Are you solving your client’s problems, or just showing off?

You may not know it, but your client hired you to solve a problem. They did not hire you just to build a website, make an app, or design a new logo. That may be part of the solution, but your first task is defining the problem. Is your client not getting new business from the website? Is an outdated design creating the wrong initial impression? Are technical issues causing the site to fall in search engine positioning? Do design flaws contribute to a lack of engagement and a high bounce rate?

Your client may be aware of some of the challenges, though they may not know how to access the Google Analytics account or if it is even installed. They may just have a vague idea that the website needs to be mobile-friendly, and that the current design looks out of date. Your role as the professional is to help your client define the issues being addressed and what technical and design solutions will be used to meet the project goals.

The web design and development industry is awash with tutorials and training designed at teaching you the latest techniques. Keeping up to date on the technology and trends is a great idea, but what often seems to be missing is the larger context. Instead, we are presented with an overwhelming amount of technical detail and the presumption that learning about it is worth our time. Some of those details are essential while much of it is not. If you focus on the technology alone, you might just forget the greater objective.

Years ago, Flash websites were the norm. Customers spent thousands of dollars on custom websites that were little more than online brochures with excessive animation. This was not a sustainable approach. The website content was closed off in a plugin, unable to be indexed by search engines. And the content was largely inaccessible to the keyboard and users with disabilities. The Flash plugin itself ultimately became a security risk. Better alternatives arose to handle desktop and mobile applications.

At one point, Flash was the best choice for building interactive applications and displaying videos. But Flash was never the best choice to reproduce what could be a standard HTML website. It was used to add heavy interface animations to otherwise simple websites. Too often this was an excuse for web designers and developers to showcase technical knowledge and was not serving the long-term interests of their customers.

Today’s applications are based on standard web technologies that are not going anywhere (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on the front-end). Even so, you may still find an animation-heavy website that looks like a throwback to the Flash heyday. Recent commercial WordPress themes often suffer from this issue. They are designed for the purpose of selling the theme. It may look exciting, but at the expense of slow load times and a poor user experience.

Taking a step back to recall the reason why you are learning a new technology will help both you and your clients. Remember the problem you are solving, and think about the end users. Ask yourself if you are contributing value or just using the project as an excuse to show off.

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