Why Professional Web Designers Hate People with Champagne Tastes and Beer Money

When I worked at Food & Wine, we used to talk about the advertisers that came in wanting the world – but had next to no money to pay for it.

The Tech Guru has had a client like this recently and it has been very frustrating – to both of us.

First of all, they don’t want to spend a lot of money.  And that I can appreciate, because who does these days?  But the bottom line is, you get what you pay for.  You can’t walk into a wine store and ask to reserve a 2008 La Violette Pomerol, which is currently about $200, and expect to pay $10.  But this is what people do when it comes to services- somehow the intangibility of it calls the value into question.

To me, the value can be decided quite easily: can you do this shit yourself, confidently, without mistakes, and well?  If the answer is no, and you really want it done, then the value is decidedly high, no?

In this case, though, I’m not sure if the problem was that the clients were budget-conscious or control freaks.  I think it was a combo of both.  They wanted a custom designed website with all the bells and whistles, but bristled at the idea that they would need to keep the Tech Guru on call for any structural changes they might want to implement down the line.   Somehow they thought they could get a combo of custom web design and generic site builder.  Oh no, they protested.  We want to do all this ourselves.  We want to add new code and all the bells and whistles, although we’ve admitted that we have no idea what the hell we’re doing and have had it explained to us that when amateurs start puttering around in the code, they invariably screw up their own sites!

There are lots of widgets out there and certainly there are places that allow you to build your own site and customize what you want, but these sites are always going to be limiting because there is no way they can lay out, for the layman, the exact same capabilities that an experienced web designer is going to be able to throw down.  NO way.  But people don’t want to hear that – they think they can have the same professionally designed, professionally coded site that an expert would provide, all by themselves (meaning, for free or at little cost.)

It’s downright insulting.

Advice to the Tech Guru: when someone tells you upfront that they’re control freaks, say thanks but no thanks and run, don’t walk, away.  People like that are only happy when you’re telling them what they want to hear, and if they’re cheap to boot, their concern about not paying any money will trump any concept of getting something that is professionally put together versus cut and pasted like a piece of crap.

Advice to the rest of the world: You get what you pay for. You want to use Sitebuilder or Blogger or some other DIY tool, that’s fine.  But know that you are limited in what you can do, and don’t ask a professional designer or developer to customize that crap.  You want a unique and professional site done by an expert, great too – but understand that you cannot call in a professional to do half-assed work.  Think about your job and how offensive it would be if someone said to you that they should just be able to do it themselves, just as well as you do, despite no experience.  Or that they want you to use your skill, to their benefit, for next to nothing.  No one is trying to divorce you from your hard-earned dollars dishonestly.  But there’s a value to people’s work, and it’s insulting to imply otherwise.  You think you can be a Tech Guru, go right ahead.  But don’t call us when your site crashes, or when it looks like this or this.

Or this. Or this, or this. (Yes, even large companies have bad web design, which is inexcusable – we can only guess that they’re either paying someone right out of college to do their website, or that the poor web designer is constantly overruled by some jackass in marketing who wouldn’t know good design if it ran him over with a pickup truck.)

P.S – Please do not have a crappy site and ask a designer/developer for “modifications” either, just to save a buck.  If your site sucks, you don’t need modifications, you need a new site.  Not all templates are created equal – there’s a lot of crap out there.  Understand that and let yourself be guided by someone who’s a pro, and you’ll be well on your way to having the professional image you claim you really want.

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