By this I don’t mean that you should fill every pixel on the screen with text, information and blinking, distracting graphics. What I really mean is that you should give yourself more time to accomplish what you are looking to do on the web. Sure, your reaction to this is going to be “duh, of course you should spend time thinking about what you are going to do online. All good jobs take time.” I say, oh young one, are you actually spending time where it needs to be spent? I suspect you aren’t.
First to the hard-core graphic designers in the crowd: Just because you spent extra time looking online through iStockPhoto finding that perfect picture does NOT mean that your design will encourage even one new customer. When it comes down to it, your average web user doesn’t care what your design looks like. It should fit the theme of the product being sold and the tone should be appropriate, but they really don’t care if you use one perfectly appropriate graphic or another. The nuance is generally totally lost. If you are going to consume days or even weeks coming up with that perfect design, it better slap my dad’s dentures right out of his head and make him spend 50% more than he otherwise would. If this isn’t the case, the ROI on those last few days or weeks that you spent is going to be painfully low. Think “solution” not “pretty.” Spend you time actually solving your customer’s problem.
Now on to the webmonkey/codemonkey. Do you really think that your customer cares if your algorithm is 2 nanoseconds faster on the server? They don’t. I promise you. If you are shaving tiny fractions of seconds off of a process for the sake of speeding the page load imperceptibly then you are really focusing on the wrong thing. Redirect. Think about what the customer is going to be looking for in the site that you are providing your code for. Does your search algorithm actually produce results? Can I be a bonehead and still get what I need from your code or do I have to specialize in what YOU went to school for in order to make the site work?
So then what should you be spending MORE time on? Well, the customer. The sale. Does the site work? If your AJAXy, cool looking thing that loads all kinds of server-side data brings their browser to its knees, you should strip it. I know, AJAX is the rage. I was guilty too. Why do you think that I am writing this? Seriously, though, AJAX is not the panacea, just like DHTML before it or blink and marquee before that. Spend time looking at how the page works and most importantly spend time looking at how to moderate your “cool factor.” Spend your time working on making a site that your customer will enjoy using. To the designer: spend time making the site easy to navigate. Put the information right at your customer’s fingertips. Make sure that they will never want to use a competitor’s site because yours sparkles so. Programmers: focus on making the site feature-rich in a way that your customer will appreciate. Make searches work properly. Listen to your IA, she knows what the search should do. Make sure that you match the search function match the customer needs. If you are going to use AJAX and other client-server interaction tools, make them lean and mean. Make them function well and MAKE SURE THEY DEGRADE WELL! There is nothing that will drive customers away faster than a site that doesn’t work for them.
Unless the site is ultimately useful, regardless of how cool the site is, the customer will walk away. The bottom line is stop doing your techno-masturbation and provide what the customer wants: a useful site. If you spend your time on this your customer will spend more money with your company or use the services or whatever your site is supposed to do. Furthermore, your boss may even thank you with a raise or a promotion. Less is less. More is more. Think about it. ; )