April 26, 2004 09:22 | WebTech

How to Care for Your Web Designer

Eris Design | Standards in Design. Standards in Life

It is important that you carefully read this manual. A well-cared for Designer will be a loyal new asset to your website for many weeks and months to come.

All current and future clients will get a copy of this. I may even send it to a few past ones to give 'em a frikkin' clue. ;)


If you expect a designer to develop your content model you deserve whatever horrific fate awaits you.

Michael: err ... what?

I think a lot of what that piece suggests are a designer's job are explicitly NOT a designer's job. Designers shouldn't be developing editorial models. Designers should not be doing overall needs analysis for websites. Specific research related to design, sure, but the overall site objectives or requirements are NOT a designer's job.

Michael, those are exactly a web designer's job. What is it that you think a web designer does/is supposed to do? I'd be interested to hear your take on this as it may foster a great entry.

Hmmm... seems this has been taken a lot more seriously than I thought...

I have been doing this kind of work since 1996 and let me tell you, the three examples eris gives of what not to say to a web designer are *classic*. I heard them waaay too many times from potential clients, and former bosses.

"Design me a car. I'll let you know later what kind of engine, breaks and transmission it should have.. but I want it too look like my neighbor's '59 Chevy, oh but the trunk should be bigger and the hood ornament should be flaming and rotating..."

Michael, keep in mind that yes maybe larger "web design boxes" may afford to have specialized personnel to do individual tasks, and this was especially true during the beloved dot-com days... but economic and "young industry not yet understood and appreciated by the market" forces make it so that you still (STILL!! 10 years and a stock market crash in!!) get these kinds of requests. I've seen this as a freelancer, inside web design firms and inside corporate web departments.

The market just doesn't understand, and doesn't seem to want to.

Also, either I'm missing something, or you're reading deeper into than I, but where does it speak of developing editorial models? It simply says why not to ask your web designer to be a) a monkey, b) a monkey that can run at mach 5 and c) a monkey that can run at mach 5 while reading your mind in the future...

No, the web designer should not write your content, nor dictate entirely the voice of your website. He/she should however be trusted to know the medium better than the client... after all, isn't that why the web designer is hired?

Personally, I now walk away from clients who even come close to any of this behavior. Trust me, my experience and my skills, or go hire your nephew, I say.


"not to ask your web designer to be a) a monkey, b) a monkey that can run at mach 5 and c) a monkey that can run at mach 5 while reading your mind in the future…"

haha! excellent.

Oh no I agree that the questions are right on, and with the idea that designers aren't monkeys but are often asked to be monkeys - mind-reading monkeys - and that's total BS.

But in reading the piece I had the impression that the designer is the leader of the web development process, and I don't think that's true.

The designer is a member of the team alongside a lead programmer, a head editorial person and the project manager who is in charge. Completing these tasks: "the site’s goals and purpose, the site’s target audience" are not the designer's job. The designer should MOST emphatically be on the team and a part of the mix, adding experience and perspective.

Michael, I wonder if you have "web designer" mixed up with "graphic designer".

If, on your team, you have a Lead Programmer, a Head Editorial person (what is an editorial person doing there?) and a Project Manager, then what is the purpose of the "Web Designer"? What experience and perspective are they supposed to add? Where's your Usability Expert? And your Information Architect? What about the Graphic Design team and the Marketing staff?

If you're going to fabricate dream team, at least fabricate a good one.

In the meantime, the rest of us single-person freelancers will just wear all the hats, and do a damn good job of juggling them.

Sorry Eris but obviously there's a terminology issue here.

BTW - since you're paying attention here, I want to say that the designs of yours I've seen are positively gorgeous. Great work! I'm going to get my wife you use your template generator for sure.

(sorry for taking up your space Boris!)

Not your problem anymore anyway Boris ;)
"IE6 est la raison numéro 1 pour laquelle je ne veux jamais jamais refaire de design Web. et a ajouté, Tu peux me citer"

Patrick: ;)
Michael: no worries. that's what the comments are for!

I think you two are looking at "web designer" not only through different colored glasses (terminology/definitions) but also perspectives.

Michael seems to be looking from the "ideal (larger) situation" wherein the project has enough budget to mandate specialists to do every task, whereas Eris speaks of the lonely freelancer, or small design shops of 3-5 people (working on 10 projects...).

I've been in both. I've worn every hat. That's why now, when someone asks me what I do, and I am in a "web centric" context/milieu, I say "Web Specialist".


"Web designer" is certainly a misnomer in many situations, just as "homepage" is misused. But then look around.. look at all the *really really* cool weblogs, for instance, done by bona fide "web designers"... these guys and gals are not merely graphic designers, though perhaps trained as such, they are workers of the XHTML and CSS... This means they not only need to know and be graceful with colors, shapes and layouts, but semantic markup and attribution tables (to hook up the css) as well... not to mention be aware of CHI principles, human psychology... to make beautiful AND useable AND technically valid sites.

THEN, put these people alone or in small groups into an economic ecosystem and they start having to know sales, accounting, etc... and since many of the neighboring species in this ecosystem are marketing people ... what is the number one breadwinner of the small/independent web designer? Marketing websites! ... Now these folks have to be up to snuff on marketing principles, ESPECIALLY how they apply to online media...

And the sad reality is that 99% of potential clients out there, know NONE of this (especially the marketing folks... a dumber breed I have never met... below even the MBA's...), so the web designer must.

End Rant. ;)

different contexts with different situations in a big mess. I have lived all these situations depending on the budget ( a few bucks to millions), the size of the team (1 to many), etc.

As an individual for a contract, you are subject to do have all the hats in the sense, and you have to be multi-skills, which is not so bad but more difficult than many people think. Like some "professionals" think that if they have artistic talents, they will be able to create a Web site without taking care of accessibility for example, or usability. Or at the opposite, people very good technically without any clues in usability.

In a reasonnable team size, you will have something a bit different. In some of the most well organized places I have worked:

1. Sales person has got a new possible contract.
2. Plug him/her, if possible, with an Editorial Director (responsible for Scenario and content), Artistic Director (responsible for graphic design) AND Technical Director (responsible for the pipes). Why the three of them, because, unfortunately most of the time, the people hired in Web agencies have no experiences at all of others people's professions and techniques.

3. Never, ever, deliver photoshop screens mockup of a Web site but real functional XHTML/CSS pages at the start.

4. Make it small. Divide the projects in small pieces that you can deliver step by step verifying the quality of what you have delivered and the possibility of small changes by the client. (eXtreme Programming Lessons here).

5. Check, check, check, check AND check. Test and verify everything at each steps.

Important Point:
A Graphics Designer, Artistic Director are NOT artists. On the Web, we are not doing art or at least in the context of a business Web sites. That Said they have to understand, they are TECHNICAL professionals using their graphics skills to elaborate a tremenduous Web site. It's a bit like designing a car, you CAN NOT do everything kind of shape, why? because there are technical reasons, there are security reasons, there are usability reasons, there are accessibility reasons, etc. A good car designer knows that. He knows perfectly the way cars work, not the deep mechanics, but he has a better knowledge than an artist.

The problem of vocabulary, there is NO ontology (controlled multilingual vocabulary) for Web work area.

I had the names of Web designer, Web maker (Faiseur de Web), Web specialist, Web Creator, Information Specialist, Technical Director, etc.

I have to agree with Eris on this one, when you end up being the only web-savvy person in an organization (as I was at my last job, and even that's stretching the definition of 'savvy') you develop all these interfaces in order to deal with BS from all sides. And it goes for graphic design as well (being tasked with that too). "Make it more blue. Can we have animated ones and zeroes like The Matrix? I want a Flash splash page!". And deploying a large site designed for use with a CMS, without the CMS. So if you want to change all the little linky boxes on every page, you have to do it manually...

Honestly, the thing I'm most grateful to my former boss for doing was running interference from the Pointy Haired Bosses' micromanaging, timewasting, standards-breaking change requests.

I find it incomprehensible how, once booted into the CEO position, normally nice and sane people lose all perspective and think they know more than the web professional does...