I Want To Build Solutions Not Solve Problems

I like solving problems, but hate perpetually repairing and amending stuff. I briefly worked at a hotel (yep, I was a chamber maid). I couldn't stand the daily routine of making beds. I don't have a problem doing hard work, but I have a problem re-doing that same work.

It's why I was drawn to writing. You eventually finish the work and it is published. It's done.
Web design is about making something impermanent. Web design for hire is about making something impermanent for someone else. They can delete the files and mar the data and the whole sand castle can be carried away by the tides.
Here’s a highlight of some of the bad decisions that I have heard of being insisted upon:
Google frowns on duplicate content. If you duplicate enough of your own content at different URLs, Google may de-index your site-- remove it from their listings. One client wanted the same content to show on several urls: thousands of pieces of content would show up from dozens of URLs each. They were incredibly reliant on Google for traffic. Some businesses use their website to augment their marketing or expand their reach to their customers. For some businesses, their website is their business. Without the website the business is shot. In the case of this site, the latter was the case. Rather than play by Google’s rules, they insisted on duplicating their content. So their site will soon be de-listed.
One site wanted to remove all of the barriers who user interaction. That meant that anyone could comment without qualification. Anyone could add content without qualification. Not surprisingly, the site was a haven to sploggers and spammers. They didn't want to require user registration. They didn’t want to add Captcha because some users complained that they couldn't use it.
Another site made an e-commerce system that didn’t require registration before purchasing memberships. They wanted to offer users accounts even if the user didn't supply their email address. What if a user forgot their password? How could they get a reminder? How could they be contacted? The site owners wanted to have an inherently busted system where they couldn’t get in touch with their users or vice versa.
A client perfected the look of their website, but virtually hid the content under layers of cool swoopy graphics. That really wasn’t much of a problem: they put months of effort into the layout, but didn’t do any content.

On the weekend I shelved all of my IT books. I've read them all-- dozens of books. That's nothing compared to the hundreds of articles I've read online and the dozens of talks I've attended. I'm experienced. I know more about web development than most people forget. I don't take it personally when some ignores or discounts my advice and breaks their site.

I posted a more corporate-y version of this decision on my company blog. I had an epiphany over a year ago. I was working for a start-up that was chasing cars. I knew that it was a dead-end. I also knew that doing regular web design was a non-starter. That said, when I hung out my shingle last year, people started throwing work at me. I wasn't making crazy cash, but I was making much more than you would expect of a brand new web design company working in a flooded and played out market.
I sometimes work out of coffee shops. Web designers will sell their clients over a paper cup; or deliver their projects there later. Voices carry and the sad deliveries reminded me that I didn't want to do regular web design. In other words, I am happy to apply my knowledge, but I want to do it for my own projects and products. If I make bad decisions, I accept that I will wear those bad decisions.

I think I am not alone. Working for a mom'n'pop can yield a $1000, maybe $2000 for a small site that gives them a decent ROI. You could sweat over that $1000 site for weeks. I had one client years back that got a lot of freebie work: if I did an hour of work and billed them for an hour, I would have to spend another hour to walk them through the bill and why they were getting a bill for an hour in the first place. When I had the opportunity to fire them as a client, I did. Say that a $1000 is for 20 billable hours. Then there's the selling and hand-holding, the billing and the follow-up explanations ("yes, the search box is for the site search"). They'll balk at getting additional bills no matter how much of a time-thief they are. So that 20 hours turns into 30 or 40 hours of time sunk into the work. Next year, they cancel their hosting or let their domain lapse-- bing: their site and your work is gone. You can't reference it to build on that success.
Writing is permanent. Web design is impermanent. If your writing sells well, you get royalties. Good work yields more revenue. If your web design is successful, your client's site will see more traffic, more use cases and more critical eyes on it. If someone doesn't like your book, they can refund it or black out the offending passages. If someone doesn't like a website eventually, you may have to expand upon it ("Hey-- this doesn't work on WebTV!"). Web design is like writing if your words could just drop off of the page at random.
If you're good at web design and you're creative, why would you design for someone else when you could design cool sites for yourself? Heck, even if you're not good at web design, creative ideas get a lot of play in start-up land. Facebook is still written with PHP and MySQL-- they've been severely worked over from stem-to-stern, but Facebook doesn't have any magic knowledge or technology in play. It's about to become the biggest high-tech IPO of all time and it's built on rickety legs.

Now that my custom projects have come to a rest point, I'm getting to what I promised myself I would do a year ago: I'm going to build my own products.

I had a very illuminating experience. An Internet Marketing superstar I met via a contact got me into a project. We did the work. He went off to do something else for a year. Then he came back to it and wanted to fire up the work and make changes. But there was no money in the mix. He pledged some percentage to the poor designer, but to myself as the lowly developer, he promised nothing-- no money, no trades and no percentage of his vapourware company. I was shanghaied into a collaboration. Guess what: I can pay myself nothing and do what I want.

I'm going to work on cool website ideas (after some preliminary market research). I'm really knowledgeable about web design. Everyone on the Internet is making money-- so I might as well combine my 16 years of web development skills and get some of that money. Yeah, it's a little mercenary, but do you think many web designers get canonized?

Also, I'm going to write (get some of my non-fiction out of my system, then turn to fiction). I may even do some more art.

Social And Stats

My Brand Yourself-- no wait, that doesn't make sense!

eXTReMe Tracker