By Leslie Guttman
June 18, 2007
Don’t hire anyone to design and build your Web site if they can’t answer the following five questions:
1. Do you Scobleize?
Tech evangelist and PodTech.net exec Robert Scoble writes a blog, Scobleizer, that is a must-read for anyone in the Web world. If your Web design candidate “Scobleizes” daily, you can be sure you’re getting more than someone who slaps up pages. A Scobleizer will have the inside skinny on a multitude of companies, new technologies, and coming trends. (Scoble is the coauthor of the book Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers [Wiley, 2006].) In addition, a designer who follows the blog will make use of a compendium of useful tools. For example, if the new wiki by Zoho.com is as good as Scoble claims, your design and development process could be as smooth and fast as a Prius zooming through the carpool lane.
2. Is that Flex in your hard drive, or are you just happy to see me?
Adobe Flex is the next step in Web site evolution: technology to create rich Internet applications across multiple browsers. Flex isn’t taking over Adobe Flash but is providing another way to develop interactive media on the Web, and many developers find it friendlier than Flash. Prebuilt tools allow for grabbing, customizing, and adding different styles to components. For example, Flex possesses a built-in drag-and-drop feature for pulling items over to a shopping cart, and a seamless zoom feature for elements such as maps. Because it uses technologies that are already familiar (it’s built on top of Flash Player 9, for starters), new users can jump in and get results right away.
3. Twitter, Joost, Swarm — or all of the above?
The biggest evolution in Web design is convergence, and an exceptional Web designer or developer will be looking at where the Web is going in relation to phones, TV, and social networking. Twitter allows users to send instant text updates that show up on the Web or on mobile phones; Joost lets users watch TV on the Web; and Swarm shows which Web sites people are visiting. A Web designer who’s hooked on these sites has the right mindset during this phase of growth of the Web. Web designers and developers agree that designing for multiple platforms is a complex task that is still evolving … and they’re still figuring it out. The challenges are great: so many devices, so many differing standards. But someone who isn’t thinking about complex optimization for the digital living room isn’t someone you should bet on.
4. Is that Ruby on your Rails?
5. Do you refuse to wear Crocs?
How can we put this? It’s doubtful someone who would create a clean, elegant site would be caught dead wearing these shoes that look like chew toys. Sure they are practical and comfortable, and you won’t slip off a boat if you’re wearing them; but you need someone who’s a stylist as well as a technoweenie — you’re looking for someone who is up on color palettes, branding, typography, and page design that doesn’t obscure message or content. (Side note: If they subscribe to Communication Arts magazine, that’s a good sign.)
Lastly, Mark Twain wasn’t a technophile, but when he said, “I did not have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead” he was summing up what a great Web geek knows: Less is more. Your Web designer should live (or at least work) by this maxim.
Leslie Guttman is a Bay Area freelance writer. Her work has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post and Salon.