A Scenic Tour of the Online World

5 Reasons Your Nephew Shouldn’t Build Your Website

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Recently, colleague, collaborator and writer Jude Jussim and I were discussing something we’ve seen lately that we hadn’t seen since the early days of the Web: organizations relying on inexperienced, young web designers to build their sites. It seems to make economic sense in this down economy, but it’s still a bad idea.

Read on below for more of our take. And be sure to visit Jude’s site for more information on her skills and experience. She’s one of our go-to writers.

5 Reasons Your Nephew Shouldn’t Build Your Website
by Andrew Schulkind and Jude Jussim

In the early days of the commercial web, it was common for small to mid-sized companies that wanted a website to have it created by a young relative. At the time, it made some sense. There were few experienced web designers and developers around, the cost of a professional website was prohibitive, and young relatives understood more about the technology than their business-owning elders.

What’s surprising is that 15 or more years later, many companies are again having their sites put together by their nephew/daughter/friend’s kid just out of college, because “it’s economical.” It my control expenses, but it’s a poor investment.

Your website is one of the first contacts prospective customers will have with your business. You don’t want to put this project, so central to your marketing efforts, in the hands of an amateur or a newbie. Here’s why:

  1. Great art is not great graphic design. Inexperienced web designers may confuse the two. Great art wants your attention. Great design helps focus your attention where it belongs. Effective web design needs to provide for intuitive navigation and well-organized information. It has to structure the site while being “invisible.” Your nephew the design student is unlikely to have the skill that this requires.
  2. A good designer has to understand your business. In creating a website, design and technology are tools for meeting the needs of your business. They should follow, not lead. What leads is your message, and your message has to be based on a strong understanding of your business—your target audiences, your services and products, your positioning and differentiators.Your message isn’t just what the copy says—it’s the website’s look and feels, its color scheme and layout, the organization, the images that must play well with the words. The story you want to tell about your business must drive all other decisions.
  3. Your website is not a nail, so you don’t want to hire a designer whose only tool is a hammer. New web designers and developers tend to have learned a “really cool new program” in their coursework. If that’s their hammer, your website may be treated like a nail, whether or not the program fits your business requirements or is even compatible with your users’ website browsers. (Flash, for example, is a really cool tool, but you might not want your site built entirely with it anymore, because it’s not compatible with mobile phones).
  4. You don’t have time for poor customer service. Do you really want the work on your website done in the downtime from a job search, or between other gigs, or after day-job hours? You are serious about your business, and you deserve serious service.  Close relationships can make it hard to ask for what you want, and harder still to insist that something be revised until your needs are met.
  5. Thanksgiving Dinner could get dicey. Dinner with the relatives can be challenging enough, without having the web designer you had to fire, a.k.a. your sister’s oldest daughter, glaring down the table at you (along with your sister and her spouse).A professional design and development team will work with your to ensure that both the website and its development process meet your business needs. Now that’s a worthwhile investment.

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