Altruistic web design, building a portfolio and generating new business | August 6, 2003

There seems to be a bit of a movement at the moment of web designers creating accessible and standards complaint versions of well known websites.

Recently Matthew Somerville created an accessible version of the Odeon website. I use the Odeon website often, and am constantly amazed about how tricky it is to use, so think Matthew has done a great job.

Then today I noticed that local web standards and accessibility expert Richard Rutter had created a standards compliant version of the Pixelsurgeon interview page. Nice work Rich.

Now while these redesigns were motivated by nothing more than alturism and a belief in good web design, I can see people jumping on the bandwagon for more practical reasons.

It's very difficult for people stating out in the business to build a credible portfolio of work. Many offer free or cheap websites in order to build a portfolio. However this has the tendency to devalue web design as a profession and make it harder on everybody to earn a living.

A more sensible and less damaging approach is to create example sites that actually look like real sites but are there just to demonstrate ones skills. Some people have gone further with this and started creating example sites for a specific market and selling these sites on e-bay as ready made 'turn-key' sites.

However I think a really proactive approach would be for budding web designers with time on their hands to create versions of well known websites that address issues like usability, accessibility and web standards, and then pitch them to the site owners

If I worked in a big company and a freelance web designer came to me and told me what was wrong with my site I'd probably either ignore it or take note and then get my £2000 a day London agency to rebuild it. However if the same person came to me with a fully working prototype of the site that looked great and fixed all the issues I'm damned sure I'd take note.

Posted at August 6, 2003 8:28 PM


Andy Smith said on August 7, 2003 11:43 AM

Another possibility is to redesign the website of a charity or nonprofit organisation that you like. A lot of small charities and nonprofits have their sites designed or maintained by volunteers, and if there isn’t anyone directly involved with the charity who knows how to maintain the site it can get out of date, so bonus points for giving them some content management facilities if you’re not going to carry on maintaining it after the redesign.

This would give a real benefit to someone you want to give a real benefit to. And charities might well be more interested in the accessibility benefits than big companies.

(Says Andy who wants to get round to redesigning and detablifying which I maintain).

Actually it strikes me that redesigning a corporate site might even impede them from redesigning it themselves due to copyright issues. Kind of like the way film studios often return unsolicited scripts unread for fear of being sued if they later make a similar film. If a company was going to get its own agency or in-house people to redesign a site, they would probably want to ensure they didn’t breach your copyright so they might at least have to devote extra time to ensuring that what they did didn’t contain anything that could be construed as taken from your design, increasing development costs and putting them off doing a redesign. This could be particularly problematic if your design replicates the existing look and the company wants to preserve that.. So I guess if you want something like your design to be adopted you might want to put a notice disclaiming some of your rights as copyright holder.