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Mr. Blandings Builds His Web Site

by Waitsel Smith

There is a WONDERFUL movie from 1948 called Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. In it, Grant and Loy dream of leaving their cramped NY apartment for the wide-open spaces of Connecticut, where they plan on renovating an old farmhouse, but end up building. From the beginning, their best friend Douglas is the voice of doom and reason. At every turn, he tries to advise them against certain things, but they go off and do them anyway, always realizing afterwards that their friend was right. They have setback after setback, and each time the price tag on their dream house goes up, up, up. And every step of the way, we laugh our heads off at the stupidity and chagrin of Grant and Loy, as well as the wisdom and wise cracks of their friend Douglas. But the interesting thing is, Grant and Loy are right in the end.

Yes, they make a ton of mistakes and end up paying about three times what they set out to spend. But as their friend Douglas points out near the end of the film, what they end up with is beyond estimation. Often, in business as well as life, where we end up cannot be weighed against the price we had to pay to get there. If we had known in advance what we would have to pay, we would never have gone there. But now that we're there, we can't imagine being anyplace else.

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We all want to end up in a good place, with a house as well as in business, but it's not necessary to make a lot of mistakes to get there. A little research and some good advice can get you where you want to be without all the setbacks and the huge pricetag. I always tell my clients that building a web site is very much like building a house. If a house is your most important expense as a family, a web site, plus your online marketing, including social media, is your most important expense as a business. The days of just having "something" on the web are gone. Today, the web drives business and your web site is your house in that ever-changing, and often stormy, environment.

So when someone comes to me and asks, "How much will it cost for you to build my web site," I understand where they're coming from. But it really isn't that simple. As with building a house, the real question is, "What are your needs and how much can you afford?" Do you need and can you afford those four bedrooms and five baths that Myrna Loy tells her architect she cannot live without, even though she's presently living in an apartment with only two bedrooms and one bath? Once you've answered those first two questions - what are your needs and what can you afford - everything else is relatively simple.

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There's a great scene where Grant receives a bill from the contractor that doesn't make sense. He's being charged for tearing out a good portion of the house. When he asks the architect about it, he can't understand it either. So they ask Loy. As it turns out, all she did was ask the builders to take some left-over tiles and make her a dry floor in the pantry where she can arrange flowers. When she mentioned "dry," they took that to mean she wanted a drainage system put in, and that meant tearing out walls, floorboards, etc. One little change affected a lot of other things.

So it is in web design. One little change, asked for too late in the process, can cost a lot extra because, to accommodate it, other things have to be torn out. So, if at all possible, know everything you want up front. And if you anicipate needing something later, go ahead and get it now. Remember: a web site is like a house - everything is interconnected.

Open Amazon web site

Another great scene is when Loy is trying to explain the paint colors she wants to the contractor and painter. She goes through this elaborate explanation of four colors, basing one on a piece of thread, another on a piece of wallpaper, a third on the color of butter, and the fourth is a particular shade of white. Sounds simple, right? Not when Myrna Loy's character explains it! When she's finished and leaves the room, the contractor turns to the painter and says, "Okay. Red, blue, yellow and white." The painter answers, "Check." Even though it is a very funny scene, the truth is, it is not far from the truth. Clients often have very elaborate plans of what they want, while the reality of the business is a bit more down-to-earth.

One of those realities is that the web is a very complex environment in which there are very few rules. And the most shocking aspect is, many of those rules are imposed by users and apply only to their own computers - web designers have no control over them. Add to that the fact that there are multiple operating systems, multiple browsers, multiple email programs, multiple service providers, and all of them playing by a different set of rules - it's a wonder anything on the web works at all. But it does... IF the designer has a thorough understanding of all those systems, which we do.

Here's something else you can learn from Mr. Blandings: when you're building a web site (or a house), the details add up very quickly, and, once they're on the table, they're very difficult to remove. Grant and Loy realize this when they start playing around with the architect's plans. That's how they end up with four bedrooms and five baths that Loy "couldn't live without," a game room the size of a basketball court, etc. This goes back to my original advice: 1) decide what you need and 2) decide what you can afford. We offer several different options in both categories:

Often a condo or pre-fab home is all you need and all you can afford. We offer a wonderful selection of web sites based on WordPress templates that are highly functional and easily affordable.

Maybe you're ready for a full-blown custom home. We can build any type of web site you can dream of from scratch and from the ground up, with every bell and whistle imaginable.

Maybe you want a lot of Flash animation, or a total Flash site. We can do that. Maybe you need an e-commerce site, a heavily data-driven site, a social media site, a heavy content site. Whatever you need, we can give it to you at a very affordable price.

The way we typically begin with a client is to sit down and make a list of everything they want their web site to do. Then we give them an estimate based on an hourly rate. Our rate varies, depending on whether the client is start-up (or not-for-profit), or if they are an established for-profit company. (We give start-ups and non-profits a break in price.) It also varies depending upon how much Flash animation and programming are involved, as we charge a bit more for those services. There could also be some specialty charges, such as photography or illustration. We can adapt preexisting content for the site, or we can create new content from scratch. Besides content and functionality, we also optimize our clients' sites for search engines (SEO), as well as Social Media and other ways to attract visitors (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, email campaigns, etc.).

Building a web site should be like building a house - a lot of work; yet, you should have a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when it's done. Just as your house represents you, your web site represents your business. So it needs to be the very best you can afford, but it doesn't need to be more than that. It is possible to get a beautifully designed, fully functional, engaging web site that does what you need it to do for an affordable price. And that's why we're here.

View our portfolio of web sites; then contact us to design yours.


Waitsel Smith
Creative Director, Creative Sharks
Atlanta, GA, USA

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