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In recent years there has been a move away from generalist Web designers to specialists such as content strategists, user experience architects and front-end coders. Where once there was a single job, there are now many, with ever-narrower spheres of responsibility.
Not everybody agrees with Paul Boag. Anita Hart is convinced that well-rounded individuals have a depth in at least 1 area of expertise. Do you agree?
While my peers are becoming more specialized, I have stoically refused to do so, remaining a generalist. If anything, my interests have broadened, encompassing subjects such as marketing, psychology and business strategy. This has drawn criticism from some who view generalists negatively, which is in line with some of what I am reading in the blogosphere.
It didn't work out as you expected, did it? The freelance life was supposed to give you more time with the family and free you from that incompetent boss. You even thought you might be better off financially. Instead, you're working longer hours and under constant stress, worrying about various aspects of your business.
To relieve the pressure of entrepreneurial life and avoid burning out, freelancers and business owners need strategies. In this post, I'll share some tactics that have helped me be more in control of my business, my projects and life in general. I hope they help you, too.
“How did you do that?” My colleague Leigh sounded impressed. He had been working with a problem client for weeks trying to get design approval. Then I came along and was able to get signed-off in a single conference call. “Can you teach me how you did that?” he asked. I mumbled something about years of experience, but the truth was I didn’t have a clue. It just seems I can find design approval easier than most.
As I thought about it I realised there are actually quite a lot of things that have become second nature for me over the years. But I have learnt the hard way through many painful projects. Unfortunately because I started designing websites back in 1994 there was nobody around to teach me this stuff. I wish somebody could have just shown me how to avoid all of those endless revisions.
Here’s a question for you: would you agree that creating a great user experience should be the primary aim of any Web designer? I know what your answer is… and youʼre wrong! Okay, I admit that not all of you would have answered yes, but most probably did.
Somehow, the majority of Web designers have come to believe that creating a great user experience is an end in itself. I think we are deceiving ourselves and doing a disservice to our clients at the same time. The truth is that business objectives should trump users’ needs every time. Generating a return on investment is more important for a website than keeping users happy. Sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? Before you flame me in the comments, hear me out.
If you work as part of an in-house Web team, you have my sympathy. If that in-house team is within a large organization, then doubly so. Being part of an in-house Web team sucks. Trust me, I know. I worked at IBM for three years and now spend most of my days working alongside battle-weary internal teams.
It's hardly surprising that most in-house teams are worn down and depressed. They face almost insurmountable challenges. Too often, a website becomes a battleground for pre-existing departmental conflicts. Political power plays can manifest themselves in fights over home page real estate or conflicts over website ownership. After all, is the website an IT function or a marketing tool? Read more...
Whether freelancers, small agency founders or website owners, too many of us work alone. The downside of the digital revolution is isolation. The Web allows us to do alone what previously would have required a team of people. It also frees us from the constraints of geography, allowing us to work from home. But while these are benefits, they also leave us isolated.
Over time, working in isolation (even if you function as part of a team) can prove harmful to your mental health, business and website. In fact, even if other people are working on a project of yours, if they are junior to you, you can still feel isolated.
Meet John the client. John runs a reasonably large website. He is a marketer who considers himself smart, articulate and professional. That said, he doesn’t know much about Web design, and so he needs your help. John comes to you with a clear set of business objectives and asks for a quote. But what happens next leaves John confused, frustrated and extremely unhappy.
Before giving John his quote, you ask a little more about the project. After chatting for a few minutes, you ask him about his budget. A fair question, you think. After all, you could approach the project in so many ways. Without knowing the budget, knowing where to begin is impossible. In your mind, building a website is like building a house. Without knowing the budget, you can’t possibly know how many rooms the client can afford or what materials you should use to build.
Whether you are getting a client to sign off on a website’s design or persuade a user to complete a call to action, we all need to know how to be convincing. Like many in the Web design industry, I have a strange job. I am part salesperson, part consultant and part user experience designer. One day I could be pitching a new idea to a board of directors, the next I might be designing an e-commerce purchasing process. There is, however, a common theme: I spend most of my time persuading people.
As Web designers, we often have to nudge people in the direction we want them to go. It is a vital skill we all have to learn. We’re not talking about manipulation. Underhanded techniques, and certainly lying, won’t get you anywhere. But you can present yourself and your arguments in ways that make people more receptive. The first and probably most important way is to empathize.
I have reached the conclusion that most organizations have a blog simply because they feel they should. Many marketing departments fail to “get” blogging and have poorly visited blogs with few comments. Because their blog fails to perform, they conclude that blogging is an ineffective marketing tool and either remove it entirely or leave it to languish.
However, it does not need to be this way. Corporate blogs can be a powerful communication tool that builds brand awareness and nurtures a sense of engagement. You only need to look at the vibrant community surrounding the 37Signals blog to know that corporate blogging can work.
Why are most corporate blogs failing and why do the few succeed? To answer these questions, we need to face a few harsh truths about corporate blogging.