Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Common Frustrating Pattern when Designing a Start-Up Web site (and the Loss of a Designer's Sanity)

Initial meeting goes great, everyone is happy, some ground rules and boundaries are set and then it begins...

"I was looking at some sites and I really want one of those flashy introductions."
2006 was a great year.  My favorite football team, the Chicago Bears, made it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1985.  In 2006, Flash introductions were very big.  And, they were annoying then as they are now.  But, for a first-timer looking to cash in on "the Internet" they see them and think, "wow, if only I could wow potential customers like that."  Talking them out of it is the only thing that can be done and often times the pocketbook is the only way to do it.

Clueless start-up owner: "I would like to have a spinning wheel with numbers on it right when the site loads that spins around over and over again and if it lands right on the number 7, they can enter the Web site." (Yes, someone asked me for this.)
Levelheaded designer: "People don't want to do that, they just want to get to your site and get the information that they need."
Clueless start-up owner: "No, I think I know what people want, can you do it or not?"
Levelheaded designer: "Yes, but Flash work is expensive, so I will need to charge you $25,000 for it."
Clueless start-up owner: "Oh, I can't afford that, maybe after the site makes it huge.  I really liked the roulette wheel idea though."

…which leads to...

"I want a fully functioning shopping cart with admin features to add and remove products and I am willing to give you...$100"
This happens pretty much every single small start-up I have had to deal with.  A new business owner wants to have a shopping cart on par with Amazon.com but does not understand the programming that is involved with it.  In their mind, a few switches need to be flicked and voila, a fully functioning shopping cart appears.  When I make the simple suggestion of using PayPal if they don't want to spring for the hours to make a cart, I get a look like I had just slaughtered their family and fed the remnants to their cat (which at this point, is starting to sound like a pretty good idea).

…which leads to...

"I know you asked for art, I'll just take some pictures from the Web, that'll be easy enough."
Either I have found people go from one extreme to another when it comes to web legality.  I have the people who have fifty pages of legal wording (that they copied and pasted from some Web site they found on the Web and simply replaced their company name throughout the document) and I have the people who (yep, had this happen too) given me AP photos that they simply grabbed from the CNN.com and want me to plop in on their site.  Telling them that there is such a thing as copyright law and it does apply to the Internet is usually met with a blank stare.  I usually have to explain that they can get sued and then the concept usually sets in.  Apparently the Internet isn't the wild West that they had originally thought.

…which leads to...

"The site looks too big/small when I look at it on the Internet.  It just doesn't look right on my 640x480 setting on my monitor."

Clueless start-up owner: "The pictures of the mock-up you created looked great but the actual site looks terrible.  Everything is so small."
Levelheaded designer: "It was designed for 1024x768 in mind but looks fine in 800x640, what is your screen resolution."
Clueless start-up owner: "Vista."
Levelheaded designer: ...

…which leads to...

"I know I approved everything, but I am not sure I am feeling 'the look'."
Months have gone by, e-mails and phone calls have reached the triple digits, you have tested everything and you are about to go live with the whole thing.  Then, a quick e-mail that usually starts with, "I was just talking to my boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife about the site and we took a look and he/she made some good points so I think we may need to scrap everything and start over."  At this point, it will be difficult but grabbing a machete and driving the six hundred miles to their home and butchering both is not a good idea.  This is the time to threaten the pocketbook again.

Clueless start-up owner: "My husband works as night-manager at Wendy's and told me that the site you made for my sewing class doesn't look like the Wendy's Web site so we may need to redesign a few things."
Levelheaded designer: "But, you loved everything yesterday and we are about to go live."
Clueless start-up owner: "Yeah, but my husband did make some good points, he especially would like a little redhead girl with freckles on the page because he told me people love little girls with freckles."
Levelheaded designer a little creeped out by above statement: "Ok, but starting all over, I will have to charge you by the hour so I am looking at a good ten more hours."
Clueless start-up owner: "We can stick with what we got for now."

…which leads to...

"The site went live yesterday and I looked on Google and it's not coming up, what gives?"
There is a preconceived notion with people that the moment a Web site is on the Internet, Google and the other search engines will drop everything and spider their Web site.  I always try to explain from the beginning that it takes a little while, even if everything is coded perfectly, for search engines to spider a page. 

Clueless start-up owner: "But I need to be on Google today."
Levelheaded designer: "Well, you can pay to become a sponsored ad." 
Clueless start-up owner with horrified look on face: "Blasphemy, the Internet is free."

…which leads to...

"Thanks.  I just bought a copy of Dreamweaver and my sister's nephew took an HTML class in high school, so we got it from here."

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