Monthly Archives: July 2007

The Value of Experience

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
Will Rogers

I grew up on a farm… And while the particularly painful experience mentioned by Will Rogers was one I was able to avoid (by happy education from the example of someone else!), I know the pain of having to learn certain hard lessons myself.

My comfort is, that even Christ had to learn by experience. He volunteered. Yet in the Garden it was still unexpectedly hard. Not that He was unwilling – just that the reality of experiencing it was so much more agonizing than He could have imagined.

I am now in a position of having a lot of experience with specific things. I’ve set up shopping carts enough to know the common pitfalls. I’ve set up enough websites for enough customers that I have a good idea of what they might do in response to various challenges, and to know that if I leave certain doors open, a good percentage of clients will walk through, not out of an intent to harm, but just because it is easier. So I now close those doors, and I now avoid certain types of cart setups.

Those are things I could only learn by experience. And while I can pass on a good deal of what I have learned, some of it won’t make sense until my students SEE it. They must see the reality to understand the instruction fully. What they envision in their minds prior to the experience won’t be quite like the reality.

Experience teaches us the nuances of working with people in our specific area or culture. It teaches us the particulars of a changing world that is slightly different than the world we were taught about – as will always be the case since life IS change. Experience teaches us not only what to watch out for, but how to be prepared for future potentials.

If you have never built a government website, you may not know that there are particular legal requirements, at all levels, and specific sustainability issues which apply to government sites. I know this because I have learned the hard way. It wasn’t something someone else COULD have taught me, because the specialty that I occupy did not exist when I was learning it. Had I been able to rely on the experience of others while I was learning that, it would have saved me, and someone else, some heartache. Nothing catastrophic, but it would have been better if I had not had to learn the hard way.

Experience is what makes you a true expert. But it won’t make you an expert in everything – only in the things you are experienced with, that you have learned from.

Green apples do give one the runs.

Tongues do stick to mailboxes.

Siblings do become your best friends once you are grown.

Mom and Dad do get smarter as you get older.

Dumping white gas on a fire is not a smart idea.

These are the truths that we learn by experience – or by watching our little brother try to prove everyone wrong. So who are you… the observer, or the little brother?

I love it when people call me a genius…

Of course, we can’t all be geniuses all the time, and I have to keep reminding myself that I’m really just another struggling microbusiness owner who gets it right a lot, but who also messes up enough that sometimes it is hard to remember that I DO get it right a lot!

We’ll our latest stroke of brilliance is subscription based web services. We didn’t want to try that for YEARS, because if you enter into a contract with someone where you give them everything and they pay you back over time, you set yourself up to be suckered, unless you go into the whole financing contract route, which takes more lawyers than we can afford, and which has additional regulations which I really don’t have time to learn. Ok… you can breathe now, I’m done with that incredibly long sentence!

Anyway, we found a way to do it which reduces our risks of getting burned to an acceptable level. Perhaps a singed eyebrow or blister now and again, but no missing limbs or need for skin grafts. I can live with that, it’s no worse than the risk of going outside in the summertime and getting a nasty sunburn up here at high altitude.

One of the other aspects to it is that we had to make it actually an ongoing SERVICE, not just a fix it and forget it sort of thing. We had to continue to provide value so our clients did not get tired of paying us. If we gave them good value at the outset, and kept good value there even after the terms of the contract were filled, then they’d continue to pay us every month, even when they could move their site somewhere else and NOT pay us that amount.

We’re pretty excited about Better Instant Website now. Because we’ve not only got services where you can build your own site very easily with our expertise and design skills behind you, but you can also choose full service now if you want to. I love it when we can roll out something that is really high value, and still affordable for our target clients.

Every business ought to have that feeling now and again, and everybody ought to get told that they are a genius at least once in a while. Even if you know you aren’t, it makes you feel like you ARE, at least for a bit!

Pretty Sad

I met with them one morning, in their elegant hotel. It was tastefully decorated – terrific accent colors, deep wood tones, lovely soft-hued wallpaper. It would be so easy to create a website that echoed that easy elegance, that took elements right from the hotel to craft a site that felt like you were taking a virtual visit in the hotel.

I did not impress them. I am just a country web designer to them. They went with a city firm instead. They paid much more than I would have charged. I saw the result last night. It made me want to cry. It has been on my mind ever since.

It is a completely professional design. And that is all. It fails to reflect the elegance and character of the hotel. It looks rather sterile, except for a single texture in one small part of the design where an attempt was made to incorporate a pattern similar to the wallpaper, but the wrong color. It looks like a man tried to design something a woman would like.

The site has flash where it does no good. It has an entrance splash screen, which does nothing for the site other than waste time getting where people really want to go. It has no SEO AT ALL. The copy was written by someone who is not natively from the US, and uses phrases that are not offensive in their native country, but which are offensive and crass in the US. The text is not formatted at all (not even any spaces between paragraphs), there are no legal statements anywhere on the site. There are personal photos where there need to be hotel photos, and one personal photo says, “click to enlarge”. The room photos do not have an enlargement option. Some photos are obviously stock photos (nothing like the land around the hotel). The site organization is cumbersome and awkward – you have to go three or four clicks deep to get at some info that should be at the top, while some of the info at the top is secondary information.

How does one deal with that? When you do something different, which nobody understands well enough to know what they need. When you do it right, and everyone else whom they’d get the service from does only one facet, but the client does not know that there ARE multiple parts to the job. When the client feels they know all they need in one area, but where cultural or web differences mean they don’t know what they think they know.

I suppose they got what they paid for. They paid for high end features, but they did so at the expense of minimal function. Sad.

This is not the first time we’ve encountered small and micro businesses who got snookered, because they did not understand what they needed, or what the industry would provide or leave off. I am at a loss as to how to promote in a way that helps people understand this. That there is more to web design than an expensive design. That the other services which are needed WON’T be explained to them, nor will they be included from most firms. They’ll expect the business owner to KNOW that, and to hire someone else for everything else, or they’ll hope they don’t notice what is missing (sadly, this is true).

So now I am building a site for their competitors. There will be no question as to which site performs better. The little country motel that I’ll be working with will have a site that outperforms the expensive site that represents the hotel. And it will do it for half the price.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.