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Web & Digital Advice

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Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Thursday, 23rd February, 2006

Investing in your staff

Commercial web design is barely a decade old. The entire industry is evolving at a tremendous pace with both technology and methodology changing daily.

Digital Strategy:
The estimated time to read this article is 3 minutes

Unsurprisingly my last post generated a huge amount of feedback. By far the majority focused on the learning curve involved in adopting web standards. Many complained they simply didn’t have the time to “get up to speed”. The following is directed at those who employ web developers/designers…

The cost of training

As an employer myself, I know that the word “training” can make your wallet scream in pain. If you are a small business, the thought of staff taking time out to get trained up can be scary. There is the cost of the training itself, the travelling expenses, the cost associated with adopting what has been learnt and the time away from paid projects. All in all, it is easier and safer to go with “on the job training” which equates to no training at all!

You may also find the constant demands from web designers for training (or simply time to learn) rather unreasonable. After all, nobody else seems to require so much time to sit around doing nothing! In short, training can often be hard to justify.

A unique position

Although I can feel your pain, it is important to release what a unique position most web designers and developers are in. While many other professions have existed for hundreds of years, commercial web design is barely a decade old. The entire industry is evolving at a tremendous pace with both technology and methodology changing daily. I once heard it estimated that the average web designer has to relearn his skill-set every 18 months. Although I believe this is somewhat of an exaggeration it isn’t far off. With things moving so fast, having time to keep up with the latest developments is essential to your web site’s success.

For in-house designers too

You might think this is all well and good for a professional web design agency. After all, they need to be on the cutting edge of their industry. However, your company might just employee a couple of in-house designers to keep your own website in order. Surely, there is not as big a need for training in that situation? Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. There are no guarantees that your competition are not using an external web design house and so your internally produced website still has to compete with “cutting edge” design agencies. In addition, as I have said before, it is important that your site evolve with the rest marketplace otherwise, it will quickly appear out of date. Unfortunately, the web is very like the fashion industry. A nineties style website looks much like eighties style fashion… horribly dated! Users are constantly demanding more and more from websites and if your staff aren’t up to date with the latest developments they are going to struggle to deliver.

The good news

However, it’s not all doom, gloom, and expenses! Although there are a growing number of training courses available on various aspects of emerging web technology, they are not the only way to get your developers up to speed. The most cost effective thing you can do is allocate them time each week for “self learning”. The web is crammed with valuable resources to help people learn about things like Unobtrusive JavaScript and web standards. All you need to do is set aside some time for them away from their normal workload. Admittedly, this has some productivity implications but these will be quickly outweighed by the productivity gains provided by these emerging methodologies.

All your developers need is a few hours each week to work on their own projects. Google has adopted this approach with incredible results. No travel expenses, no training courses, just a few hours a week. You can’t say fairer than that!

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