Educating the People

Right, so this blog hasn't been fed too well so far, but as I've said before, it isn't on a high-fibre diet yet (i.e. it isn't a regular thing).

So far, the blog's quite empty. It hasn't helped that I've been away for the last week! (For those who have asked, I had a nice birthday week, thanks! I've been visiting folks back home and growing a bit of a beard so I don't feel so out of place on Accessify Forum). I've not written a whole lot about the Web Design business, which I'd like to start doing, so here's one for ya!

Letting Everyone Down

I'm finding it increasingly saddening to find websites that suck – especially when the website belongs to a Web Design company. I get annoyed at the number of Web Design companies I stumble across whose websites are utterly atrocious.

Now, before I get too far down this road, I must admit my own design failures. For example, the November 5th website has had its moments – sometimes embarrassing ones – which have mostly been down to its age and the fact that I've learnt a lot over the last year since its launch. I'm also aware that there are still issues with the site, something I hope to iron out with the redesign I'm working on.

Anyway, last week I found a website that purported to be dedicated to getting the best online marketing that money can buy. They are an off-shoot of an established Web Design company and so have little excuse for the poor quality of their own website. Guess what? It works fine in Internet Explorer on Windows, but does it work properly in any other browser? Does it bollocks!

They pretend to have a clue about SEO. They don't appear to have discovered the advantages of designing with Web standards. Their navigation bar just doesn't work in anything but IE. No idea about accessibility. A lovely marquee is thrown in there for good measure.

Sound familiar? Right. Sorry, rant over.

Companies like these are letting their customers down. Companies like these are letting the Web Design and Development industry down. People who hire companies like these are letting themselves down. Last, but not least, these websites let their users down.

So, what do I propose? Education.

An Exercise in Education

I get the feeling that some people really don't know that the Web is evolving at a phenomenal rate. I like to think that I'm keeping up with the flow, and I am always learning thanks to the many resources on the Web (I'd particularly like to thank all the folks over at Accessify Forum). In my quest to improve my own expertise, I have found many sources of information, so many that I can't always keep up with the information hit.

The resources are out there for designers and developers, and they are looked for. However, I've found that there are few resources that are aimed at other audiences. What about website owners? What about the average user? There are studies into what the users expect from websites, but do they know what they should be expecting from a website?

What's my reason for jabbering on about this? Well, I'm trying to get to the bottom of why people hire bad design companies, or more specifically, companies who don't know what they are doing. I can only think that it comes down to a general lack of knowledge. Well, the resources are out there for the design companies to learn from, and a lot of us try our hardest to show our clients the advantages of what I've come to call “best practices” (of course, there isn't always a best way of doing things), but where do our clients go to for advice on what to expect from us as designers? In the UK, I have found basic advice on sites such as Business Link, but nothing much more.

A recent article by Mike Davidson about browser evolution got me thinking more on educating people about the Web, so I thought it was about time I posted something here about my ideas.

So, for some time I have been playing with the idea of starting a new resource aimed at people who don't necessarily have (or need) technical knowledge of the Web – the businesses and organisations who own websites and are our potential clients. However, I am wary as to whether such a resource will be useful to people, and whether it is looked for. Would there be any value in a website that educates its visitors about what to expect from the websites they commission?

I know that people don't just hire whoever they stumble across first, or whoever bamboozles them first with technical jargon. Even people who don't have a clue about the technicalities of the Web aren't stupid. People look for benefits, but how do they know that they are getting those benefits? And how do they know whether they need those benefits and not others? I think these people could do with a helping hand.

So, it's time to educate about “best practice” – the importance of accessibility, marketing performance, usability. But it's not just other designers who need to catch the bug – others need to know about what to expect from Web Designers.

And it's open to the floor…