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Verschwindende
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I just got a call from a friend. Apparently, one of his friends had a site created and he thought it was quite awesome. He had me take a look.

It was fine. A nice site with a footer mentioning that it was "Designed and Hosted by" a local fellow that fancies himself a web designer.

A while back someone here mentioned they used Artisteer to make their sites (it's just a random selection application that puts together templates at the click of a button) so I downloaded the demo to have a look. Well this "awesome" site looked like it was made with it as I noticed some of the background and textures it uses. I looked on my hard drive to see if I still had Artisteer installed and after finding it I was able to very nearly replicate the "awesome" site in about 10 minutes.

There was nothing wrong with the site except maybe that the "Designed by" should have said Artisteer instead of the local company. It's just run-of-the-mill-$25-template-looking but that's what's perceived as "awesome" I suppose.

How do you compete with this? I may as well just buy Artisteer and pump out pap for the masses. Hrump!

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Tyssen
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You compete by providing a

You compete by providing a better service, which includes consulting and advice based on experience.

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I have had clients come to me

I have had clients come to me with their "awesome" sites. You explain to them usability issues. SEO issues. Validation. Semantics. Content Management Systems. Show them that you are a professional who knows what he is dealing with. Explain your design and development processes. Tell them why a run of the mill template won't do their company the justice that a professionally custom designed layout will.

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I guess it was just

I guess it was just discouraging to see someone toss up a cheap template on Joomla and call it designing.

I wonder if good design is lost on anyone other than other designers though.

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I've had clients tell me that

I've had clients tell me that they can build a site on Tripod/Geocities/Frontpage/etc in an hour, there isn't any reason why my design and development should be 10+ hours.
Especially when they want newsletters, CMS, or any custom functionality... they think that kind of stuff should be free.

Check out http://clientsfromhell.tumblr.com/

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Google isn't a bunch of guys reading and grading web sites, it's more like a bunch of monkeys sniffing food and putting the good bananas at the top. -Triumph

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This is one of the huge

This is one of the huge problems with web development, due to it being so open sourced in terms of this unwritten writ that everyone must be able to have a bash, that the internet is for the people anyone can throw a site together, browsers forced to accommodate bad code (single biggest mistake in the history of web development but clearly necessary) Given all that it makes it very hard for the client to grasp the differences between professional services and someone slapping up a modified template that someone else wrote - badly.

The answer is as Tysson mentioned but even there one can and will struggle. Standards? we have been pushing Standards for years has it really got us anywhere? not really the client simply can't grasp the concept of malformed code when all they see is a site working as they would expect.

Put the client to one side and look at the last two or three years, the rise of the CMS and of code snippets, templates, template applications, JavaScript libraries and all the copy and paste examples they provide, plugins, widgets all things designed to make it easy to bypass any real effort to learn a craft. All of these can serve to undermine the standards developer.

I'm currently having to pull together a social network transferred from a Ning platform to a WordpressMU and BuddyPress one, due to the complexity of the code base for WPMU + BP and lack of real development time I have to go with the default theme and adjust to suit however this is extremely depressing work as the generated code from nearly every angle is riven with basic to horrendous errors, and this is from developers who clearly are *beep* hot when it comes backend scripting but seemingly don't give a hang about other aspects of web development something I've come across more and more. So we have a clear drop in standards right there WPMU and BP will likely sweep the board where it comes to social networking but will be flooding the internet with bad code, does anyone care? not really should I be fixing it? yes and no; I would for myself and will but for the job no one I work with understands that I have been going deep into core files correcting their output, hang it even correcting sloppy PHP scripting, it's time lost for no APPARENT gain. All I would hear if I explained that I had spent all day correcting output errors is why it was working wasn't it? and they are correct it WAS working!

We are in a difficult spot at the moment, yes there are clients who do have a grasp of the complexity of real web development and understand that a site doesn't just get thrown together the challange is finding them or at least sifting through the half dozen that don't to get to that golden client who will appreciate your talents

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Stomme poes
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We cannot compete so long as

We cannot compete so long as browsers continue to accept, and try so hard as possible to "correctly" show crappy, buggy, tagsoup code.

The only good thing to have come out the XHTML camp, right there, is the Big Yeller Screen O' Death... if your clients needed an actually COMPETENT person to have anything other than yeller screen o death, this would be a non-issue.

We'll take our freakin cars to the Certified Mechanic to get the transmission changed but when Joe wants his motorcycle blog he just whips out his copy of (crappyWYSIWYG here) and voila! He can do all.

Why I find the argument against strict XML pages to be bunk: Yes, authors wouldn't be able to easily publish sh*t on the web. Well guess what? If I want to write a gddmn French novel and I don't speak French, what's better for the reading public? That I use BabelFish and get it published?? Or that I hire a freaking French translator to do it right?? By having error correction we are agreeing to Babelfished sites.

But browsers spreaken me engrish mar teh bestus, is alles goot.

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But it's now too late, tag

But it's now too late, tag soup code has been allowed or at least had to be accepted as there was so much of it around, the provision of an error correcting parser was an evil necessity, one, though, we can never now undo.

The Draconian error handling of XML was ill judged (most web development has been!) CSS has a sensible approach and proper error handling routines, it simply drops silently any crud not understood, XML should have followed the same approach simply ignore malformed code, refuse to parse an entire element if it is incorrect, much like the supposed dropping of elements if empty.

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Verschwindende
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Hugo, you've exactly parsed

Hugo, you've exactly parsed my feelings and intentions in this thread.

Hugo wrote:

... Put the client to one side and look at the last two or three years, the rise of the CMS and of code snippets, templates, template applications, JavaScript libraries and all the copy and paste examples they provide, plugins, widgets all things designed to make it easy to bypass any real effort to learn a craft. All of these can serve to undermine the standards developer.

... don't forget forums like this, well, not exactly like this one. Other forums that serve as a code-writing service for those that shouldn't be in the industry. At least this one has a tendency to demand learning.

Hugo wrote:

... however this is extremely depressing work as the generated code from nearly every angle is riven with basic to horrendous errors, and this is from developers who clearly are *beep* hot when it comes backend scripting but seemingly don't give a hang about other aspects of web development something I've come across more and more.

As a backend developer, I hope to prove otherwise. Smile

Hugo wrote:

So we have a clear drop in standards right there WPMU and BP will likely sweep the board where it comes to social networking but will be flooding the internet with bad code, does anyone care? not really should I be fixing it? yes and no; I would for myself and will but for the job no one I work with understands that I have been going deep into core files correcting their output, hang it even correcting sloppy PHP scripting, it's time lost for no APPARENT gain. All I would hear if I explained that I had spent all day correcting output errors is why it was working wasn't it? and they are correct it WAS working!

... and then an update happens and undoes all the fixing you've done. Sad I gave up fixing phpBB and Wordpress long ago. It's just too much work to keep having it all undone.

Hugo wrote:

We are in a difficult spot at the moment, yes there are clients who do have a grasp of the complexity of real web development and understand that a site doesn't just get thrown together the challange is finding them or at least sifting through the half dozen that don't to get to that golden client who will appreciate your talents

I just don't know how to explain it to someone that can barely figure out which button on the mouse to use.

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Stomme poes wrote: We cannot

Stomme poes wrote:

We cannot compete so long as browsers continue to accept, and try so hard as possible to "correctly" show crappy, buggy, tagsoup code. ...

I wonder if it would be possible for the standards community to sponsor the development of a standards only browser. Something that flat out fails when it encounters invalid code and simply ignores incorrect styling. Sure no one would use it as a daily browser but it would be a tool for the real designers to out-do the hacks and the snippet-knitters.

I imagine it would be a smaller and easier to maintain project as it wouldn't have all the extras to handle tagsoup.

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Quote: Sure no one would use

Quote:

Sure no one would use it as a daily browser but it would be a tool for the real designers to out-do the hacks and the snippet-knitters.

My argument for Yeller Screen O Death reaction to code is that everyone gets it. My boss doesn't care that it doesn't render in non-IE browsers... he wouldn't care if it didn't render in some ultra-strict browser. He'd care if he and every potential customer got a Yeller Screen, and he'd demand that it was fixed. Which is what I'd like.

I use the validator, which is strict enough for me. Besides, you can use any Modern Browser and feed it real XHTML and you'll get the Yeller Screen O Death (with a convenient little arrow pointing to the error), so the "standards-only browser" practically exists (barring the bugs all browsers have).

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Stomme poes

You're speaking of the XML error screen, correct? I'm trying to get a faulty page to throw an error but can't seem to get my server to allow it to be sent as application/xhtml+xml, it just wants to send text/html only. Hrump.

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Using Apache?

Using Apache?

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No, IIS.

No, IIS. Smile

edit - got it. Using .NET text/html is the default ContentType and if you want to serve something else you've got to explicitly state that fact.

This will do it:
Response.ContentType = "application/xhtml+xml";

Of course IE8 doesn't seem to want to work at all using it. Tongue

Thanks for bringing this up because I should know about this but I've taken serving XHTML as text/html for granted for so long that I just never bothered thinking about it. I've got some reading to do, eh?

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Stomme poes

Stomme poes wrote:

My argument for Yeller Screen O Death reaction to code is that everyone gets it. My boss doesn't care that it doesn't render in non-IE browsers... he wouldn't care if it didn't render in some ultra-strict browser. He'd care if he and every potential customer got a Yeller Screen, and he'd demand that it was fixed. Which is what I'd like.

I use the validator, which is strict enough for me. Besides, you can use any Modern Browser and feed it real XHTML and you'll get the Yeller Screen O Death (with a convenient little arrow pointing to the error), so the "standards-only browser" practically exists (barring the bugs all browsers have).

I do see what you mean but it doesn't affect hacked together tag soup sites. A standards only browser that does fail at the hint of a missing tag would be valuable for selling the standards ideals.

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MS has steadfastly refused to

MS has steadfastly refused to provide a true XML parser that will read content delivered as xml+xhtml it was one of the nails in the coffin for XHTML although I did use a content negotiation script once just to cock a snook at those silly sods MS.

Erm IIS, server? not really it's a bloody abomination; use a real server one that isn't riven with damned stupid buggy coding, like gloaming onto all IP addresses despite being told not to and other daft mistakes. Smile

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Oh, here we go again.

Oh, here we go again. Laughing out loud Tongue

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Well, I went back to look at

Well, I went back to look at the "awesome site" for some reason. This is the top of the CSS file:

/* begin Page */
 
/* Generated with Artisteer version 2.3.0.21098, file checksum is C15866E8. */

I guess I called it.

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Verschwindende wrote: Oh,

Verschwindende wrote:

Oh, here we go again. Laughing out loud Tongue

Was that in reference to my screaming frustration, if so, sorry Smile but when MS buggers up well thought out plans to utilise spare capacity on co-located servers by running Apache bound to a spare dedicated IP one just wants to cry in despair.

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Apache++ but in Apache you

Apache++
but in Apache you also have to explictly AddType I believe.

None of the IE's will show the page correctly. All the "real" XHTML pages out there either ignore that browser or do content-negociation.

Quote:

I do see what you mean but it doesn't affect hacked together tag soup sites. A standards only browser that does fail at the hint of a missing tag would be valuable for selling the standards ideals.

Only IE would not show the yeller screen, if served as real XHTML, while the other browsers will do YSoD. And IE wouldn't show the site either: it'll ask you if you want Firefox to download it for you : ) It would work, if practical. It's not something I'd necessarily want to do in a CMS where real humans are adding content (esp comments). You can clean everything up real well through some uber-filter but it's still pretty easy for someone to get some mismatched code in those. Which is one reason few people do real XHTML with serving HTML to IE.

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Stomme poes wrote: Only IE

Stomme poes wrote:

Only IE would not show the yeller screen, if served as real XHTML, while the other browsers will do YSoD. And IE wouldn't show the site either: it'll ask you if you want Firefox to download it for you : ) It would work, if practical. It's not something I'd necessarily want to do in a CMS where real humans are adding content (esp comments). You can clean everything up real well through some uber-filter but it's still pretty easy for someone to get some mismatched code in those. Which is one reason few people do real XHTML with serving HTML to IE.

I'm not seeing how that proves to a potential customer that a competitors site isn't coded properly.

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Quote: I'm not seeing how

Quote:

I'm not seeing how that proves to a potential customer that a competitors site isn't coded properly.

If you build a site in real XHTML, if you goofed or have a single error, there is no page, no site.

I'm saying if it were like that for everyone, if HTML were as strict as XHTML, then people would have to hire competent people to get a site to even appear. One error = no site.

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Stomme poes wrote:If you

Stomme poes wrote:

I'm saying if it were like that for everyone, if HTML were as strict as XHTML, then people would have to hire competent people to get a site to even appear. One error = no site.

Yes, that's my point. It should be like that for everyone. But as you said above "my boss doesn't care". Nobody cares. That's the problem. Standards just don't matter at all. If there's a problem the local business will hire his 12 year old nephew to toy with the site until it looks better. Nephew will just show up here and we'll get him working and that's one less job we get.

Now we're back to the original question. How do you compete with that?

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Service

Verschwindende wrote:

Now we're back to the original question. How do you compete with that?

And back to my original response: it comes down to service and professionalism and perceived value. Not everyone makes their purchasing decisions based on price alone. If someone thinks they're better off getting a product that represents their business from a 12-year-old, then they're not the sort of client you want to work for anyway.

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Tyssen wrote:And back to my

Tyssen wrote:

And back to my original response: it comes down to service and professionalism and perceived value. Not everyone makes their purchasing decisions based on price alone.

It's not that it's based on price, it's the perception that "anyone can do it". If there were some way to prove that not everyone is doing it properly (like a standards only browser) that would really help.

Tyssen wrote:

If someone thinks they're better off getting a product that represents their business from a 12-year-old, then they're not the sort of client you want to work for anyway.

Being 2010, I imagine the only people that don't have websites already would be thrilled with a 12 year old's version.

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Verschwindende wrote: It's

Verschwindende wrote:

It's not that it's based on price, it's the perception that "anyone can do it".

Like I said: the ones who think that are the ones you don't want to work for. Not everyone does. I've yet to come across a client who's thought that way. Admittedly, the ones who do think that way probably aren't contacting me in the first place, but I've not had any reason to complain about the amount of work so far.

Verschwindende wrote:

Being 2010, I imagine the only people that don't have websites already would be thrilled with a 12 year old's version.

People start new businesses all the time; new businesses that need new websites. And just because someone already has a website doesn't mean it's not in need of an update. Most of the website work I've done in the past year has been redesigning old sites, sites that were done by other designers.

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I guess I'm just jaded right

I guess I'm just jaded right now. Thanks for letting me vent. Smile

You are correct, under normal circumstances I wouldn't touch these jobs with a 10' pole. Just in want of work right now.