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Keeping Up With The Web Design Joneses

By Char

We have not had a good debate discussion around here lately and frankly, I’m bored with the whole Page Rank hullabaloo already, so let’s talk about something else.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to web design techniques, development, and programming.

If you are a designer or developer, you have probably come across this predicament at least once in your career. You launch a new web site for a client using the “latest and greatest” techniques, have the trendiest graphics, and all the right SEO techniques built in. The client is thrilled and you have a shiny new star to add to your portfolio.

Then, 8 months later you look back on the site and say to yourself “what was I thinking?” After all, the coolest designers are now using something new, the drop shadow effect on the logo looks so dated compared to the new glossy logos everyone is sporting, and Google went and changed the search algorithm AGAIN.

Do you:

  • Approach the client and ask them to pony up for a brand spanking new site design?
  • Recommend a few subtle tweaks to update the site a bit?
  • Stick with the attitude that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it?

And what about that new site you are getting ready to design – you know the one that the client wants to do everything under the sun but their budget just isn’t going to be enough? How do you approach that kind of challenge? Do you design what you know using the fastest, least expensive method even if that means reverting to older techniques that you can do in your sleep?

Keeping up with the latest design trends, platforms, techniques and standards is a lot of work! How do you balance what you invest in professional development with actually earning money using what you already know? And when is it important to keep up with the Joneses and when is it okay not to?

Yes, I know I asked a lot of questions, but these are just a few of the things that are on my mind. Join the discussion and tell me your thoughts on keeping up with the Joneses!

Categories : Web Design



All good questions Char, but such a variety of ways to handle it. The big thing to me is every piece of work we put out has (and does) provide the chance to show what we can do. Good sites get us our next good client. In trying to strut our stuff every time out, I see it as good marketing and branding. Does this mean sometimes we exceed a budget? Yes. But it also means we have to push ourselves to find efficiency and minimize the ones we “learn” on, but it truly is like continuing education or R&D. I hope that makes sense.

As far as looking back at the “that’s so 8 months ago” designs, I try to revisit past sites and see if some subtle tweaks can be accomplished to uphold our level of work. I usually like to get at least 2 years of shelf life out of a layout/design before an overhaul. But then again, all situations are different. Functionality is different, you can always add, tweak and improve that as you track patterns, get user feedback or measure yourself against the competition.

Ummmm … I should have just posted on this. :)


Man am I fed up with the PR debate as well… who actually cares?!

Sad thing is, I’m not a designer either, so I have limited ability to answer this too.

When it comes to old designs, even if they aren’t that old, I suppose it is up to the client to tell you that’s what they think. While it is nice to be proud of one’s own work, once you hand it over it is then the client’s responsibility, and if they want improvements they pay for them. What is nice is that you can always keep your own site as up to date as you want. It is your flagship and the one that you are initially judged on, so I guess it should reflect whatever design side of you that you want. In my case, it is probably good that I’m not a designer!


Aaron – thanks for starting this out. I had a feeling that your answers would be something along those lines – your clients are spoiled by your high level of customer service and excellence.

I think 2 years is a good shelf life for a site, too.

Phil – One of the biggest challenges as a designer (esp. a busy one) is keeping your own site up to date – something like the saying about the cobbler’s children having no shoes? It’s often hard to justify spending time on your own site when there is paying work to be done. But it does need to be done.

And now what to do when a client asks for blinking text that is so yesterday? Do you try to talk them out of it or just do it?


Wow! Aaron is really great about customer service!

With all of the different jobs that I have it is hard to follow up. But I do so probably 2 times per year. Some of my past clients want an update and some do not. So like what Phil said, it’s up to the client.”

Next question: If the client wants a feature that is out-of-date, I explain why it was/is used, why it is good and bad, my recommendation and then they choose. It is hard when they go with what they really want – but somehow we make it all work.


Thanks Char … hopefully some of them like me/us for that.

Blinking text! I love it (sarcasm running wild). Funky requests and what to do with them all boils down to the client relationship. Some clients value the experience and knowledge a good web guru brings (GREAT CLIENTS!) and they listen to the explanation, facts and theory and participate in the right route … but then others are their own ‘expert’ on it and just want to see their ideas. :)

Duh, they just read an article on on great web design! (they did fail to notice it was written in May 2000)


Arrghh. This topic gives me an Excedrin headache.

You’ve got your clients who are happy to keep the same site for 10 years with no changes (so you don’t want to link to THAT anymore in your online portfolio), and others want you to implement every new change or design they hear about as the months go by (gratis of course, since “I think my site should always be current and I don’t feel that’s expecting too much of you as my designer!”)

As design has become more sophisticated and the various technologies one needs to know expand endlessly, I wonder if it’s time to move on to a different field.

Thanks for opening this can up, Char. Even though I think I have participated in this conversation before and probably will again… give me a tylenol, please…


Katie – I think this is one of the biggest challenges for a solo web professional. Staying on top of the latest trends, learning new skills and maintaining the dinosaur sites – hand me a Tylenol or two also…


I think if you have an ongoing service relationship with your client, this is easier. Suggesting platform upgrades for usability purposes (if you can point out usability on their end or web visitors’ end) also helps. You can also suggest moving from tables-based HTML to CSS for accessibility and SEO benefits. Is this to drum up new business (tapping into existing/past client base) or to keep your portfolio competitive? Perhaps dating designs in your portfolio, (with case study/problems the design solved at that time) can frame the situation, there’s a difference between a nice design circa 2002 vs. a 2007 design.

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