Why I Celebrate Website Mistakes

I met a lovely reader today, who responded to seeing my blog post yesterday on accessbility. I wrote about the topic not as expert, but as a student. It’s a role I’m more comfortable with. He showed me a project he’s passionate about. It’s a website built for visually impaired and the blind, either using a web browser reader or a braille setup.

I could learn from it I wanted to. But mostly, it mattered more to me that he could sense I’d like to see it.

Such a small act. It made today a good day.

As someone who is always learning, it can sometimes hurt when someone blasts me publically for not knowing what I’m talking about. Like a guy recently who posted about my arrogance because my UsabiltyEffect was ugly. He had every right to share his opinion. The old site design was horrendous, but it was pulling in business anyway. I attributed this not to design of the website, but to the integrity of my work and word of mouth.

Sadly, he chose to pubically humiliate me in a place where my kids went to see their mom on video. He would have no way of knowing what that milestone meant to my kids. Nor will he know how he ruined it for them.

Nor would someone like him care.

There are always going to be people like Aaron Wall’s When Someone is a Jerk…, and someone else who harrassed a friend of mine by stealing website copy after cozying up to her first, to gain her trust.

A few minutes ago, someone kindly emailed me to tell me a link on the new UE site was broken. I quickly repaired it and thanked her. Part of me feels stupid for not catching it before a visitor did. But this is what owning a web design is all about. Or part of it anyway. We put up our babies and hope they work.

As I said in the video interview, we look at our pages a million times and can’t see the obvious in front of us. When I’m hired to conduct usability audits, I’m a hired new pair of eyes, trained in a specialty that’s helpful in website development. I consider it my duty to be fair, helpful, positive and just as passionate about the success of a client’s website as they are. There are things they may not have known to do.

I’m not a judge or jury. I don’t tell them something is “ugly”. I consider that rude and completely unproductive. What I do offer are suggestions on how to improve something to avoid common usability issues. In most cases, a site design is attractive and tolerable. It isn’t until I try to do something on the site that it “breaks”.

A break is not the end of the world. The sky isn’t falling. This broken thing may have worked last year. But habits change. Preferences change. Visitor demands change. As people become familiar with websites that work really well, they expect ALL websites to. If your’s doesn’t, well. This is something that can be fixed.

And hold your head high while you fix it.

That Word, “Expert”

Another thing that struck me in the video was my discomfort at the interviewer’s introduction, where he referred to me as a “foremost authority”. I didn’t reply. I didn’t agree. I really wanted to disappear underneath the table. So I did the shy giggle thing and prayed he’d ask me a question and change the subject.

I don’t have the ego to be an expert. It’s a scary place I don’t want to go to. Other people can have that role. Some of them have don’t have fancy websites either. Experts are expected to be perfect. I will never be perfect because I don’t want to finish learning and I don’t want to stop making mistakes.

Or, finding new mysteries. The new UE site has no doc type because no matter what one I use, the pages break in Firefox and Netscape. I’ve never heard of this happening before. It won’t validate until this is fixed, so I’m sure somebody will harrass me about that.

The new Cre8pc site is not going to be anything fancy, though the new logo will be. This is because I’ve hired help for it. It’s unusual for me to have anyone do something for me. I’m afraid that if I stop doing, I’ll stop learning.

I’ll show my mistakes, if you show me your’s.

3 thoughts on “Why I Celebrate Website Mistakes”

  1. That is just awful, Kim, and I can understand your reaction.

    Back when I took over moderation of the Site Review Please! forum at JimWorld/VirtualPromote (this was the 90′s), I warned Jim that my reason for doing so was that the website reviews were so hideously vitriolic that people were waiting weeks, if not months, to submit their sites — they’d even stated that they needed that time to summon enough nerve to bear up under the onslaught. To me, this was not cool, let alone helpful. Jim liked the idea.

    So I announced in the Site Review Please! forum that we’d be looking to share productive reviews and comments that would help people improve their sites, that a certain amount of courtesy was in order, and that web design is, among other things, an art (and a heartfelt dream to some) and anyone who ventured into it was putting his/her heart out there. And that anyone who wanted to get his/her jollies from tromping on people’s hearts and dreams was going to get booted real fast.

    In pretty short order, we had a calm, safe space where designers could submit their sites for review and get useful information in return. I personally did hundreds of reviews.

    I have to say that I disliked having to take a heavy hand, but I have a soft spot for people who try to build websites — and I have to say that, in today’s occasional buy-a-template press-a-button age, it still isn’t the easiest endeavor in the world.

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