Web Sites: Learn to Build Smart and Buy Smart

by Lee Creek

Building and buying Web sites should be a rewarding experience for both
builder and buyer. For that to happen, though, the builder needs to make
sure the buyer is getting honest value by using professional tools and
professional methods. Further, buyers should insist on getting their
money's worth.

A potential client recently asked that I analyze her Web site and some
of her competitor's sites, all of which I later learned were fairly
expensive. Not only did the results surprise her, I suspect it left her
with an empty feeling when she thought about what she had received - or
did not receive - for her money.

From my perspective, it made me realize that I have to raise my fees for
building Web sites.

The reason for her empty feelings:

-- Her site was among eight of the 10 that were made with WYSIWYG
(http://webopedia.internet.com/TERM/W/WYSIWYG.html What You See Is What
You Get) editors, and like most it used templates that come with such
-- It had no title.
-- It was not among the half that had adequate META information.
-- There was only one site that used style sheets and it was not hers.

The reasons for my feelings:

-- She paid about three times what she could have and should have paid
for a much better, more professional site of equal size.

Having spent $7,000 for her site, the fact is she could have produced
the same thing herself by spending $99 for the program used to make the
site and a few hours for production. A real professional would have
charged more, but at least she would have gotten her money's worth.

Sadly, this same type of scenario is played out daily throughout the
world. People willingly, albeit unknowingly, pay good money for a less
than good product. Here is a look at what consumers and Web builders
could and should do to avoid making these mistakes:

Using WYSIWYG Editors
There is nothing inherently wrong with using WYSIWYG editors
(http://www.wdvl.com/Vlib/Authoring/HTML_Editors.html) and their
templates for doing personal home pages or sites such as one done
voluntarily for a local organization. Such programs are designed for
beginners and occasional users, not professional Web designers, and
require little more than the ability to drag and drop items onto a page.
With practice and long claws, the family cat can learn to do that.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with using WYSIWYG editors to do
original design work on Web sites, but that only happened on one of the
10 sites analyzed. Most used the templates that came with the program.

Should you look at the page source and see a tag such as this:

<META name="Microsoft Theme" content="nature 111">

you know originality is quite unlikely and you have wasted your money.
Clients paying any amount for a Web site deserve original work and
design specifically aimed at their goals. Thus, the difference between
being a Web designer and a Web builder.

While WYSIWYG editors can conceivably make the family cat a Web builder,
they can't make it a designer.

Another problem with using WYSIWYG editors - in addition to the fact
that they often are quite expensive - is that many of those programs
create bloated, redundant, or proprietary codes. That makes pages load
slower. Frequently, these programs use spacer graphics and other tricks
to enable users to put objects where they want them. Further, some will
even strip out good coding to put in their own coding, and many do not
keep up with current HTML standards (http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/).

Additionally, should the Web site owner later wish to have the site
redesigned, perhaps by a professional, that bloated code is often so
convoluted that it would have to be replaced with more efficient coding,
thus adding to the cost of the redesign. Even more troublesome is that
some WYSIWYG editors make it difficult to even access the HTML code.

So, how can you tell if a WYSIWYG editor was used to create your Web
site? Simply view the source, and look for a line near the top (in the
head section) that says something like this:

<META name="GENERATOR" content="the name of a WYSIWYG editor">

If, indeed, your site does have that information and you paid $7,000 for
your site, there's a pretty good chance you've been had.

Not all WYSIWYG editors are created equal, but it is important to
evaluate the quality of the HTML coding before using one of them.