How I Learned To Miss The Wheelbarrow

April 04, 2009

when nate becomes half computer

Me in five years.

I often try to compare webdesign with more established crafts. It doesn’t work. It’s just too young. There’s also the common conception that any 14-year-old with a few liters of Mountain Dew can make a website over the weekend.

I understand by comparison. Albeit a surefire way to lodge foot-in-mouth in an argument with your girlfriend, I do think it is legitimate to try and understand people’s behavior towards me in comparison to other folks for hire.

Here are some questions that come to mind often:

Would you call your plumber to ask them about advice on garbage disposals, faucets, or what tools he uses to clear drains?

Would you call an electrician five years after they replaced an outlet when it stops working from a short, and expect replacement free-of-charge? (After all, you paid them once already, right?)

Would you hire a carpenter without knowing what you want? Or bring him into your kitchen with no idea of your budget, what tasks you find most important, or any suggestions for scope or materials? Do you expect his consultation to be pro bono?

Would you have a landscaper start a job then wait weeks or months to contact them again, only to suddenly call them up and expect them to jump back into the job that day?

Say you hire a lawyer that’s been recommended by a common acquaintance who knows you’re on a budget. Would you constantly email them short directives without ever thanking them or acknowledging they’re not charging full rate? After the job is finished, would you call them back up months later to harass them about an unfinished detail from the early stages of the project?

These may seem like ridiculous examples or just a stretch to relate such an intangible task of making a website with laying brick for a walkway or clearing your shower drain. I guess one of the closest established crafts would be graphic design, but the advent of computers has similarly affected this once-esteemed craft. A small business will surely design and print their own stationary, business cards and shop signage on Word. (Often having an existing employee do it at minimum wage.)

Other questions come to mind if I was to relate more closely to designers:

Would you ask your designer who’s putting together a brochure to write the copy that represents your business? Or just assume that any photographs, logos, manipulation of supplied materials or proofreading should be provided free of charge?

It’s true a teenager can develop coding skills from home (I’ve been at it since age 10 after all), and of course do graphic design on the home computer — but can they do it well? The adage “you get what you pay for” is so often proven, and webdesign should not be expected to be magically exempt.

My apologies to anybody who’s had to deal with me in the last year, ha! I’ve easily been pushed over my brimming edge of impatience with my time being taken lightly. It’s likely my fault in that I don’t send out enough invoices. I’m too nice.

That said: love your webdesigner. It’s often a thankless task that requires constant wrestling with an irritatingly irrational and most maddening of tools: the computer. Nothing like the shovel, the rake, the snake or the hammer.