I was sipping tea at a nearby café when an acquaintance walked in, spotted me, came over and we got to chatting about her new website. “A friend made my website,” she said proudly. “Can you look at it?”
This conversation has been repeated hundreds of times in the 20 years since I chose website work as a career. It’s like the moment somebody learns you are a doctor or massage therapist, and you are asked to “look” at something. There’s no way to diagnose a website, weird spot on a cheek or pain upon bending without having additional information.
I bring up my favorite browser on my smartphone, type in the URL and put on my best straight face. Experience with “looking” at websites built by “a friend” or “my cousin” or a family member or someone new to web design has taught me that I must remain positive in the face of disaster.
After waiting for it to load, the five page website refuses to display on my small cell phone screen. That’s because it wasn’t designed to.
“It is not designed for mobile devices,” I tell her. She tells me she can see it just fine. Do I explain what responsive design is and why it is important?
It takes me a bit of time to figure out what the purpose of the site is, outside of being an online business card.
“What do you want the website to do?” I asked, after gathering the courage.
She blinks. Her eyes tell me she thinks I’m crazy to ask. “I’m selling my services. See? Here’s the form they fill out.”
Indeed, the form is right there on the website. But I knew she would say that and I knew better than to continue the conversation. For starters, she loves her website. All her friends “Liked” it on her Facebook page.
I saw a list of other details a professional web designer would never do.
She gushed over her new website. I rose to leave the table.
Before leaving I stopped, turned and asked, “Did your webmaster design the site to meet your business and target market requirements and website and search engine standards?” I had a sudden pang of being a smart ass and the words came out before I could throttle them.
“What are they?” she asked.
But I was already out of ear shot. I already knew the answer.