Small is Beautiful


Perhaps the day of the one man band website designer are over. Perhaps prospects look for efficiency, accountability and quality in a bigger company?

babyToo late in my case even if it’s true. I get great satisfaction from churning out a  quality website. One that I can go back to in three months and say to myself ‘ That still looks good!’.

I don’t want to be just a content editor, SEO-er or just a designer all my life. I want to turn out a finished product from scratch and watch it climb Google and get traffic.

It’s almost like getting a puppy and watching it grow to maturity.

There’s an advantage in being part of a team of course – principally in the throwing of ideas about. A OMB website designer is a bit like an author sitting in front of a typewriter and a blank sheet.

However, there are no egos, no office politics, just you and a clean screen. You have the freedom to try this or that, to wander off or even take time off which would be difficult as part of a team with a boss.

There’s a visceral connection between you and your websites. You have brought them to life so you keep an eye on them like hen with chicks.

Corraling them, shepherding them, preening them. In short, you feel responsible for them. As part of a larger operation, they would be just another account.

You feel the pain when you lose a client, the elation when a site gets to the top. The satisfaction – and vindication – when you get a small pat on the back from a client. When something goes wrong, it’s yourself that you kick.

fartI’m far too old to work for someone else now. I know I can produce a quality piece of work unaided. My policy has always been to use the simplest of tools to create a magnum opus.

Others are constantly chasing the latest big thing whilst never mastering even the basics. Rather learn to drive a piece of software and get it to cough up results quickly than spend hours on yet another learning curve for a feature that may be a dubious advantage at best.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t trawl the TutsPlus type sites. These blogs are excellent and my browser has hundreds of bookmarks from such sites. However, life is too short to tyre-kick every new brain fart.

I always keep an eye open for software with prospects. If it’s still around in two years, its a) been adopted as a staple, b) got bugs out of it and c) much easier to use. Let others do the heavy lifting I say!

Outsourcing Website Design Work

Sometimes, you don’t have the expertise to complete certain website design tasks – PHP/ASP is an example. The option is outsourcing this website work overseas.

If you take a bus in India, it deposits you almost inevitably at your destination on a spot of sand at the edge of the road, from whence you fight with tuktuk drivers to get the best price into town.

durban web designers - outsourcing to  technosoftI was waiting for a bus in Jodphur to take me to Pushkar on said patch of sand. I had about 45 minutes until the bus arrived and I looked around and right next to me was a small two storey office  building with the words ‘Technosoft – Website Developers‘.


I have time to go in and chew the fat. It turned out they also had offices in Delhi and Baltimore. A couple of years later I had need to get a member login system and contacted them. They were very reasonable and after one  bit of editing got it right in about a week. I was impressed.

I got the client to deal with them directly and I just added the code.

Outsourcing to PHP Jabbers

durban web designers - outsourcing to jabbersA few years ago I came across PHPJabbers. They sell PHP scripts and will install the whole thing for you at no charge if you want. They’re based in Bulgaria.

Their selling point is their support and over the years, there have been plenty of tickets. They will come back to you typically within an hour – very efficient.

I have bought some scripts for myself to try and for clients. The scripts are just the hook because although they are standalone, they will inevitably need some modification which they are pleased to do. The modification rate is very reasonable.

They will also design a whole website around the script which is a little expensive, apart from the to-ing and fro-ing necessary to finish it.

Simple CMS

They also have free scripts. One of these used to be a Simple CMS.

This is a fantastic little system. It’s not a full architecture but can be bolted on to any part of any page. It uses a MySQL database and the FCK editor so the backend is like WordPress’s. Now, they charge $28 for it.

cmsMost of their scripts have two licensing levels – User, for a single application and Developer for up to five applications. The Developer licence is about three times the user licence.

© Durban Web Designers 2013

Startpage – a Google Alternative?

I’m getting sick of Google throwing its weight around and increasingly paranoid about my online details. Startpage claims to be completely anonymous and uses the Google search engine so I’m giving it a try. If it works, it’ll be my default search engine. As a web designer I still have to use Google for my clients.

“Every time you use a regular search engine, your search data is recorded. Major search engines capture your IP address and use tracking cookies to make a record of your search terms, the time of your visit, and the links you choose – then they store that information in a giant database.

Those searches reveal a shocking amount of personal information about you, such as your interests, family circumstances, political leanings, medical conditions, and more. This information is modern-day gold for marketers, government officials, black-hat hackers and criminals – all of whom would love to get their hands on your private search data.”

OMB Web Designers

I’ve not seen any figures as to the employee numbers of web designers businesses either here in South Africa or overseas. However, I would hazard a guess that a good 25% of the businesses are OMBs (one man bands).

The calculation would be complicated by the fact that website design is sometimes not the principal endeavour of the business and may exist along with hosting, marketing, design and printing.

The Choice of Website Design

durban web designers businessI worked in a university environment for many years and when I left I was faced with the ‘What now?” question. Universities get technology very early on. We had email from the early 1980s and the web from around 1995.

I remember my friend bursting into my office in 1982  telling me that he’d found a way of writing a letter on one computer and getting it read on another remote computer. I thought “This’ll never take on”. Remember that there were very few people who could read the letter. Mostly those in other universities.

In 1995, there was only a single browser and you could have the website background any colour as long as it was grey. Nobody knew what direction the ‘Internet’ would take – or even if it would take any direction at all.

The Hardware

durban web designers computerWeb design is not demanding of hardware. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.  Even the computer can be a very simple one. A Pentium P1 would probably handle the programmes I use.

You don’t need clean air, three phase electricity, running water, cooling towers. You don’t even need anyone else. An aircon is nice though in Durban.

The Brainware

What you do need is a knowledge of HTML, adequacy with a graphics programme and a good understanding of usability.  Common sense in other words.