and happened to drop the receiver on the keyboard and, well, you can guess what happened next. Sigh.

So here's a recap: I started off by calling you DAn(n), which is a clever conglomeration of Dan and Ann, then I made fun of people who have no fingers, then I made fun of newbies, displaying my usual pedantry with the use of big words like "tantamount" and "dilettante", then there was talk of monkeys eating honey, what ancient Inca tribes would do with optical computer mice, and the hilarity of snowmen playing full-contact football (think about it), and then I got to talking about your site. So, unfunny BS aside, here's what I remember of what I wrote before the Fall (of the stupid phone receiver):

Is there a simple way for amateurs to do a decent job on websites? Well, yes and no, but mostly no. Asking this is like asking a roofer, "Hey, do you think I could put this 200 square roof on by myself?" He will probably laugh at you, but only because he doesn't understand what you're saying, and then he will shout something at his buddy sitting on your roof, who may chortle. Yeah, you can put on your own roof, but if you don't know anything about roofing, how good of a job do you really expect to do? And come on, if you live in a house with a 200 square roof, you can probably afford to pay someone to do your website for you.

(Note: none of the above was in the original review. Also, probably none of the below was part of the original).

Basically what I'm saying is, web design/development is just like any other profession/hobby/fetish—those with experience are better than those without. What is unique about this industry is its ability to close that gap with technology, such as software. Now, using WYSIWYG editors, any Tom, Dick, or DAn(n) can put out anything they want, and it has the same availability and accessibility (in terms of being available to be accessed) as any other site out there, from the ones created by Toms, Dicks, and DAn(n)s to those created by thousands and millions of dollars. But, like I said above, thousands and millions of dollars usually will yield a better product.

Pretty much the only thing that the average layman (or sub- or super-layman) can do well without professional assistance or prior development/design experience is write copy. Writers can make great websites with just a modicum of design and development experience because they write great copy. In reference to your site, the one thing you can do you do well. Your content is excellent, as it is well-written, focused, unique, and informative, which gives you a leg up on about 80% of the internet. And, since search engines don't care what your design looks like, this is an extra boon.

Unfortunately, search engines aren't the only ones that you want visiting your site. People occasionally visit sites, too, meaning that aesthetics are of some importance. In terms of aesthetics, well, your site sucks. It looks like a powerpoint presentation gone horribly wrong. Your logo is grainy and of poor quality, some of your image links have blue borders around them, you have images randomly strewn amongst your text, your color palette is inconsistent and doesn't match itself, and your homepage with a ridiculous amount of unused above-the-fold space, has a picture with a date in the corner on it. I understand your site is for education purposes, but if I were looking for information on roofing, I would probably go somewhere like Not saying that this site is the end-all, be-all of professional sites, but if you compare yours to theirs, you can see why a user might be more likely to trust the information from their site.

I suppose we don't have to get into a discussion about your frightening code, since you guys are not really coders and used FrontTheDevilPage, but I will mention your lack of keywords and descriptions. Yes, they may not be of utmost importance, but I would rather err on the side of more content than less.

How do you find a good designer/developer? Hmm...I wonder where you could find one...:) I will admit, it can be hard, because anyone who knows HTML or has a pretty good grasp of a WYSIWYG editor can claim to be a professional. However, the best way to tell is to look at their work and compare it to other people's work. Another harbinger could be to look at their code, even if you don't know what it means. For example, take the code from your site and compare it to an example site from someone you're looking for. Do they look the same? If yes, tuck and run.

Summary, in pretentious freeverse:

One day, while the sun blooms like a flower on a jagged horizon,
While the tree quivers, still moist from its dewbath in the gloaming,
One day, amateur developers will be able to compete with pros,
and tyro designers will be able to express themselves perfectly on digital canvases.
That day
Is not today.

Nor will it be tomorrow.
So if you want a website that glitters like gold,
and sparkles like exploded Fourth of July detritus,
Glue some glitter to your monitor
And shine it with a flashlight,
because you can't do it by yourself or with FrontPage,
Which is the Devil,
but you can hire someone
who knows
What they are doing,

And you will Achieve your
of Educating the masses
About the wonders
nuances, passions, techniques, and licentious desires
of roofing.


At June 28, 2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Edelman said...

Edit: I forgot to answer one of your questions. "What should you expect to pay, and what is the expected turnaround?" This varies on what you're trying to do. However, for your site, I would expect a true professional to charge you around $4-5k with a turnaround of maybe a month or two. You may be able to shave a bit off that cost since you probably don't need any moving pieces (aka, anything dynamic). If you're looking for a content management system, expect that number to rise.

A lot of people unfamiliar with this business think that they can get a website for anything from free to maybe $200. This simply isn't the case, which, I guess, explains why so many people do it themselves and put out crap.


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