Suddenly everyone is interested in having a website. They're going up at a terrific rate of knots, but with a lot of these sites being put together quickly, for little money and without firm management support, the quality can leave a lot to be desired.

Maybe it's the industry's general attitude to IT that's to blame. Most back-office systems are bought based on a sales presentation. Significant IT projects are "thrown over the wall" to become part of a child's school project, or just left to the contractors to sort out. And now anyone with a computer, modem and copy of Front Page can declare themselves "web designer".

Getting designers to actually deliver what you want can be damned hard work. With so much jargon there is a serious temptation to just sit back and let them build their interpretation of your business, swallowing the reasons why it isn't quite as you expected because you honestly don't know better.

Make no mistake – the skilled, genuinely talented web designer is an arrogant craftsman. While they have all the answers and know what is best for your business, you are just a "user" who could never understand what they have done for you. They want to solve the next great problem, the spelling and grammar doesn't matter. They have the latest, sexiest iMac, while you slave away at your decaying Windows 95 machine.

Start the relationship with a clear understanding of what you expect. That's a design document that forms the basis of the contract, and which can only be changed by mutual consent (not because they say something's "better done this way"). If all else fails, payment is withheld, but this is a last resort.

If you want to avoid hitting that point, stroke their ego a little. Only a potter can truly appreciate the effort put in to creating a vase, and only another web developer can appreciate the skill that they demonstrate when coding. Play on this trait of the craftsman to your advantage.

Take an interest. Ask them why they did something, not because you want to condemn, but because you want to learn and understand. Point out how fantastic their menu is right before you hit them with the spelling mistake.

If you've got someone in the office who is genuinely interested in writing web pages, ask the designer to show them the ropes (ie. take them on as apprentice!).

Web designers are the latest addition to the craftsman's tradition. You can't bully the great ones, they'll just fight back. Instead you need to nurture them and stroke their egos a little.

But never let them forget whose business it is!

  • Ross Hall is founder of the consultancy Garol. He can be contacted at or on 020 8902 0618.