Saturday, April 30, 2005

OMG, I'm a website design whore

It's funny. No it's not.

Never design a website for a school. Consider yourself warned.

I've been hired to create a website that I will never add to my portfolio, and if asked, will deny I had anything to do with. I've been asked to create the ugliest website in the universe. One that clashes with every aesthetic design sense acquired by anyone who's web-browsed for more than three months.

They want big, bold, black font. They want an enormous header, leaving very little space for content. They want primary colors. Red. Green. Yellow. Blue.

And the font for the tagline is so dated. It looks like something on a Mac SE.

I told them softer colors were more pleasing to the eye, that putting the large words in grey and their tagline in black would make the tagline stand out more. I created an alternate with a slightly softer color scheme that was still strong, but didn't cause afterimages when you look at a white wall after viewing their site. I gave them links to some websites with beautiful design. They acted almost insulted.

Every one of my aesthetic suggestions was denied. The soft grey of the border. A light blue menu. A pale manila content area. A good background graphic. Minimizing the title bar area so that there is plenty of space for content. No, they want black and white and primary colors.

They say they want to attract computer-savvy professionals to their school. Anyone, professional or not, who looks at this site is going to want to leave. Immediately. I am exactly the kind of parent they want to attract, and looking at this travesty makes me want to tear out my eyeballs with a rusty fish scaler.


And never design a website for a teacher.

The woman I'm dealing with is scary. I suppose it comes from dealing with recalcitrant seven year-olds for six hours a day. She never apologizes for her mistakes. Everything she says is firm and direct and leaves no room for negotiation, which is particularly funny when she's wrong.

And often she is, because she seems to think her computer is Universe Central. That everything she sees is what everyone else must see. I had to explain to her at least seven or eight times that other people have different browsers and different fonts from what she has, and may not even have Microsoft Word (gasp!). She was quite indignant about this.

I received a messy flur of Powerpoint, Word documents and email from her and another person involved in this project, and attempted to incorporate them all into the resulting webpage. Some of these elements were contradictory, and some didn't come through well because, as a computer-savvy professional, I kill all html in my email. She seemed rather angry when she phoned this morning. My original estimate for putting together the basic structure was five hours. I emailed her I'd thus far put in about seven hours and that the misestimate came because I wasn't experienced with making estimates for clients. I had simply meant to warn her that we were going over the original time estimate. Setting up the original site had taken about 4 hours, but they didn't like it. Adding their menu items took another hour. They asked me to change about fifteen things, which took another 2 hours.

Her response to this: "I don't understand why I send you something and it doesn't end up looking like what I sent. I don't think we should pay for you learning to write webpages. We're on a budget."

My response (after an underbreath 'fuck you, woman'): "I'm quite experienced with writing webpages. I'm not experienced with having clients, and I hope you see there's a difference." She also has no idea that most "professional" web designers would charge her for all time spent, whether learning or not. Or maybe she does, and she just likes to whine about money. It's a typical school reaction. They're always on a budget, just like everyone has a temperature. I was very tempted at that moment to tell her to go ahead and find another web designer. Frankly, I'm still tempted.

And the stars. Oh, my stars. Their student-drawn logo has stars in it, and she wanted a scattering of stars in the top right corner. I set it up, choosing four different stars from the logo. She almost screamed at me: "The stars are all wrong." She sent a Word document with how she wanted the stars to be. I look at the document. There are four stars. They are placed in almost exactly the same spaces as I've placed mine. They are all the same star, just in slightly different sizes. She doesn't like that fact that I chose different stars. She doesn't like the fact that I chose squishy, childlike stars. She wants the good-looking child-drawn star, repeated. I suspect she'll get pissed off if I don't size the stars identically to hers.

Oh yes, and the Word document. I use Wordperfect, which didn't read her Word doc very well. This upsets her too, when I tell her I'll have to look at the document in Word when I come back to work on Monday: "We're paying you outside of work." I guess this means I have to have Word or something. Fortunately, I found I had a copy of Word on my old computer, which was able to read her document, though it didn't have the Mac SE-style font she wanted for the tagline.

Here's a sampling of our conversation about the Word document:
Her: "I want you to create the webpage exactly as I have it here in Word. Except I don't want the blue box in the content area."
Me: "The content area isn't blue on the website, right?"
Her (checking): "Um, it isn't."
Me: "So that's not something I have to worry about."
Her: "Okay, and this Times font should be Arial. I want it to match the menu."
Me: "Okay, you don't want it to be Corsiva, like it was before [in another document she sent]."
Her: "No. And I want the English and Spanish buttons to be in little yellow boxes at the bottom, under the school address. I thought I created them but I must have not saved it."
Me: "Way down there where no one's going to be able to see it?"

I'll be very happy when this project is over, which will hopefully be two weeks from now.

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