Not every web design project is a web design project

Nov 13th, 2014 by Max Tokman

A popular system of interlinked hypertext documents, known as “the web”, makes almost any information ranging from funny animal videos to software training readily accessible.  In some instances, it creates an illusion that task of any complexity can be treated as a DIY project - all you have to do is run a search, ask a question on specialized web forum and that would provide enough guidance to get it done.  We beg to differ.

Consider a case of visually designing a highly process-driven portion of a website, such as ecommerce or restricted user area displaying account data.   Initially, it might sounds like a straightforward web design job - after all, we all shopped online or accessed our banking or similar password-protected service, so as users we seem to know what information should be presented and what should be individual steps in the overall process.  That thinking is of course misleading.  There are huge technical, legal and business considerations behind every website containing confidential information you ever visited and just because you have ordered on Amazon or accessed your checking account online doesn’t mean you can design or conceptualize websites of similar complexity.

Adding to the seeming ease with which folks take on these intricate projects is the inexhaustible supply of well intended web forum experts, readily providing tidbits of technical guidance for questions of any complexity.  What do we need for an ecommerce website? 128-bit SSL certificate and Drupal!  How do we do a single sign on?  Just use XML or JSON file, done!  There’s no task too big or challenge too great for online experts.  And so with their encouragement, added confidence and a checklist of required software tools and best practices, web designer proceeds to take a lead on a highly technical project.  That is not a wise thing to do.

The correct approach is to find the right technology resource and engage them in collaborative effort to get the job done.   For instance, in a sample case of financial firm (“the client”) that wants to provide their customers with online account access, we suggest the following options, working with existing technology provider who handles client’s account data:

Option A: ideally, that technology provider already has a solution for accessing accounts data online and can provide web designer with guidance on processes that need branding to match the rest of the website.

Option B: if the technology provider does not have such solution already in place, the next best option is to explore if they are interested in working on creating web services or an API to accomplish the task at hand. In this case, technology provider will work directly with client to develop job spec and implement functionality, and creatives will be leading UX and branding for online account access.

Option C: if the technology provider does not have solution in place, and they are not ready to collaborate on data access project, the right thing to do is not to take on that part of the project. This can be a very large undertaking with many dimensions, including security, legal liability, and data integrity, which all go well beyond web design and should be spearheaded by technology provider. Taking on this project means getting into financial software development, which is not advisable without appropriate background.

To sum it up, not every project has our name on it, and the best we can do is build a team to get the job done.  But in the absence of such collaborators, the best approach for jobs that are not the right fit would be to pass.


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