Have web professionals lost sight of the big picture?
You know that feeling in your stomach you get when things go awry? That sinking feeling? When I think about the current state of web technologies, I get that feeling.
I can’t help but think, that as web professionals, we have created a pandora’s box. That somehow, without intending it, we have led the world astray.
You see, web developers love their technology. We use it every day. We put our heart and soul into the code. We wake up early in the morning excited about what we are going to create, and because of this we can be a bit opinionated about a lot of things.
But have we lost site of the big picture?
When you talk to web professionals they get all excited about the possibilities of your project. They are genuinely happy to start coding. These people live and breathe programming. In fact, they get so excited sometimes they create huge complex solutions, without asking if that’s what you want, or if these big solutions are even necessary.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
- Albert Einstein
Does the technology matter?
This is a tough question. But the short answer is “No”.
We have reached a point in website building, that most of the Content Management System’s (CMS) are advanced solutions that can handle most people’s needs. For the most part, it doesn’t matter whether you build your site in WordPress or Drupal, PHP or ASP. What matters is that the solutions solves your problems.
And that is the crux of it. The problems have been taking a backseat to the technology. Do you know what the most common question I get asked at conferences is? Everyone wants to know if they should use Drupal or WordPress.
This is the wrong question. If we are placing the technology first, we end up trying to adapt our needs to fit the platform’s solution instead of the technology adapting to solve your own unique problems.
Start asking the right questions
I am often quoted saying, “A website is no longer enough”. It’s true. Gone are the years where we could simply place a site on the internet and watch the money roll in. (If those days ever existed.)
I am constantly talking with people and businesses that are at different stages. They are wondering what exactly their website is doing for them. I am always shocked when I talk to someone who cannot quantify the benefits that their website brings to their business. How did we get here?
Well to start, we’ve been asking the wrong questions.
Instead of people asking whether we can build them a great Drupal or WordPress site, and instead of us asking if we can build them a great website, we need the questions to refocus on what really is important.
The right questions are:
What are you trying to accomplish?
Who are you communicating with?
or even better,
How do we measure success?
Take advantage of your business opportunities with technology
As web professionals we have to understand that we are no longer just coders. To survive we need to be so much more. We need to be as much business analysts as tech gurus. If we don’t truly understand what problems we are trying to solve, how can we build or recommend the right solution?
The truth is that not every developer is going to be able to adapt, and maybe that is for the best. Maybe for this industry to continue to go forward, we need to take two steps back.
All I know is there are plenty of examples of industries that did not change with the technology and they paid the price. Not that many years ago, it was unheard of to have a business without a yellow pages ad, nowadays, not so much.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
- Mahatma Ghandi
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