What does it mean to be a “professional” web designer?

Jeff Croft Writes:

But there was a mindset created in the 90s that anyone could make a web page. That line of thinking led bosses to direct secretaries and copy editors to produce corporate sites and a whole wave of self-proclaimed “designers” to start selling their services as web professionals.

That is so true. And like Jeff, I was one of them. Fired up my copy of Frontpage or Adobe Go Live and I was good to go. He also states that “many people never made that leap from hobbyist to professional”, which is so true.

I think its absolutely awesome that my 11-year old daughter could make a personal website if she wants to. Where I have a problem is when these people start to sell their services or get senior-level jobs in the industry.

I must say this is a bit of an over exaggeration. I don’t think that a lot of the “professionals” who sell their services can be grouped into this category of “hack” as he puts it. I feel that if someone is searching for a web design professional a simple look at that person’s/company’s portfolio should give a clear indication of what their skill level is.

they buy a copy of Photoshop or Dreamweaver and call themselves a web designer. This is a little baffling to me. No one thinks if they have a hammer theyve got the skills to be a professional carpenter. No one decides they dont need a doctor if theyve got a stethoscope of their own.

This is a a bit funny, I must say. But again I believe that it’s only true to a certain extent. I say if some “hack” can get Dreamweaver and Photoshop and slap together a good looking Web page that is functional then let them. I say if they do a good job let’s call them “professional”.

Mark Boulton recently wrote about the idea of a professional body for the web design industry in which memberships would be based on peer review, creating a sort of “union of serious, quality web designers.

This might a good idea, but as Jeff states, that may never happen since clients usually don’t have a time or experience to properly evaluate Web designers. I know that this happens for a fact. I, a “hack” myself, have gotten projects where some clients don’t understand “what’s taking so long” after the initial design. They don’t understand XHTML standards; they don’t understand that saving 4 seconds of load time by using CSS over tables is a good thing; they don’t understand why I need to optimize the MySQL calls. And the thing to remember is that most of them don’t care. As a Web designer you have to consider what the buyer wants. I usually try my best to steer them away from a “slap together” job but they don’t understand and further more they don’t understand why they are paying me for SEO, etc. So sometimes as a Web designer you have to simply cut certain costs based on what a client wants, understands, and is willing to pay for.

I don’t yet have the financial stability, like Jeff, where I can tell a client “if you’re not willing to pay for proper CSS design, Table-less design pages then got to a ‘hack’”. I’ll take whatever job I get and do the work that amounts to the amount of money being paid.

I have run into this problem when using open source 3rd party scripts. No one is willing to put up the money required for a custom shopping cart, therefore I slap on Zen Cart and make everybody happy.