General

For small to medium-sized businesses and small businesses in particular, web design is a scary investment due to the lack of ROI metrics on many design projects (most SMBs don’t have the budget for such metrics even.)  A small business owner may feel obligated or otherwise entitled to manage such a design project with a heavy hand, thinking “It’s my nickel.”

Understandably, an ambitious web design project is a tricky investment for a business owner who is busy trying to grow while still break even or turn a profit.  The micro-management approach, however, invariably yields terrible results.

Take responsibility for the commitment you’ve made to whomever has been hired to handle your design project, and trust them to do their job.  Chances are you hired them after they demonstrated competency on an associate’s project or in a reasonably impressive portfolio of work and references.  The web designer got the job by being a professional and being good at what they do, in so far as they’ve managed to elicit project offers from business owners such as yourself.  Whatever your business is, it isn’t web design or you’d not have hired someone else to do it.  Therefore, you must go out on a limb now that you’ve made that financial investment, and trust the professional to do their job.

It’s very easy to develop creative impulses when overseeing a design project you’ve paid for, and it’s difficult to ignore them.  That’s a good sign, speaking generally, to try and do your best to ignore the impulse.  If you get involved and tell the professional you’ve hired how to do their job, you will (A.) be offering suggestions with no basis in practical, professional design experience and (B.) elicit inferior work from a now uninspired designer whom you are paying a perhaps significant amount of money.

You cannot guarantee great web design work by any means known to man, but you CAN guarantee less-than-great work by getting too involved in design projects and micromanaging them.  Trust will lead to inspired work.

A lot has been said about Web 2.0 and agile methodologies in the world of IT professionals, but little if any of it is meaningful for your average small business owner selling, say, handmade organically-derived hypoallergenic soap.

User Driven Hosting was created as a simple concept, a simple mission with simple goals:

  • Empower small business owners to leverage the internet to grow their business
  • Specifically, showing them how to leverage existing resources instead of “reinventing the wheel”

You’ll see this come up on this site again and again as a recurring theme.  One of the concepts of agile programming is the acronym “DRY” – don’t repeat yourself.  Programmers got smart and decided to stop repeating work and use libraries of commonly-used functions and other code to the maximum extent in order to reduce the amount of time required to create and maintain applications.  Web designers haven’t quite caught up with this trend.  Unfortunately many web design boutiques and local web design “shops” and vendors enjoy reinventing the wheel only to pass the cost along to the customer.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of small business websites share the same features.  Similar navigation and content structure, and similar application of “design.”  (This doesn’t apply to fancy Flash-driven sites, but then we’re not in the Flash site design market.)

User Driven Hosting’s mission for each client is to quickly deploy a site built on an open-source, ubiquitous and rigorously-tested website framework.  The technical specifics aren’t as important as what it does, and what the net value translates to:

  • The ability to easily manage content – adding pages, editing pages, adding photos, video, items for sale
  • Extendability – “plugins” or external sets of features written by 3rd parties to enhance this framework allow site owners to import other blogs, Flickr photo accounts, and countless other features…the possibilities grow daily
  • Low cost per unit time – no SMB just getting plugged into the internet should spend thousands and thousands on web design unless they can justify it in sales

The bottom line is that agile web design = working smarter, not harder.  Using existing resources, and working within flexible but reasonable rules to favor a practical and useful conventions over a website design – and budget – with unknown boundaries.  As the agile programming language tool Ruby on Rails advertises, favor “convention over configuration.”  Don’t sweat the small details, the sink fixtures and cabinet handles and shower curtain rings.  Put your efforts behind the important tasks, such as running your business and educating new customers with a smart website, and everything else will fall into place.  That’s what we are here to help you do.