The (Semi-serious) Arguments of Web-Design

During last year I’ve not been really present: my articles have been so few you could count them on the fingers of one hand.

You know, the joys (and above all the strains) of maternity.

I didn’t write much, it’s right, but i read a lots of things. In my bedroom’s dim light, with my daughter sleeping by my side, I turned my iPhone into some sort of mentor. I installed the Kindle app and I devoured eBooks, I read articles, I wandered around several Italian and foreign blogs.

I miss Web Design, the job I deeply love and that, before Noemi’s birth, lead me running in front of my pc in the middle of the night because of a sudden inspiration flow.

This is why I left behind the practical side on my profession for sometime and I dedicated myself to web design theory. And I took sometime to read even some forums and groups dedicated to this field: often there were some useful advices about resources and books, really useful to fill the downtimes.

It is in these groups that I saw some people stirring up never-ending arguments, always the same, as in an unsolvable loop. People complain with a sense of comradeship and they argue about things that fill us with indignation or that we think can damage our profession. It is normal and it is human. But.

What we so strongly blame and point out is actually real? Or it’s a simple urban legend, a fallacy or something we complain about automatically, because other people told us to do so, as if it were a common cause we have to accept by principle?

I noticed that those who are now moving the first steps into web design field are often confused and disoriented looking at these arguments. A novice web designer couldn’t possibly know that for some people a font (or a browser) are the personification of evil, or that it seems that there are some “oral laws” which are passed down and to whom you have to submit to.

This is why here I am, with the semi-serious spirit which characterizes my articles. I’m going to sanction something and to confirm something else. So, please, feel free to tell me if I have forgot something, so that I can update our list.

Argument #1: If you don’t own a Mac, You’re not a real Web Designer

Arguments_01

It seems that the fight between a Mac-addicted and the owner of a standard pc is spreading everywhere, with a more or less intensity. There is a wide range of categories of users, from the moderated, limited to affirm a mild “with a Mac is a complete different story”, to the obstinated who don’t miss one chance to tell people who ask for help but don’t work with an Apple product “You got what you deserved because you don’t use a Mac”. Finally there are the extremists, ready to got an Apple tattoo on their ankle and who open topics in forums with the objective of creating uncontrolled flames and arguments.

Why it is true

I surely don’t have any doubts about the fact that working with a Mac is a different matter. It is obvious that having the chance to project a website or to design a layout with a more powerful device is every web designer’s dream… and the person who’s writing has designed a WordPress theme on a 15’’ laptop with 512mb of RAM five years ago, using PhotoShop which stopped every time I saved something.

Why it is not true

Saying that you’re not a designer because you don’t work with a Mac is obviously a generalization without any foundation. It is as if you say that all you need to be a professional web designer is a Mac. Or that it is absolutely essential to work with Adobe Photoshop because you cannot possibly project a decent layout with a free software.

The truth is that if you don’t have the professional competences to do what you’re doing, you can even use NASA computer but the result won’t change. On the other side, if you know how to work and to do your job, the kind of device you use is not the main important thing because the real secret lies in the hands of those who manage it.

Someone (obviously any resemblance to real facts and/or to real persons is purely coincidental) should invest a little less money on their work station (avoiding spending so excessively high amounts for a computer) and a little more in their professional training. Web design in Italy will definitely be on another level if we would spend the same amount of money we spend to purchase smartphones, tablets and luxury computer in books and training courses… That is, caring more about the substance than about the appearance.

Argument #2: Working for relatives and friends is forbidden

Arguments_02

“My dear, our family business, our restaurant-pizzeria needs an Internet website, can you work on it?”

“Absolutely not. First of all, if you want it, you have to pay for it! Second point, you’re my father and I don’t work with you”.

It is not a dialogue I made up for this article. It is what a web designer wrote into a forum, being proud of having told his father to buzz because “I don’t let the worst race of clients to exploit me at all.. never work for friends and relatives guys, I can tell you!”

I think it is a ridiculous reaction. Even hysterical.

Why it is true

Because working with people you care about can really be a mess: I’ve worked for several time face to face with my father and his partner and during the latest years I’ve worked at the same desk with Nando. Tensions are unavoidable. You may have the strong will to tell your partner or father to buzz and you have to stop it. Everything has to be veiled by courtesy and kindness, even when tiredness and annoyance are your main feelings, because you love each others. Because you’re my father. Because you’re my partner.

Why it is not true

If you’re father had a garage and tomorrow you would experience a problem at your engine, you would go to a stranger’ garage – completely aware that he could ask you money for an unreal damage or that he could do a terrible job just to complete the work as soon as possible – or would you bring your car to your father’s garage? And how would you feel if he’d tell you “Absolutely not, if you want your car repaired you have to pay me and I tell you more, you can even go to another garage because I don’t want to work with my relatives?”.

A website is not special. The fact that it is a concept job and not an handy one doesn’t make you an untouchable divinity unable to cede his work to the mere mortals.

It is sacrosanct that someone we care about will ask for our help, because this is how social relationships work and it is how the human being lives.

Speaking about me, I realized websites, blogs and logos for everyone who asked me (obviously within my nearest and dearest). I did it during my freetime, without taking me too seriously.

It was a favour, not more, not less.

Working for relatives and friends is not real work. It is to make yourself useful for someone to whom saying “no” – seriously and without any chance of changing your mind – will be wrong.

With the right premises it can even be an enriching experience which gets people closer

I found it rewarding to see my father being proud of my work and looking at him fuddling on the website of his cultural association, as well as reading the word of gratitude and affection my friend dedicated to me in the blog I set up for her.

Some dispassionate advices:

- Be clear on your priority and timing: clearly say to your friend or relative that you will work on their project in your free time, because you’ve got clients who pay you and who are waiting and you can’t obviously ignore them.

- Don’t care about it: give them advice, but do not impose your opinion. And above all, don’t care about it if your mother wants to use yellow texts on a green background. Make her happy and keep your professionalism and good taste for situation which needs them.

- Do not ask for money: So you will be free to stop working, withdrawing from the project and playing for time if they will turn you mad with absurde demands. If they’re going to pay you, they’ll have demands and it will be extremely easy to be wrong in their opinion. And even considering the fact that if it is about friends or close relatives it wouldn’t be not very diplomatic to go to them asking for money!

Argument #3: Comic Sans is evil

Arguments_03

It seems that the crusade against the Comic Sans is a never ending one. As time goes by this poor font became an actual whipping boy which indicates all the amateur and ugly things of the web-design field. Against him there is an actual propaganda made of crusades and inquisitions , more or less serious (you can check here and here).

In every very anecdote, where the client asks for unutterable modifies, it is there: “he asked me to use Comic Sans for texts!” and the obvious answer is, clearly, “Refuse. If he insists, kill him”.

Why it is true

Because it is the most abused font of the typography history and because despite its “cartoon” nature, it is practically used everywhere, in cartoons jingles, in public services announcements, in the laundry sign at the corner of the street and in the blog of today’s teenager.

Why it is not true

Basically because there are hundreds and thousands of fonts worst than Comic Sans (you don’t believe me? check here and then let me know). Hating Comic Sans is so much a trend that we don’t even ask why anymore. And we wouldn’t even notice if, in the meanwhile, a worst font was born, able to oust Comic Sans from the podium he so hardly conquered.

Argument #4: Every client has a “Nephew who does a website for free”

Arguments_04

According to some anecdotes you can read on the web, most parts of interviews with possible clients ends with a client’s comment which is more and less like this: “So much money? My nephew plays with computer and can do it for me for free” or, also: “But, so much? You’re joking, it doesn’t take much! Five minutes and you’ll do it!”.

Now things are as following:

- Or I’ve always been extremely lucky and during my seven years as freelance web designer I’ve always had perfect clients (even when my estimate hasn’t been accepted, nobody ever commented my prices in this way)

- Or probably such situations are not so common.

I know our job is not valued as it should, but it’s up to us to avoid arguments like these when we approach a client: a client able of such a reaction is not able to understand our work (the difference between an amateur website and a professional one, between a good logo and a clipart, and so on) but, let’s say it, he’s also a bit rude. You can comment and evaluate our prices as you want but surely this one is not really polite.

If you’re smart enough, after a couple of similar experiences you’ll learn to understand who these kinds of clients are since the first contacts with them (during the first meeting or the first email contact) and avoid useless losses of time. Remember that the first time it happens is fault of the client, but the second one will be your fault, because you couldn’t or didn’t want to filter the clients you have to relate to.

If you decide to work in a pigpen, don’t complain for the unavoidable grunts.

Argument #5: SPEC work

Arguments_05

Spek work is working for free with the hope of being paid once the work is finished. The client sees what has been realized and, according to his personal mood, he can decide to pay you or not for the time and work you’ve invested in the project.

An example of spec work is the one promoted by websites such as 12designer or 99designer: the client uploads the brief of the project and sets a budget, 100 designers join the competition uploading their proposals. When the contest ends, the client will reward his favourite proposal and other 99 designers will have worked for nothing.

Why it is true

Critiques to this kind of service are concrete and numerous: everybody can join in, even thirteen years old geek; the client choose the design he likes most, considering only the aesthetic side of the proposals, without a competente figure who will advice him and be able to let him understand the difference between a professional project and amateur one. Often the budget proposed by the client is scarce. There is only one designer who will be chosen and there are many more others that have invested their time and resources without any economic upturn; such services are able to devaluate designers figure and to destroy the market. And many other things.

Why it is not true

Considering the fact that people who join and use these services are only novice designers (I don’t think that competent designers who generally work on logo design projects worth 3000-5000 Euro will accept to join such contests) I don’t think that the 99 designers who weren’t selected have worked in vain. I think they got the chance to healthly cut their teeth.

For those who start moving the first steps in the design world, join one of these contests can be a way to call themselves into question and to receive feedbacks on their way of work. It is all experience.

The “senior” designer market, instead, couldn’t care less about spec-work: a personal branding project or a serious web design project are too complex to be contained within a contest, it requires professional figures, different timing and an obviously superior budget. Those who work with important web agencies or communication agencies already know what I am talking about: “real” clients ask for a personalized service and want to be followed from beginning to end, even if they have to spend some more money into the project.

 Argument #6: Unfair Competition

Arguments_06

Over the last years there has been an increment of services, advertised even in TV, which give to users the chance to project a website in just few minutes and in a complete free way, through a special kind of platforms.

It is normal that you feel yourself victim of a theft of your job with this unfair competition.

But…

Sometime ago Nando wrote a very good article to demonstrate that services similar to mybusinessonline are not a danger for our professionality.

Quote from the text:

“If mybusinessonline will succeed in its purpose – that is giving an online space to those business which don’t have it already – how many people will understand, after some time, that the service provided by this kind of platforms is not the right one for them? And how many people will ask for a professionist service able to assure them a serious and good work?

Here we are: there are all potential clients who we will have never reached without this kind of service, because they were unaware of Internet Universe”.

Seen from this perspective, the situation seems different: it almost seems we have to thanks these services which are able to approach potential clients to web design in a way we’ll never do (which is, tv advertisment!)

Conclusions

We’ve reached the end of my article and I can state that all we have to do is complain less and consider things with the right phylosophy. Unavoidable difficulties of our job don’t have to put into question our big passion, the one which animates us while we’re projecting an interface or while we’re not sleeping to complete a code.

If I forgot something feel free to suggest it, I’ll update my list!

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The Author

Web designer, has been working in the field of graphics and web development for six years and at the moment besides collaborating with a web agency successfully manages her freelance activity under the name of mascara design. Like many freelancers she is used to handling more roles, ranging from paper graphics to the development of html and css codes; nonetheless this passion of hers remains, always and however, web graphics.

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    1. John Vito

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