Beware of Cowboy Web Designers!
As the typical internet user becomes more sophisticated, websites that are amateurishly designed and badly structured become even less effective than professional websites.
You can probably tell the difference between a good–looking, well–organised website and one that looks ugly and makes it difficult for you to find your way around.
You have probably come across businesses with amateurish websites — but you probably didn’t spend any money with them. For a business, having an amateurish website is often worse than having no website at all.
Professional v Amateur
To be honest, it isn’t that difficult to construct a web page. Go to the library, read a couple of books, and after a few days’ practice, you’ll be able to make your very own website. Mind you, it probably won’t be very good. Good takes a lot of work.
Many people have gone into web design thinking it’s a source of easy money. Too lazy or dishonest to learn how to do it, they disguise their incompetence by buying out–dated template designs or computer programs that generate code automatically.
With an out–dated template, there’s no guarantee that the design will be suitable for your needs. In any case, it is likely to look old–fashioned and to have been constructed with elderly, inefficient code.
Web pages generated by computer programs will often be:
- bloated with unnecessary code, making the website slow;
- constructed using obsolete methods such as layout tables or frames, making the website ineffective with search engines and difficult to update;
- simply incompetent, so that they only work on certain browsers, making the website inaccessible to many visitors.
In Praise of Amateurs
By the way, we don’t actually mind amateur web designers. When a website goes wrong or needs updating and the cowboy who glued it together has ridden into the sunset, we are happy to get paid to sort out the mess! See our website improvements page for details.
How to Spot a Cowboy
There are many clues to the competence of web designers, but the most reliable is whether they use tables as layout tools.
Tables, which are grids rather like the cells of a spreadsheet, are properly used to present tabular data, such as the lists of prices on our Domain Names page. In the early days of the internet, however, tables were also used to structure entire web pages, because no better method existed. These days, they are not necessary; no competent web designer has used HTML tables as page layout tools for the last five years. The inappropriate use of tables can cause serious accessibility problems and is bad news for search engines.
So one of the questions you should ask your potential web designer is, “Do you use tables to lay out web pages?” and check the response:
- “Of course not!” — Good!
- “Well, yes, how else can I do it?” — Put down the phone!
- “What’s a table?” — Run!
The Advantages of Professional Websites
All Lab 99 websites are designed and coded by hand, to the highest professional web standards, using the very finest HTML and CSS ingredients.
Not only do Lab 99 websites say exactly what you want them to say, but they have the following advantages over amateurish websites:
- they perform better with search engines;
- they use up less bandwidth, so they appear on the screen more quickly;
- they are future–proof: they won’t go wrong, and are easier to update and to redesign;
- they are more accessible to more visitors.
Website, sir? Do you want fries with that?
Fortunately, the increasing sophistication of the average internet user means that the era of the cowboy web designer is slowly coming to an end.
In the same way that people going out for a meal can tell the difference between a smart restaurant and a salmonella–infested burger van, internet users are becoming aware that not all web designers are equally competent.
Think of it this way: would you be happy to pay for a meal in a restaurant if the chef only knew how to operate the deep–fat fryer?