I am not Harry Potter

Contrary to some schools of thought, web design does not require one to gather rare and enchanted items into a bubbling pot and mutter secret words of magic in the hope that if the stars are aligned correctly and you got the potion just right that somehow a beautiful and functional web site will appear from the ether.

So why do many people who run successful businesses appear to think that this is the case? This worrying trend has been a regular feature of my work over the past decade.

People who are normally deeply involved and informed about all aspects of the business they own or manage take a step backwards when asked to participate in a web design project.  I know this is not because they do not have the mental capacity to handle the information, as these people can be seen drilling down into financial details with their Finance Director, and will frequently be present in marketing meetings to discuss a new campaign, and they will not shy from analysing data about their industry, or compiling information to profile their customers.

So why so shy when it comes to the company website?

I can only conclude that it is because they think web designers go to Hogwarts, learn divination techniques, spend time playing Quidditch and battling mighty dragons with nothing but wands and wits, and that they feel themselves to be, well, a muggle.

This isn’t just the case with web design, but the wider domain of Information Technology in general. The situation isn’t helped by some (so called) IT professionals who actively seek to shroud the simple things in mystery, and some of the terminology adopted by the IT industry such as ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’.  Come on guys.  This isn’t a movie for kids.  This is a professional industry.

A good web designer, or indeed any IT professional, will be willing to spend the time with a client discussing their needs and investigating a variety of options before advising on a solution and providing sound reasoning for that solution.

I’m sure that, like me, lots of web designers have their own tales of how they met with a new client only to find a spaghetti junction of a mess which only arose because the client left the last guy to his own devices and that meant that costs were not controlled and the long term needs of the client were not balanced against the short term profit motive of a fly by night operation. This sort of thing can only be stopped by business owners and managers taking a more active role in the web design process.

I’m not Harry Potter.  Not even close.  And web design is not a mystical art only mastered by those who attend a mythical school. A good website can only ever be the result of making considered choices which take into account the long term strategic needs of a business.

Even Harry Potter has a passionate team of people who help him, and authority figures to guide him in the right direction so in the end he knows enough to solve his problems. Some business owners – and web designers – need to consider how this applies to them.

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