The Value of the Unbiased Observer

I’ve had a website for quite some time now. Since 2007, actually. It’s gone through several iterations and updates, but I’ve always been the person behind the curtain, tweaking what it looked like.

I’ve never really been happy with it.

The problem lies in the fact that I’ve always ended up settling for “good enough.” Since I’m not a full-time web designer, every hour I spent working on my site was an hour spent not doing something else. Not writing, usually, since my site is an extension of my writing, and I’d typically cut into the time I had budgeted for that area of my life in order to get my site up to snuff.

The natural result was that I’d work on the page until I got it to a point that was the bare minimum of what I needed it to be. At that point, I’d feel too guilty about not writing, and so I’d step away from the site and go back to what I really love doing.

The ironic thing is that I really do like to code. I enjoy getting into the guts of a web page and figuring out what’s going on and how to improve things or change things. But when you get down to it, I just have no time. But because I know I *could* do it if I needed to, I also felt bad turning to someone else for help and assistance. Why pay someone else to do something I could do myself, if I only just took the time to do it properly?

Well, when a friend decided to leave his day job to pursue his dream as a full-time musician who did web design on the side, I suddenly had a chance to involve someone else in my website. I could pay him to do it for me, and I’d be benefiting him and me. Win win! I asked him if he’d be willing to take me on as a client, and he was.

The site is still in the refining stages (so don’t bother going over there at the moment and expect to see something new), but I have to say I’m really excited to show the revisions to all of you. They’re far and away better than anything I’ve ever done. They look professional.

Because they are.

It makes a huge difference when someone is approaching a site from a professional “I’m getting paid to do this” point of view. It makes another big difference when that person has nothing at stake in the final product other than the look and design of it all. My friend has been able to study the usability of the site–figure out what’s working, what needs to be there, what needs to go. And he’s taken the time to go beyond the bare minimum–even getting it to the “good” level, and then raising it to the “great.”

Because he’s taking the time and effort to do the site the way it should be done, I’ll be able to incorporate my blog onto my website at long last. There’ll be a streamlined, easy to follow organization for finding information, books, reviews–you name it. The graphics look good.

My friend has no favorite parts of the website. No projects he feels naturally inclined to promote more than others. No pieces of the site that he’s grown attached to. It’s been awesome to be able to turn to him on matters of style choice and content decisions. Better yet, he’s not an author. This means he’s been able to look at the site from a user standpoint, critiquing other author sites we’ve found and picking and choosing what works best.

Part of me naturally compares this to the steps I’d want to go through if I started self-publishing my books. I wouldn’t want to go it alone. I’d want to hire someone else–an unbiased observer–to make sure it all looked good and worked well. It really makes a huge difference.

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to being able to share the new site with you in the near future. Keep an eye out for it. And if any of you are looking for an excellent up and coming web designer who’s got mad WordPress and design skills, drop me a line and I’ll get you in touch with him. Better do it early–I have a feeling his slate’s going to fill up fast.

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