There are many definitions for ‘web designer’. We’ve always considered ourselves as a front-end developer, depending on who you ask or who your client is. Many clients, unfamiliar with what the various tasks involved in building a website, usually believe that a web designer can do anything:

“Can you add an invisible form in the middle of the Home page so that it pops up when someone visits the page? I want their name, address, phone number, city, state, zip code, date of birth and blood type. I want that information emailed to me immediately after they fill out the form so I can get it on my phone and iPad. I also want to collect all of the information for all of the visitors, sort it by City and State, and let me access it so I can build my email lists automatically. Oh, and please make sure they fill in everything or they can’t go anywhere else on the website.”

The above is an exaggeration of course, (or maybe not?). With the general approach of “rush” these days, and the flood of constant marketing, most companies looking for a website want anything and everything they can get that will give them the extra edge for an opportunity to market their goods. That is perfectly understandable as everyone in business wants to succeed and stay in business.

As a small web design business of two people and some part-time staff, we often find that an existing or possibly new customer will ask us for something that is “outside the box” of our normal duties as a web designer. (Never did find out how you “think in a box”). It can become a bit tricky. Because we like our clients, we see what we can find and/or do to meet their requirements.

We have received calls from possible customers wanting so many diverse things that we have to say we can’t do the job because it would require a programmer, a designer, a marketer, etc., all at once. We hate to do that but we also have to be realistic. We already know that either it would cost a lot more than the customer would be willing to pay, or it would take too much time to hone our skills in something that isn’t in our areas of expertise.

Noticing that we are getting more and more calls of that nature, we started thinking maybe we needed to go back to school again after all – especially when you get the growing feeling that you are turning too much business away.

We are members of the  International Web Association (IWA) and have been for some time.  There are only so many hours in a day to take classes and run a business at the same time, so online courses are a must and IWA offers many excellent ones.

While browsing the website, I came across something that I found very interesting. It seems there is world-wide confusion as to who does what for website building and maintenance. So a group of professionals got together, (IWA Italy) and coordinated the building of a list of website-related job titles in an attempt to standardize the job descriptions. There are 21 Web Skills Profiles. (If you are interested in getting into the business, you might want to look at these.).

I won’t list all of the titles and descriptions they provide but, for us, the Frontend Web Developer mission description says:

“The Frontend Web Developer is responsible for creating and implementing Web-based interfaces with special attention to customer specifications and the target use. He or she contributes to planning and defining the server side output together with the Server Side Developer and/or the Web DB Administrator. He or she implements security for the interface by approval from the Web Security Expert.”

What that says is: We will build a website based on the customer’s requirements, set up the website so that visitors will see what the customers want them to see and make sure it works with the hosting.

Well, that is a surprise. First off, based on the profile, it appears that the other guys mentioned in the description haven’t been showing up for work. That might explain why we have been working harder at trying to meet all of the customers’ requirements by ourselves.

Secondly and more importantly, we are doing a much better job at what we do than what we thought. We are doing the work of about 15 people all at once and successfully doing it. Of course, that doesn’t include the business side of things – accountant, admin, secretary, etc., but goes with the territory.

So, are we complaining? Absolutely not. In the real world, if you want to build websites for a living, you need to be flexible and try to accommodate customers when you can. You have to be prepared to tell some customers you can’t meet their requirements and tell them why.

We pride ourselves in providing the best customer service we can, even for those customers who are not ours. So being honest with them is the best policy even if not the best financially.

So tell us what you think and how you handle all of the jobs you have to do by yourself. Do you think the customer demands are too much? Do you turn customers away if you think you can’t meet their requirements or do you try to do it anyway? We would be interested in knowing.

In the meantime, I’m looking for those people who failed to show up for work.