I, Webguy

WARNING: This update is actually somewhat serious despite my usual impish tone.

Recently it’s come to my attention that you, every person reading this, are desperate to know my philosophy of what I do: Web design and development. Well, settle in, Chuckles, because I’m about to drop a screed.

1. I am an experienced corporate Web designer/developer. This is different from a person who makes a site for his band or can set up a blog or knows how to change his Twitter background. I can do all that, too, but that’s not how I make a living. Over my 14-year career, I’ve set up Web servers from scratch in many varieties of Linux and Windows, using IIS and Apache, and learned a veritable alphabet soup of programming languages. I can make a fully functional database-driven site (and have) using nothing but Notepad, CuteFTP and a $50 art program. I design for ten-year-old browsers as well as the bleeding edge and know how to gracefully degrade from one to the other. I understand that Web sites are a blend of art, technical knowledge, and psychology. Which leads to …

2. The best corporate sites align with the company both internally and externally. If I’m to create a site for a company that touts loyalty and service to its customers, my first thought is to make a site that promotes and rewards customer loyalty as well as providing service to the customer. Meanwhile, and there’s no reason to whitewash this, if I’m working for a for-profit organization, I always try to build trust and legitimacy so visitors can feel comfortable spending money. This requires a solid layout and easy-to-navigate design using Web standards. I do NOT immediately think about what sort of stupid-cool effects I can do in Photoshop and Flash, because …

3. Special effects can be great … once. And they have to be REALLY great that one time to make them worth the time and effort. After that, though, they’re annoying; they add to loading time and require patience from the customer even if it’s the 200th time they’ve come to the site. And we do want the customer to come back again and again so they can give us money again and again. There’s no percentage in making someone wait even five seconds, which is an eternity when you’re sitting there just trying to click something.

Point 3 doesn’t count for personal sites, incidentally. If I annoy you with my personal stylings then you can just leave. I’m not asking for money or customer loyalty. Only your UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE. (I just wanted to make that distinction because I’m working on some HTML5 stuff for this blog that’ll turn you WHITE. </zeddemore> )

4. Corporate Web sites must be easy to change. This is absolutely vital. Bosses are the most fickle creatures in the Universe, even edging out cats and Glenn Beck supporters. The very best sites don’t require whoever maintains the site to have to bust out Photoshop to add a new header. Some designers will argue that this limits what is graphically possible, to which my answer is: Yes it does. So? Forget about it. Dump the gimmicks and browser plugins, learn CSS and how to organize a site, and build something for the future.

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