The game of golf has undergone some spectacular technological advances. We can measure distances using GPS, the balls are more consistent, and shiny new drivers launch the ball further than ever before. Despite this, there is an uncomfortable truth: the majority of golfers aren’t getting better. How can this be? Perhaps it’s because the equipment isn’t the greatest problem, it’s merely the easiest problem to solve. At the end of that beautifully crafted golf club is still a silly human, and that’s where the trouble starts.
Many golfers suffer a disconnect between what will make them better and what they think will make them better. Many claim to be great at the more boring aspects of the game (putting, for instance). According to many instructors however, this is often not the case. The oddity here is that these findings are nothing new. This isn’t a dark secret in the golf world – in fact it’s commonly known.
So even after identifying the core problem with golf scores, many aren’t willing to address it. We don’t solve the problem that matters – we solve the problem that is easiest and offers the best feeling. Unfortunately, this problematic thinking is everywhere in our lives, and the business of building websites is no exception.
WHEN YOU’RE JUST A WEBSITE BUILDER
We often think of ourselves as “website builders”, and that can have implications when we deconstruct how difficult building a website actually is. As the tools get better and better, the job of creating a website gets a bit easier. When I first began working in this field, Adobe Dreamweaver was going to make the job of the web professional obsolete within 5 years. When Square Space and Wix came out they were going to kill off the need in the same way. Today it’s builder themes that are the next big thing. The commonality between them all is they are solving the simplest problem that faces us, while not touching on the greatest complexity – the human component.
To apply our golf analogy, technologies like Dreamweaver and services like Squarespace and Wix are the shiny new drivers. They promise to deliver results that feel great – and they do – but the scores aren’t changing. Websites still suffer from many of the same issues that have always plagued them because we’re not focusing on the people.
The problems that the shiny drivers can’t solve for us happen to be the barriers to successful web projects. So what’s hard?
Communication – when the client says they want a “web store”, do you have the same thing in mind? Did you ask the right questions to understand what they expect it to be able to do not only on launch, but in 2 years when they’re offerings have expanded 10 fold?
Timeline Management – Does your client know how long that last minute request is going to take? More importantly, do you?
Budget Management – If you don’t have a good handle on your timeline, you’ll most definitely screw either yourself or the client. Whichever ends up happening, it’s a poor strategy.
More Communication – How many delays are the result of people unaware they’re causing a holdup? The number of problems we can solve with a simple check-in email or phone call is incredible. Managing people is scary, unpredictable, and necessary.
Making a website for everybody – Most sites fail at even making a site that appeals to anybody. A successful site should appeal not only to the customers it serves, but also to the people tasked with updating and maintaining it. All too often we hear from potential clients about their current site, saying “it’s a great site, but we haven’t updated it months/years because the person in charge of it moved on and we don’t know how to do it.”.
Can it look good when the real content arrives? If content isn’t ready at the design stage, the designer will use filler content and it will look amazing. They will ensure the paragraphs are all equal length, the photos are beautiful and sized to fit. You may not think this is a bad thing, but what happens when the final content arrives and not all those things apply?
THESE ARE NOT TOOL PROBLEMS
These are people problems. There are tools that can help you with the above, but none of them will do the heavy lifting for you. Basecamp can help keep you organized and communicating, Freshbooks can help you track your time. Despite that, neither of those protect you from the fact that you still need to give them the attention they deserve. This is why I pause slightly before I tell someone I build websites. In truth, building the website is often the easiest part of the entire process. It’s your ability to problem solve, handle restrictions, communicate well, and develop strategy that determines how well we execute a site.