Zen and the Art of Web Design

Or How to Make your Business go Backwards

Clown on motorcycleA few years ago, I had a motorcycle. It was only a small one – 175cc – and I used it for commuting. One day, it broke down. In fact it was always breaking down, but this particular breakdown was big time. It required a major engine rebuild.

Now, you need to understand that I was a bit of a budding mechanic. I did all my servicing – probably why it broke down! And this time was no exception. Using my collection of cheap spanners and other miscellaneous tools, most of which had seen better days, I duly stripped the engine and found that a re-bore was needed.

Always the one for a challenge, I took the engine to a machine shop that completed the re-bore and supplied all the parts I needed, and then proceeded to reassemble the engine. So far so good!

With the entire bike back in one piece I fired it up. The engine ran like a dream. No rattles, no banging from the big ends. In fact, it sounded just like it did when the bike was new.

Not being able to contain my excitement at having achieved what I regarded as a bit of a coupe, completing such a major job as this, I swung my leg over the saddle, snicked it into first gear, let out the throttle and the bike took off….

Unfortunately, it took of in the wrong direction – backwards! Yes I was in first gear and the bike was going backwards and I was thinking “this is impossible, this bike doesn’t have reverse gears!”

Now, if you’ve ever been on a motorcycle with no crash helmet, flying down your street backwards, you’ll realise that you have to do something PDQ or disaster will happen. As it turned out I did manage to stop without too much trouble.

But how could it happen? In fact, I’d assembled everything correctly. It would be pretty difficult to get anything so wrong wouldn’t it? Actually no. It was simple. The engine was a 2-stroke and these engines are very simple. No valves, no camshaft, just a piston that goes up and down and turns a crankshaft. And it can turn the crankshaft just as easily one was as the other. The thing that determines which way the engine turns is the ignition timing and I’d got that wrong. That’s why I ended up looking like a circus clown in front of my neighbours.

So, what’s the moral of this story? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Or if you want something doing, leave it to the experts.

This applies to web design just as much as motorcycle maintenance. In our business, we come across them all the time – the homemade websites. Bizarre colours, a mixture of strange fonts and images that are slightly out of focus.

The point the owners of these websites don’t get is that they are doing themselves no favours. In fact, I would go as far as saying they’re doing their businesses actual harm. They’d be better off not bothering.

So, if you’re thinking that you can design your website yourself, or get a friend or relative to do it, think twice. Your business could end up going backwards because of it.

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Written by
Mike Brogan
Mike is a website developer specializiing in website design, online marketing, ecommerce design, and consutancy. He has developed website for clients for over 20 years.

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