If I was to pick an industry that is most heavily polluted by amateurs and con artists, it would be the triad of web design, SEO and social media/online marketing. There are only a few industries that I can name that are affected by a plague of self proclaimed experts that manage to breed much like rabbits. This may sound rather odd and unreasonably harsh, but it is a very serious problem and causes much grief to qualified professionals in said industries that have to deal with the fallout, false expectations and bad perceptions on a daily basis.
Why is this the case?
In terms of the web design industry, this is a relatively new phenomenon that has developed at the same time when social media networks gained ground and various open source Content Management Systems (CMS) started becoming popular.
To find the answer, you have to look to the time of the dot-com bubble, i.e. the turn of the century when the world wide web started gaining ground as a legitimate content delivery platform. You will find that entering the Web Design & Development industry was a very difficult affair.
Development of any kind of a website required intricate knowledge of web-specific scripting languages and technologies, solid understanding of the the processes that underwent behind the scenes and hours spent doing analysis, design, coding and testing.
Development shortcuts were not readily available. Almost every website built at that time was tailored to a particular business and required a high degree of competence from the professionals that were hired for the job. It also meant that web design and development was a fairly expensive exercise as good professionals were hard to come by and commanded a premium.
Fast forward to today, and we have a much different landscape. Open source content management systems have drastically lowered the barrier of entry to the industry. As the industry no longer requires significant technical expertise to enter and has no formal qualification requirements that weed out the amateurs, every man and his dog is now a web designer, SEO and online marketing specialist! This effectively lowered the image of the industry and drove down both the price and quality to the bottom. A good parallel could be made by comparing the web development industry to law – imagine the mess that would occur if you could start a practice without formal qualifications?! While some industries such as law, accounting and real estate have barriers that have resulted in a certain standard of service, the web design and development industry does not have this luxury.
The paradox with these developments in the industry is that the content management systems commonly in use today are far more complex to customise and extend – and require even more specific development skills than earlier custom websites. The amateur web designers that use the freely available open source systems, basic themes and templates to put business websites together do not have the technical expertise and experience to develop a proper working custom solution for your business – hence if your business requires anything beyond a basic website, you are out of luck.
How can you spot the amateur/con artist from a true qualified professional with experience?
It’s not difficult to separate the amateurs from professional web designers and developers.
Professional web designers and developers are always focused on delivering a solution that is tailored to your specific business. The web design and development is quite similar to a software engineering life cycle – it is a very thorough process that involves a lot of attention to detail.
Developers with a software engineering background may have their own content management systems to demonstrate and sell, while amateur web designers will opt out to use ready-made and open source content management systems.
Professionals will rarely throw around random buzzwords for extra credibility. They do not push services to take advantage of hype in the market place, such as social media marketing.
Social media marketing is heavily pushed by new entrants in the web design and development industry due to an established false perception in the market place that it is a “free” or “low cost” marketing solution – hence an easy sell to a potential client.
And the most important distinction is that all professionals in the IT industry hold tertiary qualifications – such as Computer Science, Information Technology or Software Engineering. These qualifications are quite difficult to obtain.
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