Why you shouldn't build Web sites

My first experience with the Web was via a 14.4k modem, when 28.8k was the new, cutting-edge, high-speed technology that was going to transform our lives. Yeah, right.

One big issue at the time was conserving bandwidth by producing clean code and small, fast-loading graphics files—critical for me, as I was (and still am) featuring photographs on my site.

The reason, and the lesson to be learned from those early days, is still relevant. It's simple: people will not wait longer than about ten seconds for a Web page to reveal its meaningful content. Today's connection speeds have improved the amount of data you can transfer in that time, but haven't changed the short attention span.

Another thing that became painfully obvious as the Web exploded was that very few sites had been constructed with the most important person in mind—the visitor.

At one end of the scale, they featured a mismatched mess of badly designed, home-made pages, roughly held together with a few links (that worked sometimes); at the other, huge (in file size) flights of fancy which were more about showcasing the designer's ability than communicating any message that the site's owner might have had.

Happily, things have improved. The Web's been around long enough now for a dedicated few to have studied not only how it works, but how people use it. Others have tirelessly campaigned for the establishment of standards for the medium, in support of yet more who continue to strive to define those standards.

As a small business proprietor, trying to make the best of this new medium as an adjunct to my own endeavors, I learned (sometimes the hard way) what worked and what didn't. I learned how to craft clean, intuitive interfaces that augment, not mask, a business's identity. I learned how to write efficient code for fast-loading sites. I learned how to implement the latest standards to separate style from content, resulting in sites that are easy and efficient to update, upgrade and maintain.

And I got so inspired by the potential of the Web that it became more than a tool I used in my business—it became my business.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you should do the same—just the opposite. Be good at what you do. But if you want an elegant, efficient site working for you, let me build it. These companies did...

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