Why Good Web Developers Are Like (Some) Good Builders

Web Design & Development has a startling number of similarities with the house building industry.

For example, there are builders working at all levels, from property maintenance and simpler extensions up to bespoke construction of high-end luxury properties most of us can only dream of.

Builders typically work to plans, or specifications, provided by an architect. Particularly in the case of more bespoke properties, these plans are often amended by the future homeowner as the project progresses, often at great disruption, cost and delay.  Work can sometimes seem slow, particularly when the project is at the planning, groundwork and foundations stage.

Pile of bricks

The best builders rarely market themselves or go looking for work – their reputation for quality and craftsmanship precedes them and business is generated by word of mouth or other recommendation.

All of these things are similar to how we work in web design and development.

There are web designers and developers at all levels, from single person outfits up to huge global agencies.  It should be noted that I don’t include free or low-cost services like 1&1’s Website Builder in this analogy; they are to websites what a tent is to accommodation - great if you need something temporary and cheap, but you wouldn’t want to live in it forever.

In website design, we also work to a specification, or plan of work – and often this gets changed as the project progresses, with similar results in disruption and delay.

In the case of morphsites, the vast majority of our work comes from referrals and word of mouth, not from more active marketing.

But that’s not what I’m alluding to in this post.

The story of the builder who never finished his own house

I once knew an absolutely first-class builder. His skills were legendary, his solutions to building problems efficient and elegant. He was admired by his peers and valued by his customers. No matter what challenge you threw at him, he was more than equal to the task.

For the purpose of this narrative, let’s call this builder Nigel.

Of course, the worst possible thing customers and peers could say to Nigel’s long-suffering wife was: “what a fabulous builder your Nigel is, I bet your house looks amazing!” For much to Mrs Nigel’s desperation, she was the last to enjoy those renowned construction skills.

Unfinished house build

Many things in Nigel’s house were left undone, from plastering to painting. In one case, a rather large room exhibited archaeological qualities of a scale that might excite Indiana Jones, with various stages of completion in evidence around the room, from original wallpaper, partially stripped wall, totally stripped wall, wall with lining paper and finally wall with painted lining paper. 

Alas, while Nigel was indeed a skilled craftsman at the top of his game, the truth was he expended all of his time and energy on his customer’s building projects, leaving precious little time to work on his own house.

The story of the web company who never finished their own website (until now)

Our previous website was put together in just one frantic day over two years ago. It has served us well in that time. However, it is true to say that it has never been exactly what we had wanted it to be. Indeed, with our web design and development skills, it should have been a simple matter for us to put something new, shiny and gob-smackingly gorgeous together in no time at all. After all, we have something of a reputation for building rather nice, well coded websites that get results, so surely our own site would be a flaming beacon of everything good and pure, a monument to usability, quality content and adaptive design?

It’s not like we haven’t tried of course. At least 3 design concepts and a partially built website are testament to that. But those designs never really saw the light of day or were, on analysis, not what we really wanted for our site.

Perhaps like Nigel, we knew what we were capable of and anything less than that just wasn’t good enough. Perhaps, after ensuring that customer projects and support were given priority there simply weren’t any hours left in the day to give attention to our own site.

Whatever the reason, for the last two years our website has been the builder’s wife, the poor cousin, the black sheep in our design and development portfolio.

But no more.

Thanks to a concerted effort and some much appreciated overtime by our team, we now have a site that properly represents us as a business and what we are about. We’re really excited, because this now gives us a forum in which to share our thoughts and research on a whole range of topics and properly showcase our work to the world.

Nigel, now retired, never did change manage to get on top of his own house. However, he was always busy due to the quality of work he provided to his customers and the reputation that came as a result. We can’t argue with the ethos of putting your customers first – it’s core to what we do. But we also think it’s essential to practice what you preach.

We hope you enjoy our new site.

Pete Fairburn Posted by Pete Fairburn on

What do you think?