"My son is doing it."

Several times when I have tried to sell a small company a website I get the response “well, my son is currently doing our website.” Is web design considered that common place? Is it considered something anyone can do? That is sad.

People come up with all kinds of objections to buying what you’re selling. What’s more important than your question is mine: “how do you respond to potential customers who say their kids can do the work?” Do you explain how your offering is better? (Your offering is better, right?).

You are asking all the wrong questions! Don’t ask for more proof that you’re going to fail like this:

Instead, look for ways to differentiate yourself and ask how you can do better than you are doing. Ask yourself what your solution gives that the customer’s son’s doesn’t give and work on communicating that well.

It’s not ‘sad’, its just how it is. There is almost no barrier to entry in the web world so just about anyone can give it a shot. There are sons, nephews, and girlfriends making websites all over the place, and some of them are even decent (most aren’t!).

This is commonplace, and an annoyance in this business (“my neighbor said he could build me an e-commerce site for $150 bucks, after he mows my lawn”).

But sad? No. Your posts always look at the web business with a very personal perspective, usually one that puts a kind of emotional or value label on either yourself or your situation.

The simple answer, although I think you were going for more of a ‘woe is me’ sounding board than asking an actual question, is that it’s more of the ‘noise’ that plagues the web design business rather than being a huge problem.

If someone is sure their son can do a great job for a tiny budget, so be it. You generally can’t convince them otherwise but they usually learn it themselves.

If they think that they might get a great deal, but are savvy enough to ask some questions. You can frequently talk them through it. Showing someone the difference between a $100 design and a $5000 design has some impact, and walking them through the basics of good seo, etc. can demonstrate some real business value.

Mostly, though, I think that clients who are resisting a sales pitch because they think they have a ‘deal’ on an relative, etc. aren’t going to be good clients and you should look elsewhere. I call this, ‘getting nephewed’.

It goes like this:

“We can build your web application for $12,000.”

              "My nephew said he can do it for $150, he's 14 years old"

“That sound like a great deal! I can’t come close to that price. But, if you have any questions or need some additional services then please keep me in mind”

Then you just wait for the client to ‘get nephewed’ and call you back. Typically, this takes 6 months+ and the client has finally become frustrated and come to realize the complexities of the job. Once a client has been nephewed with an ugly, dysfunctional website and an excruciating process to build it, they are ready to be better clients :slight_smile:

I’ve had great success with this approach. Try to make a great impression on a potential client and sincerely wish them luck, and tell them that they have a great opportunity to get a great deal from their son/nephew. Make sure that it’s YOU that they call back if/when it goes wrong.

Call me when you get nephewed! Nothing sad about that!

I think it’s worth reinforcing something Sagewing has struck upon… do you actually know anything about their kid? Yes there’s a low barrier to entry in web design and yes there’s a lot of bad websites out there… but can you honestly tell us with certainty that the client in questions son isn’t a web professional, or someone who’s getting into the industry themselves? You always seem to have a negative outlook towards every situation which reflects in your posts but I would say perhaps sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and considering the wider perspective. Just because they say their son is producing the website doesn’t mean that every client will be like that (even if you’ve had it a few times)… what it tells me is that you either aren’t selling yourself very well (as they can’t see the value in what your offering) or you’re going after those impossible clients who simply can’t see the value in hiring someone who works in the field. :slight_smile:

I agree with what Alex Dawson said. My dad is an executive at a company and … I am his son. I’ve been developing websites for 12 years and managing online communities for 10. I’ve been successful, written a book and I speak all across the country on the subjects of social media and online community.

I don’t consider myself a designer. But, I do know a lot about how all of this works, what is aesthetically pleasing, what is good design, etc. and I am very able to offer meaningful feedback based on my experience. Of course, my main area is online community. If my dad asks me about any of these things that fall inside of my knowledge, he’ll get my opinion and it’ll be a good one based in my experience, which is deeper than most people in this space.

My experience is not worth less because I am his son. If he gets sonned or nephewed by his son - that’ll be a great thing for them, not a bad thing.



Hey Patrick! Haven’t seen you posting in a while.

It’s always good when someone joins me in using the verb ‘nephewed’.

Thanks Sagewing. I used it, but I flipped it! :slight_smile:


it’s so irritating,
this Field has become so popular…
i guess that you’ll just have to figure how to be the best and the most creative person, why dont do you make a profile folder? and go with it to potential costumers?

‘my son is doing it’… how I hate those words, it usually means that a really bad website is about to go live, or is constantly on the verge of going live…

However, given that people actually have sons who are professional web designers, perhaps our first question should be ‘is your son a professional website designer?’. The trouble is that if they’re not, that might not be taken very well :lol:

I don’t think it’s irritating, I would think the amount of crap out there would be motivation enough for people not to make the same mistake twice, especially when they find their websites aren’t getting the numbers they anticipated. It’s partly why people create portfolios, showcasing your work helps backup your skillset. :slight_smile:

Using a WYSIWYG program to make a website has become as basic a computer knowledge requirement nowadays as knowing how to use a word processor 15 years ago.

I would avoid doing business with people who see everything else as irrelevant once they can find something that is cheap enough to be affordable for them.

Undercutting your competition by charging 90% or 85% of your usual price is fine, but once you see someone charging 10% of what you do, that’s a sign that you’ve entered a foolish market. It’s best to stay out.

Roofing. Landscaping. Even car repair. A whole lot of businesses have the problem of cut rate amateurish competition.

Only in web design do common objections and cheapie competition come as a shock and completely out of the blue.

Until and unless web development and design acknowledges the common business realities which regularly occur in the whole rest of the economy apply to them, this is going to continue. When you can’t puzzle out the business principles of your own field you are not going to build a business savvy site.

Now, when business realities like objection handling are an unforeseen occurrence in your own field – maybe the objection has some truth to it. Exactly what kind of business relevant design are you going to offer a potential client?

This is no revolutionary discovery – it’s more akin to the discovery of fire. Even in web design, what you call “getting nephewed” used to be called “cousin Joey design” back in the day when tables and spacer GIF hacks ruled.

Even when talking to people who really should know better, I get the continual impression they think they’re living in the Star Trek economy. Not digital economics, which have definite principles, but a blissful TV fiction fantasy economy. In many cases, this never goes away, in different forms it is just as much a trait of the veteran as the newbie. They drink the Cluetrain Maniefesto koolaid.

It is a compelling fiction to think of your field as a superior technology elite with keen insights into a future economy. It’s time to get over yourself. This indulgence is keeping you from seeing what’s working in today’s workaday world.

Being dumbfounded about general business realities is a poor product to sell …to business. And that is just what the vast majority are offering.

These are excellent points you are making. Small businesses are often just able to eek out a living. Most of them are rather frugal in their ways so they can survive bad times that are sure to hit every now and then.

And here comes this sales pitch for a site with bells and whistles that the guy would never dream of having, but he is being sneered at and scolded for because his nephew had an idea and patched a little site together. For him that is all he needs, he wants the telephone number out there and maybe now and then to announce a special. His customers are not too picky on this either because they know that as soon that he has a slick site his prices have to go up. They know that in the end it is the customer who pays for the site, not the owner.

A little site by a little guy is like a bicycle and not like a mercedes. The bike gets you also from here to there, just not in the same comfort. A slick site would actually be misleading to the uninitiated customer, it would be out of character for that little store/garage/service.

And that is the reality of a free market. Free markets drive quality down in many areas because a market (many a little guy) is the driver of any merchandise and service, that includes the making of websites.

His customers are not too picky on this either because they know that as soon that he has a slick site his prices have to go up. They know that in the end it is the customer who pays for the site, not the owner.

Kudos on understanding design decisions from the user side and what I call design rhetoric.

A little site by a little guy is like a bicycle and not like a mercedes

Okay. But what harm (business wise) would befall a bike seller who tried to sell and portray themselves like Mercedes? It is this lack of understand things like positioning strategy which cause harm.

Let’s say you are a hugely successful bike manufacturer. What then? Depending on positioning and identity design fundamentals, it may well be a mistake to ever go for a bigco out-of-touch look and feel.

The problem is few craft or intentionally design a position in the customers mind for a company – against look-alike, sound-alike competitors.

What harm is there being just like everyone else, but with an indistinguishable difference in the stock photos being used? Judging from a whole lot in web design, being a “me too” doesn’t matter much.

And every objection is coming from the “well …we who develop the site can tell the difference, and that’s all that counts” side. A side which fails to consider design rhetoric or what is communicated to users.

The very idea that whatever you fancy your design communicates is reality is naive. It is not, however, the naivety of the newbie, the startup. It is the naivety shot though all levels of an industry who, it seems to me, is overly fond of wallowing in its prepubescence.

Sad to say, high school would be a substantial step up from what I’ve seen. The self indulgent, self congratulatory self involvement is cute, for all of five minutes. Then it’s boring.

Have been a designer for a long time, so to look at the customer and how to capture him is always part of what I do. And it would behoove a lot of “designers” of sites to pay attention to that :slight_smile:

There is harm when the owner of the site appears to be what he is not. Just think of the customer who walks into the shop after seeing the site and then is confronted with the disconnect once he goes there. The site was a lie.

In this case of course the funds are there and the slick site is justified and even very desirable from the consumer’s point of view and the owner’s point of view as well. Customers like a package deal. Buying a bike is not rummaging around in an antique store where the owner intentionally puts his “dogs” into a corner to be “discovered” by an unsuspecting treasure hunter.

Identity of course has to be created to be equal to the slick site design. A discrepancy can be spotted by consumers, they just can not point out why.

There is harm by being a rubber stamp me too, I can not stand stock photos and the like, they are usually quite neutral and bland, picked by people who have no idea what an image can convey. That is the trouble with people who can only code, the coding is often excellent, but what a waste when the design does not live up to what is under the hood.

Yes, I agree. But see, you read the posts here on SitePoint and what you find is really great coders scoffing at the “goofy graphics” that are hanged on. There is a lack of understanding how powerful images really are and how they can pull a potential customer in or leave him neutral or even appalled.

Yes, there seems to be a lack of understanding how the integration of all the disciplines like coding, designing, writing as the three anchors are interconnected to make a real impact, not a lopsided one.

i know i can say this my parents run a timber factory maching timber when some one who becomes a timber machineist my dad says that is the day u actually start learning

yes i am a professional web developer myself but im not charging my parents to do their website my dad did say that b4 i do websites for people i should work for a webdesign company which i am currently working for they also develop video games too :slight_smile:

sorry if i went offtopic

If in doubt, hire the father.

I disagree entirely with this, if you lower your rates to the level of the bidding wars then all you’re doing is perpetuating the cycle that the public will come to expect that as the standard price in preference to the actual cost that goes into making a professional website. The last thing we want to do is price ourselves so low that it’s financially unsuitable to become a web professional, therefore we should keep our prices at the appropriate level and simply allow those bargain basement pseudo-designers to fight over the scraps. There will always be a market for cheap, fast turnaround junk… just like high quality experienced solutions. :slight_smile:

Great post DCrux, I think one issue many people seem to have is an illusionary fantasy that “if you build it, they will come”. Every industry has it’s share of cowboys, the best way to combat those who simply cater to the rock bottom end of the market is to offer solutions which showcase the higher level of quality that you can provide. I think it’s a fair statement to say that those who provide or look to the back end of the market tend to (in general) only have price as their USP, there’s a reason why businesses like Clearleft are able to charge thousands for a design, it’s because they can prove their experience, they have spent a long time building up their credibility and they offer solutions which can easily show themselves above the kind of cheap turnaround experiences you would get on a freelance site. :slight_smile:

And here comes this sales pitch for a site with bells and whistles that the guy would never dream of having, but he is being sneered at and scolded for because his nephew had an idea and patched a little site together. For him that is all he needs, he wants the telephone number out there and maybe now and then to announce a special. His customers are not too picky on this either because they know that as soon that he has a slick site his prices have to go up. They know that in the end it is the customer who pays for the site, not the owner.

An excellent point! I am not a professional web designer, but I am making our family business website. Once factor apart from lack of funds for a pro bells and whistles website is that a less slick website suits our niche market. It would affect our credibility and the perception of our business amongst our customers if we were to have a ‘me-too’ samey professional website design. ‘Doing it ourselves’ is part of our business, it fits and our customers would smell a rat I think if our new website turned out too slick!!