Myth Busters – The Web Design Version

One of my favorite TV shows is undoubtedly, Myth Busters on Discovery Channel. People are very interested in enjoying the latest crazy ideas applied into practice, exactly what the creators of the show, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci know best. I am grateful to them, they offered me many hours of relaxing time and many other people noticed this fact because their audience is remarkable.

For the ones that aren’t enjoying Myth Busters (if there is someone), the idea of the show is to create experiments to demonstrate the value of truth for some dilemmas. The fun part is the large palette of ideas used and the way experiments are realized. The same episode may treat some serious problems, somehow specific to engineering field as calculating the trajectory of projectiles to more “human” ideas as how to combat the smell from a car where the corpses of two pigs were deposited for some weeks. Anyway, I really recommend watching an episode to get a full picture.

The idea of the Myth busters inspired me to create a special post, where some almost axiomatic facts are objectively (I hope) debated…are these really true or are they a wrong conception? Obviously, the post isn’t about scientific facts, it is related to the world of web design. The team behind Myth Busters relies very much on the contribution of the fans therefore I will highly appreciate your ideas- the comment form is for you and we are waiting to see what you think about.

1. Myth one: missing deadlines- is it the worst situation?

The common and worldwide spread mentality is that someone truly professional will never miss a deadline. Is it a real sin, could someone survive if a deadline is extended?

Common conception: a deadline is reflecting your skills and personal brand. If you respect the deadline you are a respectable web designer else…

Personal opinion: nope, missing a deadline isn’t by far the end of the world. In fact, there is the dispute between reliability and quality. It’s true that an answer that starts with “it depends on” seems irrelevant but here it is impossible to give a clear and sure answer. There are clients that really need the respective products emailed as soon as possible or until the deadline is missed but sometimes the time limit is set just to be. Web design isn’t only coding where the experience and the skills are vital, it is inspiration when effectively the layout is created via Adobe Photoshop and it can’t be quantified. It can happen that across a day you could have low efficiency and the results are disastrous but another day to have full inspiration and all your projects are quickly and qualitative finished.

Missing a deadline may be regarded as a negative vote but hurrying and providing a less quality final result is the sign of lacking skills and it is more dangerous. Personally, I am sure that it isn’t a healthy mentality but everything in this world can be delayed! I prefer a delay than a poor work, we all are humans, not robots and the effective power is a subjective fact…you can’t exactly predict what you will do tomorrow.

On the other hand, when establishing a deadline it is better to reserve yourself a “tampon period of time,” if you consider that a project may be realized in five days is better to ask for a week time to provide it. By using this not so spectacular but efficient method it is quite probable not to miss the deadlines.

In the end, the conclusion is that it is awesome to keep all your deadlines but it’s in our human nature not to be perfect and sometimes the products of our work to suffer. In spite of keeping the deadlines no matter how, I honestly recommend to extend these and provide something that is qualitative.

2. Checking your email too often- is it such a waste of time?

The Internet offers unlimited opportunities to waste your time and, a very common practice is to check every second your email account. Is it such a formidable fact or is it a story to scare some freelancers?

Common conception: it is better not to pay attention to small “distractions” as emails and so on. You are working so any of these have the role to lower your attention.

Personal opinion: I use the same example in many of my works. Take the example of a knife, it could be used to create a delicious dish or a criminal may hurt a person with it…is the knife guilty? The same treatment is necessary for email. Besides that, the frequency of checking is the real matter. I am very curious to know how often you check your email. I think it’s extremely interesting to know how other people are working…don’t you think?

I check often the email, it’s true, I waste time but I am updated to the latest news… you never know when an old and important client is in extreme need, his website is down and he can’t find any solution. A client is satisfied when he gets a fast reply, he understands that his project is important for the designer and the relationship is getting stronger; as a result won’t be a bad thing to check the email to see perhaps your customers need a fast turnaround.

The conclusion is that, checked in a wise manner, being updated to the latest emails can’t be a bad habit so proudly announce that this myth is “busted”.

3. Listening to music when working- does it lower the rate of efficiency or the attention span?

Music inspires everyone and it’s a great help for others, you can pass more faster any disappointment when you listen to your favorite songs.

Common conception: music is another “small distraction” that negatively affects the efficiency.

Personal opinion: listening to music is stress relieving and it’s very important for any designer because working under pressure is something normal. Some people can’t do anything unless their workroom is quiet; in this case it’s utile to turn off any source of noise.

Many of my bloggers and designers friends spend the majority of the time in front of the computer and it would be a real disaster not to listen to their favorite radio. As long as you don’t spend all of your time by changing the songs, listening to music is a benefic fact. It doesn’t effectively help in making a better layout but it improves your attitude, give a more optimistic approach. The conclusion is almost obvious: for the huge majority of people working in front of a computer, music is very benefic and improves the state of the subject.

4. A rigid schedule- is it necessary to have a strict working program?

Common conception: having a very clear schedule assures the perfect conditions to working faster and better.

Personal opinion: sometimes the routine, even if we don’t like to accept it, helps in accomplishing all the tasks but, on a long term perspective it’s a real disaster…the boredom is one of the most “killing” enemy of high efficiency. Personally, I agree that keeping a clear schedule in addition to a precise discipline are the key elements of the professional progress, but don’t go to extremes. If you have time and prefer to do something else, then do it. I recommended, not very often, doing everything you want…if you prefer reading something but yesterday you had scheduled improving your CSS skills then read, let the CSS for another day. Once again, don’t do these daily. In this manner all your work time is an amalgam but sometimes let your imagination free.

The organization of your schedule seems a waste of time but it is totally wrong to neglect it. A very good program contributes enormously to evolving. Having some checkpoints reveal if you are on the good way or it is time to change.

The conclusion, “confirmed”: for most of us, it’s very useful to have clearly established what should be done the next days but it shouldn’t the single scope in life.

5. Social media- is it a waste of time or something useful?

Common conception: Facebook and Twitter are the most important social networks and usually, the time spend on these is important and the majority simply lose time by chatting about uninteresting stories.

Personal opinion: social networking developed fantastically in the latest years and even the specialists aren’t sure about the future of it. No matter how cool it is, the influence is mostly negative… only disciplined people manage to resist to the temptations. Willing or not, social networking is an addictive activity, everyone must be aware of it; by recognizing it, half of the problem is resolved.

It isn’t a valid solution to renounce to any social presence. There isn’t any blogger or designer that is not involved in one famous network. The real matter how the time spend enjoying them is administered. Personally, I prefer to separate the personal and professional life but in most cases, the difference is very vague. Anyway, promoting your service by using this “terrifying” tool is mandatory. The big issue is how you handle the rest of your time. No one may say that chatting with your friends is wrong, but in order to be competitive, avoid these conversations while working.

The conclusion: confirmed for the huge majority of us.

6. Job boards- useless or places to get real clients?

Common conception: the job boards are a good intention but badly understood by both designers and clients.

Personal opinion: I partially agree with this…the idea behind a job board is to create the connection between the customer and the specialist; this way, time is saved. The client finds very quickly a specialist ready to be hired and the specialist doesn’t spend time to search for a client needing his services. This story seems perfect unless you don’t include human nature. The designers, wanting to have more and more clients lower the prices much under humiliation limits. A Facebook project can’t cost only few tens of dollars. The customers, very avaricious, don’t consider this and hire the cheapest designers to make impressive websites… the result? The designer can’t finalize the project and the client is frustrated that the upfront amount of money is lost. Unfortunately, this is one face of job boards but there are still many exceptions. Yep, on job boards you could find very good customers, quite interested in a long time collaboration that pay decently, according to the work realized. The same, very talented and reliable specialists search new jobs available. The good news is that some job boards distinguished from the rest and the real experts use them intensively.

The conclusions: partially busted, partially confirmed, depend on which sides are you situated.

7. Are they too many designers worldwide?

Common conception: making a website isn’t a very difficult activity, usually it is the activity of children passionate about computers.

Personal opinion: this mentality is still widespread and people strongly believe in. This idea is alimented with the great number of designers or portfolios that are promoted everywhere on the web. Under these circumstances, many people consider that there is an abundance of web designers but the reality is different. Nobody takes into account this, but on the entire planet there are a lot of people needing a website or some similar services. They don’t use very aggressively the online advertising and few know their problems. Somehow, at the global level, the number of people involved in web design satisfies the demands of people. The fact noticed by common individuals is the inequity between designers: some have tons of work to do while others still wait for a client. In this case there is no matter, as everything else build on the basis of capitalism, only the best survive. This situation is very logical: the quality providers will get more and more clients while the amateur ones, which disrespect the clients, must rebrand and become serious.

8. Could someone call himself web designer unless he graduated a design school?

Common conception: usually, a person that provides web design services should have studied this domain and, consequently, the studies finished must be in this field. If it’s possible to learn by oneself why doesn’t everyone do so… a great amount of money would be saved.

Personal opinion: the myth is totally busted!!! Let’s suppose you admire someone’s works… if you find out that he is self-taught, would you appreciate less his projects? A wise client will never ask for diplomas or what kind of courses the designer graduated; he will be interested in seeing the previous works and maybe some testimonials from other past clients. The supreme proof that sustains this statement is the huge number of amazing portfolios owned by self-taught web designers.

The good news is that, anybody, in addition to a strong will and many hours of intensive work, may become a very good web designer. The Internet is the place where every information is at hand therefore it will be ridiculous not to find resources to learn web design. The blogs treating this subject are very numerous and the tips presented are really useful. The practice couldn’t be neglected and the tutorials teaching how to create effectively a new layout are numerous, diversified and qualitative.

9. Is it true that sometimes the best web design agencies/web designers don’t win the best projects?

Common conception: the best ones must gain the best projects, else it isn’t fair.

Personal opinion: the myth is true and this fact may be logically deduced. Unfortunately, we live in a small world full of opportunities; some people noticed this fact and create various methods to get exposure – advertising and marketing are the guns of the new world. Yep, under these circumstances there is no surprise that the most talented designers may not find a project. The ones that pay attention to marketing and invest in becoming famous gain important projects.

On the other hand, going to extremities is wrong; marketing without strong skills and poor services offered is in vain. The winning combination is to have a good balance between the real potential and the “marketed” ones. No matter how competitive is the environment, a lie is still a lie (it’s true that some consider that under the name of “marketing” everything has an excuse).

Finally, our show post is at the end, we really hope you enjoyed these myths. Unlike the real myth busters we don’t propose dangerous experiments but the ideas stated here are useful to any web designer. Once again, feel free to propose your own myths, once these are enough, I promise you that I will come with the “second episode” to discuss other interesting facts.

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  1. Nice article.Great list of axiomatic facts that are objectively debated.Thanks for sharing.

  2. that’sa very good article, funny and true :P

  3. My Take on the Myth’s:
    1. First of all if you can at all help it don’t set a deadline. In our industry this kills the creative flow and ultimately the design suffers! If you do commit to one then by all means, your reputation is at stake and you need to keep on task!
    2. Checking email is part of keeping in touch with your clients and potential business. Not checking your email is no different than saying ‘I am working today and I am not going to answer the phone”. If you value your business and email is the primary way that people contact you then check it early and check it often. (Miss a deadline but don’t miss an opportunity!)
    3. If you have a weak mind and have no focus then don’t listen to the radio and because you have a weak mind look for a line of work where you don’t have to think!
    4. Keep a schedule and it will go a long way in keeping you organized. Stay organized and screw the deadline!
    5. O, I see, social media is important but your email, where people know you is not? Someone has their priorities all messed up! Keep an eye on social media but don’t make it your focus, check your email frequently and social media outlets occasionally.
    6. Don’t rely on job boards if you want to keep your dignity and value your work. If you are desperate then by all means try your best to underbid the overseas design farms. I personally view these boards as the sewer from which the ordinary spews out like a rotten gas!
    7. Broaden the topic because there are way too many people in the world period! If you are passionate about what you do others will feel that and you will have no problem getting quality work to keep you busy! I say there are just enough designers to keep the job boards humming along nicely…;)
    8. If you want to really know this field, buckle down and learn it. There are plenty of free and cheap resources to learn it if you have the desire and the discipline to do it. If you want a cheap education that will only give you a taste of what it is like in this business then by all means waste your money on a formal education where you will spend $50 grand and a free subscription to to learn what you really need to know to be successful!
    9. You nailed this one Daniel, Nuff said!

  4. Great job on this! You made something that is usually pretty confusing very simple and easy to understand. I LOVE your tutorial.

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