HOW COULD YOU be so lucky? You have been hired to be the HTML hack for a
new website. You're going to get paid to surf the web.
Replying to email is
now networking. You can submit the charges for your PPP account as a
business expense. So what if the people who hired you have combined spent
less time on the internet than you spend surfing in a typical month? You've
found the ultimate slacker job.
The first few weeks are going to be pretty brainless. All you have to do is
update and design new pages according to their established "look." Then you
discover the horrid truth. You're going to get paid . . . to write
horrendous HTML for a site with a design that seems intentionally to disregard aesthetics,
never mind user interface. Yes, you've been hired by yet another company in
a rush to get on the net while it's still hip and cool. They don't know why
they're on it, they don't know how to use it, but they do know they want
every single Netscape-specific
tag and Java applets everywhere.
Despite the fact that you have worked for a few years and know a little
about how the business world, you're still hopeful. You can make them see
the light. You begin a campaign to improve the look of the site. You try to
introduce rationally written HTML, explaining there is no need for tables
nested four deep. You fight for judicious use of graphics, so that your
dilapidated PC (a cast-off from the accounting department) doesn't crash
when trying to test the site. You emphasize the importance of sensible
layout, pointing out that if a user can't find the product button, he can't
buy anything. You imagine them recognizing your superior web wisdom and
taking your advice for a few changes. Okay, a radical update that includes
attractive graphics and a reasonable background.
Foolish you. The designer of the site, chosen for the job because he had an
AOL account, is convinced that his design is state-of-the-art, hip, cool,
daddy-o. He will not cotton to opposition. He is full of absurd
justifications for why those tables are nested four deep ("It's the only
way to get the graphic centered."), why the navigation system is
incomprehensible ("If you understand the concept, it's very clear."), why
the site is so dark that it is unreadable on a
black and white screen ("Most users will be using a color screen, to see
But then, hope of all hopes, there is a decision to update the look of the
site. Your chance is here. You eagerly share your ideas, shaped by hundreds
of hours looking at websites yourself, based on training in graphic design
and page layout.
"Um, I have a few suggestions . . . ."
"I'd be very interested to hear them."
"Great. First, maybe you should try for a little more contrast between the
text and background. Black text on a navy background is, well, hard on the
"Actually, I've developed this wavy black and red background pattern, and
was thinking of yellow text."
"Oh. Um, perhaps you should put all the navigation buttons in one line; a
bar if you will. Make them easy and accesible."
"Well, that doesn't really work with the concept I had in mind."
"Concept. I see."
Still, hope exists. You wait to see the final decision and . . . it's worse
than the original incarnation. Not one of your ideas has been included. In
fact, it seems as if the opposite of every suggestion you've made has been
"I see that you took the home button off of all the subsidiary pages."
"Yes, we need to control navigation through the site."
"But all the users said that they get
lost . . ."
"That's because they don't understand the concept."
"Concept. I see."
You feel defeat. You begin to wonder how to get out.
The problem is, of course, that it does a bit of damage to your
resume if you dash from every company that produces a product with
which you cannot bear to be associated. You cannot always tell ahead of
time that this will happen. This wouldn't be such a problem if you decide
to try contracting. However, working for yourself can be uncertain, and if
your criteria is that you'll only take on clients you can shape and mould
to your will, you'd better be a Big Name or be willing to ask for
government assistance to make rent.
There's always the chance you're making a mountain out of a molehill. If
your employer wants to create something ugly, that's her prerogative. If
good taste prevails in the world, the site will die as people refuse to
And don't forget we live in a time when '70s stylin's are cool
again. Your employer just may be on to something, horrific as it is to look
at. She may have her finger on the pulse of graphic design, and it may be
retina-staining. Holding out for judicious use of white space and high contrast between type and
background may just be a foolish throwback to the days when people actually
read for pleasure.
Yes, that's it. You're just overreacting. Everything's going to be okay.
look at your own creation.