The web is a big, messy thing. It’s complicated. There are many facets to the web, involving technologies, crafts and skills. Hardly surprising then that to make something wonderful on the web, you may need the help of specialists. You wouldn’t expect to build a house without the help of specialists, and you certainly wouldn’t expect an architect to carry a hod, or a roofer to plumb the toilets, or the builder to plan the wiring.
The need for web industry specialists seems obvious to me, but there is scepticism about some of the professionals helping to make better web experiences that work for both users and the organisations behind them. Let’s look at some of the sceptical remarks that have surfaced recently:
The sceptics view of web industry specialists…
…urm, actually, it’s impossible to quote the rambles of Olivier Blanchard, but you can gauge his ire by scanning his inflammatory but ultimately hollow blog post in which he rails against the current trend for content strategy.
And Ryan Carson tweeted his scepticism for user-experience designers:
But why should web designers stop at UX expertise? Surely they should also take on copywriting, usability testing, market research and cross-stitch too.
I’ve worked on web projects with dedicated UX people and seen those UX people carry out a range of functions that are quite different from web design – things like research, user tests and creating personas – things that warrant a specialist. Sure, a good web designer should take an interest in related fields like user experience design, information architecture and usability, but to expect every individual to become experts in so many broad areas is somewhat delusional. Should we all be the Jack of all trades, and master of none?
Content strategy – not snake oil
As more people talk about content strategy, there will be doubters. To some, content strategy is just a faddish name for things we’ve always been doing. And yes, while content strategy doesn’t bring many revelations to the web, it does package up a way of thinking about the challenges of web content. Content strategy isn’t about creating jobs or complicating web projects – it’s about bringing clarity to the often murky world of content, and helping businesses derive value from their content.
Content strategy isn’t for lone bloggers, just as you don’t need an architect to erect your shed. But content strategy does make sense when you’re wrangling hundreds or thousands of pages of content and a raft of business goals.
I love the idea of simplifying the web. If the creation of great websites could be simplified, reduced to a formula, or a series of strokes on a keypad that unfurled a mesmerising website that met every objective and satisfied every faction of its audience – I’d be thrilled. But the reality is that building big and complicated web entities requires the skills of specialists.