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  1. #1
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    I just realized why this industry sucks

    The state of the "web design" and to a lesser extent the web development industry has been a source of frustration to me for many years.

    It always vexed me that the success stories were rarely related to the quality of output or anything like that, but more often were narratives of a system that someone developed by which he could churn large volumes of passable product, or enabled others to do the same (LogoWorks, for example).

    Certainly, the low barrier to entry created and exacerbated by desktop publishing and hacked copies of photoshop have contributed to the market saturation by the writhing tumult of mediocre (and worse) service providers. But that's not the whole picture.

    Wide availability is only half of the equation: the other is our lemon market. Basically, people consuming our service cannot distinguish quality, and therefore low quality offerings demand prices equal to high quality offerings, all things being equal. That means that our highly trained skills have been commoditized by market ignorance.

    Ours is worse than normal lemon industries, I'm afraid. In our case the bulk of crap isn't peddled by unscrupulous vendors looking for a quick buck and a schill to scam it from -- the crap is provided by well-meaning amateurs who believe the hype. The market is so rife with unprofessionalism, that even those within it take years to sort the wheat from the chaffe.

    Most people who suck don't realize they suck, and most people buying sucky service don't realize they're getting sucky service!

    The solution on a large scale is education, but it's not realistic until there is a market force that tends to push consumers to become educated. If a customer could drive a logo or an e-commerce system 75 miles per hour with darling, little Cindy-Lou strapped in the back, you can bet they'd want to make sure the logo has decent brakes.

    The fact is that the risk is just as real, if not as immediately life threatening: skimping on marketing or essential software systems is a great way to doom a start up. You might lose your life savings, or you might have to explain to little Cindy-Lou why Santa isn't coming this year -- you might just have a venture that fizzles quietly.

    That fizzle is a problem, because when a venture fizzles it normally isn't spectacular like Enron -- it's normally an almost imperceptible, little squeak that goes something like: "I just decided it was time to move on to other things," or "the market was too cold, I got in too late, oh well." It's never: "I started with a half-baked idea, I didn't take the time to research the market, I didn't invest what I should have in infrastructure or marketing, and therefore I failed to make this venture a success." We find it almost impossible to attribute failure directly to our decisions and actions.

    So here is where the dark synergy of ignorance and attribution bias forms the frothy, putrecent brew of market failure: Jimmy, on the same day, buys a car and a website, both for $1,000, both from Honest Bob's House of Used Cars and Web Design. Both products are delivered, and off Jim goes. In a month, the saw dust that kept Jim's junky car running finally lodged itself hopelessly in the gears of the dying vehicle, and the car simply stops moving forever. Jim cannot travel any further -- the car's failure is clear, and Bob's trickery is revealed. The market or the courts or both will take care of Bob's shady car business.

    Jim's web site, however, has also failed insidiously. It drives the few visitors who find it into the hills, never to return. The one person who tried to get the shopping cart checkout to work, never got the product, but thanks to faulty coding, his identity is now for sale in a Nigerian black market. In a few months Jim will grow tired of the "slow market," and quietly stop paying his monthly hosting bill, and the site will make that tiny little squeak I mentioned before: "Market's slow, the internet isn't all it's cracked up to be."

    That's why it behooves all of us to look at ourselves long and hard when we fail, or when our clients fail. It wasn't the bear market. It's not "just time." Statistically speaking, this probably applies to you, dear reader:

    You suck at web design. You are not qualified to design web applications. Your business idea will fail because you didn't think it through, and you hired the cheapest guy from a country you can't point out on a map to implement it. So you have a choice: you can cry about it and crawl under a rock, or you can stand up and do the hard work of educating yourself so you can stop taking half-assed stabs in the dark at the riches and glory that you claim to want but have taken to the path of least resistance to get to.

    Here's what you need to do: pick your field of interest, and test your metal against the best. Put your design work in front of a harsh critique; you could apply for a job at a good studio with your current portfolio just to see what they say. Put your code up for review on a geek mailing list or try to apply for a job somewhere that they only hire super hackers; again, just to see what they say. Pitch your business idea to a major venture capital firm.

    This experience will be humiliating, enlightening, and ultimately invaluable. It only takes a moment to open your eyes.
    Bring out our hope and reason, before we pine away.

  2. #2
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    If Dennis Miller were to write about web development/design it would of sounded like this.

    Thats a compliment I love listening to that guy. I can't say its a feel good post, but it was well written.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    You make a lot of good points, but I think you cop-out at putting all the responsibility on the offenders to "change their ways". The advice is sound, but they won't follow it. Why? Because like you said, they don't suck, so they didn't even think you were talking to them!

    Seriously, I agree that our industry is filled with hack jobs that can't cut it in a real job. I know, I work at an agency with 7 full-time employees (soon to be 9 or 10) and we see clients who've been raked over the barrel every day. Either they got the son of a neighbor's cousin discount website or they hired Joe's Internet Design, Networking, Computer Repair, Web Hosting and E-commerce do-it-all shop to design their website, fix their computer and wash their car.

    Either way, they're very unhappy with the results (usually none) and eventually get a tainted opinion of "professionals" in our industry.

    But they're educating themselves! The industry is new enough that there are still people out there getting suckered, but there are also far more people who are intelligent enough to do a little research before plopping down $1000 or $10,000 on a website. Would you hire an architect or lawyer without doing at least the basic checks to make sure they actually have insurance or are licensed? Check out their site, run through a few references, etc.

    For one thing, I think some big players in our industry need to get together and come up with industry certifications that are accepted and then market them so consumers know what to look for.

    Also, consumers need to take some responsibility and instead of blindly giving their money away, do some research and find the best person for the job. The lowest price usually equals the lowest quality!! It's a life lesson, doesn't just apply to web design. There will always be discounters and discount shoppers, they're in every industry.

    Third, Professionals need to quit whining about the sad state of our industry (yeah, I mean you). It's not that bad from where I'm sitting... maybe you're going after the wrong type of client or are aligning yourself so you're compared to the bottom feeders. Or maybe you're just having a hard time competing with them for jobs... why is it again you're competing with them? You can't beat them on price so find a way to differentiate yourself and don't just offer a commodity, offer a solution to their problems.

  4. #4
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beley View Post
    Either they got the son of a neighbor's cousin discount website or they hired Joe's Internet Design, Networking, Computer Repair, Web Hosting and E-commerce do-it-all shop to design their website, fix their computer and wash their car.
    I don't agree with industry certifications. IMO they generally include talented people having to spend a bunch of money to get taught and certified by clueless teachers.

    However, your statement above made me laugh myself silly. Great day brightener! Thanks, Brandon!
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot SEO Canada's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beley View Post
    For one thing, I think some big players in our industry need to get together and come up with industry certifications that are accepted and then market them so consumers know what to look for.

    Also, consumers need to take some responsibility and instead of blindly giving their money away, do some research and find the best person for the job. The lowest price usually equals the lowest quality!! It's a life lesson, doesn't just apply to web design. There will always be discounters and discount shoppers, they're in every industry.

    Third, Professionals need to quit whining about the sad state of our industry (yeah, I mean you). It's not that bad from where I'm sitting... maybe you're going after the wrong type of client or are aligning yourself so you're compared to the bottom feeders. Or maybe you're just having a hard time competing with them for jobs... why is it again you're competing with them? You can't beat them on price so find a way to differentiate yourself and don't just offer a commodity, offer a solution to their problems.
    Funny how everyone else should take responsibility but you. As my aunt likes to say in French, "le 'on' exclut la personne qui parle."

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by beley View Post
    For one thing, I think some big players in our industry need to get together and come up with industry certifications that are accepted and then market them so consumers know what to look for.

    Also, consumers need to take some responsibility and instead of blindly giving their money away, do some research and find the best person for the job. The lowest price usually equals the lowest quality!! It's a life lesson, doesn't just apply to web design. There will always be discounters and discount shoppers, they're in every industry.
    I agree wholeheartedly!!!!!! What standards define "the best person for the job," in your opinion?

    Elle61
    Last edited by longneck; Jan 6, 2008 at 19:31. Reason: removed self-promotion

  7. #7
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    I agree. There are plenty of crappy clients, and plenty of crappy vendors. But, there is great business to be done and loads of smart, talented people doing it.

    The best web developers are the ones who aren't complaining about this kind of thing, and are instead out there doing great business. If you don't like the industry, you are welcome to exit it at any time. Life is short!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot ricktu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    I agree. There are plenty of crappy clients, and plenty of crappy vendors. But, there is great business to be done and loads of smart, talented people doing it.

    The best web developers are the ones who aren't complaining about this kind of thing, and are instead out there doing great business. If you don't like the industry, you are welcome to exit it at any time. Life is short!
    So you agree with his point then have a dig at him for mentioning it ? If we don't discuss issues like this how can we ever move towards addressing them ?

    Plus are you seriously suggesting that the best of us out there don't complain about issues like this? Frankly they are the exact people who should be because they have the standing needed to get the ball rolling in addressing it.
    Turning Point Development Pty Ltd
    Turning Ideas into reality

  9. #9
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktu View Post
    So you agree with his point then have a dig at him for mentioning it ? If we don't discuss issues like this how can we ever move towards addressing them ?

    Plus are you seriously suggesting that the best of us out there don't complain about issues like this? Frankly they are the exact people who should be because they have the standing needed to get the ball rolling in addressing it.
    Well, I agreed with part of his point and disagreed with it in another way. I don't really see the problem with that.

    And yes, I'm absolutely saying that the best web developers are the ones who are out succeeding and not complaining on forums about this kind of thing. Case it point, it appears the original poster now has a full-time job and is out of the game. In my view, there is no real need to 'get the ball rolling' - things are perfect but I've got lots of web developer clients and they seem to be doing great.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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  10. #10
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    I have to disagree with you Sage. You say the best people are freelancing and not complaining, but I think the best people are working for someone else, or have started decent sized companies after working for someone else. There might be some wiggle room in there for people with experience who have actually morphed into consultants, but generally consultants don't do much actual work and most truly talented programmers don't last long as consultants because the money doesn't outweigh their desire for challenge.

    I know the "really talented professional makes a mint doing his own thing" is possible, but it's a rare exception, not the rule. My main concern is how to make systematic changes to the market in order to set up an environment in which that is the rule.

    And re: your "case in point," by freelance standards I was making a killing in the market, I routinely contracted a dozen or more professionals at a time to cover the work I was bringing in. The reason I moved on is that there is a major revenue cap for this business and I wanted to eventually make more, plus the work one gets at this level is dead boring. I craved pressure to produce truly hard-won work, done to solve really challenging problems. To be honest, I haven't actually found such a thing yet, but it's out there, and I'm on the track. Don't assume I burned out because I wasn't up to snuff.
    Bring out our hope and reason, before we pine away.

  11. #11
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    I don't have time to write a long post, but I agree with many of the points stated in the first post. People that are ignorant of their shortcomings like to play the blame game and see missed goals as outside factors they cannot control. At least this is not as bad as the people that already KNOW better, and still play the blame game. But it is our responsibility as web designers to inform potential clients.

    PMichaud may be a little harsh on some things but I've seen people take more cynical views on the industry. One guy told me that I'd should rather be a plumber or graveyard digger and forget about the perceived glamour that the web industry has.
    But then again, he also thought I was just a teenage geek that just creates hobby fansites, and thought it was mostly my love for hobbies rather than my love of coding that is making me do this work. If anyone is interested in seeing this post I may bring it up

  12. #12
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    Great comment, life is short and being happy doing what you enjoy today is the key.

  13. #13
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    maybe you're going after the wrong type of client or are aligning yourself so you're compared to the bottom feeders. Or maybe you're just having a hard time competing with them for jobs... why is it again you're competing with them? You can't beat them on price so find a way to differentiate yourself and don't just offer a commodity, offer a solution to their problems.
    I'm not, in fact, going after any clients -- I supported myself as a freelance, then as a principle for years, and now I've moved onto a "real" job -- it's a bit of a drain, but it pays well, and regularly.

    There's still a place in my heart for this industry, though, so I thought I'd share 8)
    Bring out our hope and reason, before we pine away.

  14. #14
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    I feel llike this post could be directed right at me. I have only been doing web design for about a year. I didn't get started till getting a promotion out of the blue at work. But even here I only mainly do content management.

    However, to gain some experience I started doing a couple small websites on the side (for free). Now a year later I am just about to charge someone a substancial amount of money for a website. Am I ripping them off due to my lack of experience? I don't think so. In the end I will either be able to deliver the product or I won't. If I am unable to develop an attractive portfolio to show future clients, I assume that I will stop getting work.

    As one of my managers always used to tell me: "The creme always rises to the top."

    I would also argue that this is not even remotely unique to the web industry. People who are not good at what they do will be found in every industry. Take home renovations for example.... how many horror stories have you heard. Car mechanics... oh ya.

    "This experience will be humiliating, enlightening, and ultimately invaluable."

    I agree with this statement. Its something I need to start doing as a relative newb. I am totally dreading having my work picked apart though.

    "For one thing, I think some big players in our industry need to get together and come up with industry certifications that are accepted and then market them so consumers know what to look for."

    I hope this never happens. I have been in IT for 8-9 years now, and I have come to hate certifications. One of things I love about working on the web side of things is that my work speaks for itself. I don't want to have to ever write any certification ever again.

    I hope I don't suck. but I will take steps to look into it

  15. #15
    SitePoint Evangelist old_expat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muaysteve View Post
    .. I am just about to charge someone a substancial amount of money for a website. Am I ripping them off due to my lack of experience? I don't think so. In the end I will either be able to deliver the product or I won't.
    I think this is a prime example of what's wrong with so much of the industry. You seem to have taken the position of, "So if i don't deliver, what's the harm?"

    Answer: Quite a lot, actually. Time/timing being a critical factor. Is you client spending any additional monies on staff, server, services, etc that relate to the website s/he is expecting you to build?

    You will save yourself and your potential clients a great deal of grief and $$ by knowing what you can't do.

  16. #16
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Caveat Emptor comes from the Latin so I think it's been around before there were web providers. It applies to doing business with anyone regardless of their education or certification: lawyers, doctors, plumbers, grocers, mechanics, day-care providers, retailers, etc.

    Here's my point. It's always been up to the buyer to be cautious in spending his/her money.

    I don't believe the Internet needs certifications.

    Part of the beauty of the Internet is that it lets us slip outside of societal boundaries to follow our dreams no matter where they take us.

    Web providers are today's pioneers... and just like all pioneers, the weak and the ill-prepared eventually fall by the wayside.

    What needs to happen is that buyers need to take responsibility for how they spend their money. They need to start looking at portfolios and checking references before they sign contracts.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  17. #17
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    Shyflower, I wholeheartedly agree.

    It is the same in any business - buyer beware. There will always be people trying to sell goods and services who are not always honest about their abilities to do so. In time bad service providers get a reputation and will be found out, but in the meantime the buyer should do their research.

    There are a lot of good, honest developers out there, but yes there are also very good salespeople who will say what they need to say to get the sale. If a lot of money is being spent it makes sense to get references etc, just as you would if looking for a builder to build your new house.

    I remember reading somewhere on these forums where somebody had something in their signature about web development having 3 elements - "good, fast, cheap - pick two". I can't remember who it was but I have never forgotten it because it is so true, you can't have all three.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Wizard samsm's Avatar
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    These exact problems exist in the software/IT world in general, and there are many certifications there. I don't think it particularly helps, there is still a great deal of ineptitude out there and probably billions wasted on certified people acting out scenes from Dilbert.

    Also, I agree with every word of what Shyflower is saying.
    Using your unpaid time to add free content to SitePoint Pty Ltd's portfolio?

  19. #19
    Function Curry'er JimmyP's Avatar
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    This is a very heated discussion and I do agree with many of the points put forward, and I totally agree with the remark about getting our work out there in the public eye and getting it ripped to shreds. - I have done this a couple of times and to be totally honest the opinions change so massively between different people that it's almost not worth it. - This whole industry is a subjective experience - there is no RIGHT and WRONG usually.

    "The lowest price usually equals the lowest quality!!"

    I agree with you to an extent, but for some the only way to break in and actually get clients is to attract them with low prices. Us beginners have no other forms of differentiation at our disposal!

    I will add more to this discussion soon...

  20. #20
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    I think the industry is in great shape. Those who can do it; do exactly that and those that can't are always banging on about the need for some kind of protectionism. Some of the best work I have ever seen has been done by freelancers who are making their way up the ladder and who within a few years will be employing other people and taking their companies from strength to strength. The right price for anything is the price you can sell it for and how much you need the work; nobody can make you take a low price and nobody can make you turn out a sub-standard result. Personally I would say that one of the biggest problems in this business is short sightedness. Do the very best you can for your client and they are not going to go anywhere else; or if they do it will not take them long to realise they have made a mistake and come back to you.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  21. #21
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    I believe people work their way up the food chain in most cases. I certainly did.

  22. #22
    www.logoraman.com electroskan.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    I believe people work their way up the food chain in most cases. I certainly did.
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  23. #23
    Non-Member Musicbox's Avatar
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    if you dont like industry its simple leave the industry why to tell others

  24. #24
    SitePoint Zealot Norrad's Avatar
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    I agree with a few points. The industry is full of talented people but these people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Unfortunately, many clients only see dollar signs and will run to the cheapest vendor possible. Thereby getting the crappy site they deserve.

    As in all industries you need to pay for quality.

  25. #25
    SitePoint Evangelist superuser2's Avatar
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    I wish clients would pay more attention to portfolios - because then we wouldn't have this problem. If only people recognized that you get what you pay for. Generally, people don't have awesome, professional portfolios and then deliver a piece of crap - unless the portfolio is fake.

    This industry is also very anti-noob. Being one, I really hate it. I'm not all that good. I'm decent, but not an expert, not a super-professional. But I'll never get any further if nobody hires an unproven, inexperienced programmer - uncle's cousin's son jobs are how you get started.

    The problem with anti-noobism is that if nobody can enter the market, there's only one way to go, and that's out.

    But then you've got the situation of bad programmers and designers ruining the market for everyone else. The key here, IMHO, is balance.


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