Web Developers: Money Grubbers,Plagiarists, and Art Fairies

Some guy with a Polish sounding last name who I never heard of before yesterday wrote an old and tired tirade against Search Engine Optimization. I really don’t think it has any merit, and anyway both SEOBook and Danny Sullivan had great counter responses so I’ll let it be. Instead, let’s talk about Web Designers/Developers.

First Came the Web, and it was good. A simple hyper linked system that allowed people to easily jump from page to page and learn from their peers. All you needed was a text editor and a little knowledge of HTML and you could create a web page to share things with friends.

Then came along e-commerce and the first Internet boom, and suddenly everyone needed a website, to sell things and make money off of this thing.

The ascendancy of e-commerce meant that everyone needed a new site designed, shopping carts developed, and a back end for order processing.

And so, like the goat sacrificers and snake oil salesmen before them, a new breed of con man was born, the Web Designer and Developer. These scammers claim they can create for you the perfect web design and shopping cart, help you sell more product and impress clients beyond a doubt.

Do. Not. Trust. Them.

The problem with Web Developers is that good practices and design is obvious, the rest doesn’t work, and it’s poisoning the web. I’m going to tell you about the problems, and then tell you the one true way to design/develop  on the web, based on my years of hits and misses.

1. Best Practices are Obvious, the Rest doesn’t work

Look under the hood of any Web Development plan and you’ll find advice like this: use cookies and sessions to bypass the stateless nature of http, deploy good user interface design,  use a database to store information, make use of templates as much of possible. All of this is a good idea, and none of it is a secret. It’s so obvious, anyone who pays for it is a fool.

Occasionally the rare Developer may come up with an idea that has real merit and creates more cash flow. But that happens ever so rarely. Most web developers simply download some code or templates from Smashing Magazine, slightly change the code, and present it to their clients as the hottest, newest thing online.

So when people come to visit your site, they won’t buy because it looks like every other web site ever designed (a tabbed design? how clever!), and you’ll lose hot leads for your business because they’ve seen the same clip art bought from iStockPhoto 50 times already, which certainly doesn’t create a trusting user experience.

In the end, you’re sacrificing your brand integrity for a crappy user experience.  If you’re using a web developer to plan your site, these visits are going to be bad experiences.

2. Web Development is Destroying the Web

Web Developers make money by selling services like design and programming to clients. So the most important thing for them is to sell more clients on design and development services.

Web Development cockroaches use free web templates, open source shopping carts and Microsoft Frontpage 97 . 99% of Web Developers make minor changes to existing CSS and present it as original. Their goal is not to create something useful and original, but to sell you something.

Web Designing  bastards are behind things like nested tables, bloated Flash controls, and unsanitized mySQL code . Some download web templates and remove the original copyright and sell it on as their own.

It’s a game, and every sale  is a score for the Web Development jerkwads and their disreputable bosses. And every time they win, those of us trying to create quality work and good experiences on the web lose.

Worse than the Designers  are the fanboys and hobbyists  that are making legitimate content online, but get seduced by the Development  dark side into thinking they need to create new widgets, content management systems and web designs. It destroys the user experience,  which turns off your real audience, which ultimately makes you less valuable to advertisers.

The One True Way

Which brings us, finally, to the One True Way to design a website for any business, e-commerce site or hobby page. It’s pretty simple, and I’m going to give it to you here, for free:

Use WordPress. Download Thesis. Start Blogging.

That’s it. All you need to succeed online is WordPress, not some other shopping cart or custom CMS that your sleazeball web developer says he has to custom design for you and will take 2 months and $30,000.

Maybe install some widgets. Tinker with the custom CSS a little bit. Add a plugin or two. That’s it – that’s all it takes to building a real website.

Then, whenever you need to build another site, do it again. And again. You’ll be building websites in no time, at no cost to you or your user experience, and the money will come pouring in.


29 Comments


  1. Although I generally fall on the other side of this argument, kudos to a great article — although most won’t get the sarcasm or the greater point you are making.

  2. I think you’ve got the web development industry confused, at least the people who claim to know what they’re doing versus those who do. I’m not gonna sit here and say i haven’t used some open source frameworks, but this article makes it sound like the industry as a whole is peddling the same shit over and over again which simply isn’t true. Yet you sit here and tell everyone that all of their problems will be solved by grabbing wordpress, getting a free template, and claim they know the entire internet, being 1 exploit away from seeing the true grit of the internet. Your argument has some good points to it, but you’re generalizing an industry into a giant scam which is a simple fallacy.

  3. Like I said, most won’t get the sarcasm or the greater point…

  4. indeed i did, feel free to call me a dumbass

  5. No worries, I don’t take things personally online.

  6. You just stole 80% of this article from Derek Powazek http://powazek.com/posts/2090

  7. Chris, Did you read the article at all or just decided to be an ass?

  8. Brilliant post – like Brian says, a lot of people won’t get it, but it’s excellent.

  9. This is a brilliant retort to an idiotic post. People like Chris are exactly why the idiot’s post got traction in the first place.

    There are scumbags in EVERY industry. Look at the priesthood for crying out loud!

  10. Thanks for the feedback guys.. Good to know I Still have some writing chomps left

  11. Ari,

    Well played sir. Well played. :)

  12. Astonishing that everybody bashing this great post sells WebDev/WebDesign.

  13. Agree with Ryan, Ben, Shark, and Brian, nicely played, the perfect retort post. The only thing missing (maybe in your follow-up FAQ) is “Q: But I’m a web developer who does good. A: Then you’re not a web developer, you’re a programmer.” Then you can pretend you didn’t just brutally slander a lot of good people.

  14. I understand that this is a sarcastic response to the SEO bashing you saw. I just don’t think the parallels work though.

    Certainly any type of business can be run shoddily or deceptively, but that’s not the point of the article you responded to. The point is that people perceive SEO (even the most principled SEO) as “gaming the system”: trying to fool Google, and most importantly web users, into thinking your site is more relevant than it is.

    Certainly there are some slurs in the original that should be responded to, but you’re not doing a good job of defending SEO here.

  15. Craig, the point is that some people who are not educated about SEO perceive it as gaming the system. Some people then go further and rant about SEO, making arguments against something they didn’t understand in the first place.

    Google recommends SEO. OK, Google recommends it. Why would Google recommend something that’s trying to fool it? Answer: because that’s not what SEO is about. Despite what all those “people” who “know” will tell you.

    Search engines see pages in a different manner than humans. A superior web developer will understand how to design for both humans and search engines. A good developer will know how to work with an SEO to do the same. A typical web developer will just build a web site and assume that it somehow magically will do well in a search engine. That’s the same as building a web site and never testing it in IE. You shouldn’t make that assumption.

    Back to the superior web developer, they’d have to be extraordinary to also be a marketer. Part of SEO is keyword research. Part of SEO these days is understanding how you interact with shopping search engines, video search, blog search. How you optimize a local listing. The impact of social media sites.

    That’s a lot for a web developer to also take on, don’t you think. I mean, just keeping up on web development itself seems to be a lot. SEOs can and do add value.

    And sorry for bringing the entire sarcasm tone down :)

  16. Ari – Thank you for the laugh. This post clearly illustrates that point that you can’t paint any industry, web design or SEO, with 1 brush.

    Danny – In all serious, I’m glad you made those comments and it doesn’t at all take away from this beautiful parody.

  17. Good point, plus great plug for the Thesis theme. Funny how you wrote about all the phoney web designers and developers out there. I was hangin’ on the edge before you mentioned the clincher. Great theme, though. :P

    And this note goes to all you people who “think” need design and development services. Start small. Start with WordPress, it has a LOT more features than you think. Then if you decide that you really need custom, expert web design and development, go get some really cool, respected, smart web designer and developer, not just a bunch of script kiddies acting like they’re pro. (I’m not plugging myself, at least not now. Haha!)

  18. Possibly the best thing I have read online for a while, and a great response. At the end of the day, no matter what service you’re buying, online or off, someone out there will try and screw you. Lesson of the day: Be smart.

  19. This is a really great post, but there is a whole segment of the internet development community that hasn’t been sufficiently slandered yet.
    What about those damned graphic designers – bloating the web with all their images and fancy fonts. And for what purpose, just to make web pages look nice.
    Bar humbug. Just write good text.
    But don’t get me started on “professional” copy-writers. They are obviously just another bunch of conmen trying to convince the world that their style of writing will sell more product than what anyone with any common sense could write themselves. The scummy bastards.

  20. Well, well, any(many) developer could do SEO job, hell, we created it ffs. Obviously, the contrary isn’t true since you define best practice by using cookies! Ohh well, i have no points, but so have you :D

  21. Sock puppets, hear me out, you need to go on strike.
    This site is breaking our union. Scabs!!!

  22. I agreed with Derek’s piece more than this one. Most SEO practices are sleazy and deceptive. People just go with their gut to see if they’ll get a high rank in a search engine since no one has access to the ongoing implementation details of how they work. A web developer or designer can at least look into a text file and tell you exactly what’s going on based on what you want for your business. Better that than the crystal ball of the SEO snake oil salesman.

  23. Loving your site! Do you need any graphic work done?

  24. Thank God! Soeonme with brains speaks!

  25. I ‘m noob in blogging and have just built my own site and right now I am doing my best to learn as many as I can regarding this kind of new world. I really like the blog template, could you let me know what layout is this? Is that custom template or is this paid one? But I can’t afford to have paid template nor have the ability to custom design myself. I’m sorry for this noob question, thanks.

  26. I am in the process of starting my own company (private limited by shares)and was wondering if it made any difference to pay for the website from my Business bank account, or from my personnal bank account ?.

  27. yeah, it seems they just changed around the colors. a few differences about how to get to stuff, but i’m new to it so i’m not positive where it all was before. i think the word count on writing is gone….anybody knows where it went…let me know!. http://www.dropofkim.wordpress.com

  28. This particular wasn’t very clear.