Amidst a Plague of Web Designers

An online exploration for quality local web design companies leads me to a surprising realization.

First and most important, for anyone interested in improving their website design skills there are two books I would put on the “mandatory buy now” list:

I have spent the better part of a week carefully working through the pages of both tombs and feel already transformed in terms of CSS and design capability. I was inspired by these books to create (in Photoshop) a mock-up that is a million times better than the mock-up that I’d scratched together on a piece of paper only three weeks ago. I’m rather excited to spent the next few days actually encoding this into XHTML and CSS to bring it to a reality.

And so now with enthusiasm I’m in the mood to work as a web designer. As anyone who has read my blog will know, there are aspects to being the independent freelancer that have driven me to misery so this afternoon I went on a web-search to see if there were any web design companies in Northern Los Angeles for which I would want to work. My findings have been both sobering and hilarious.

My process was relatively simple: I looked everywhere I could think of for web design companies, focusing on the San Fernando Valley area. I looked in City Search, the Yahoo! Yellow Pages, Google Maps and Craigslist. Anytime I found a company I would open its website and

  1. Check to make sure it was really located locally.
  2. Gauge the immediate physical appearance and layout of their own website.
  3. Crack open the Page Source and see what was under the hood.

It seemed to me that this was the most logical approach. Any web design company is going to put its best possible design on its own front page to show off the quality of work they do.

My findings were really rather depressing. I have not yet found a company (and I’ve now gone through dozens of them) with whom I would ever do business. Some have entire pages without content. Check out Rumble Design and (after you wait for the painfully-long Flash page-loading) go to their “studio” page. (I can’t hyperlink to that page because it’s all done in Flash.) The page just says “Company. Studio Info. Studio Info. Studio Info. Studio Info. (etc.)”

Another boner is Ocean West Designs. The page title for every single page is “Untitled Page”. Not only does this demonstrate they’re not putting out a carefully proof-read website, but without (a) use of the “title” tag, (b) any meta tags in the header or (c) use of any header tags (ex. “h1”, “h2”, etc.) the search engines are never going to index their site. That’s about the most search engine un-optimized you can make a site. (Except doing it all in Flash.) The kicker here? They advertise Search Engine Optimization among their services!!!

I don’t know whether to hold my sides laughing or to start crying. And God help the poor clientele out there who don’t know as much as I do about how to separate quality from crap.

In 2 hours of searching I found only one company with good work. When I cracked open the Page Source I almost felt aroused. The company is Tensegrity Systems, a group of seven MIT graduates. The sad part: they’re stationed on the other side of the damn country.

Author: Murray Todd Williams

I live in Austin, Texas. I'm enthusiastic about food, wine, programming (especially Scala), tennis and politics. I've worked for Accenture for over 12 years where I'm a Product Manager for suite of analytical business applications.

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