Friends don’t let friends have janky web sites

If it were a car you wouldn't get in it. If it were an outfit, you'd never buy it and you'd stay clear of friends when they wore it. If it were a friend's house, you'd always have them meet you at yours. But when it comes to web sites, for some reason, you hold your tongue and you let friends walk around the interwebs with that janky site. Why?

Three Guesses Why

I bet that the reason most of us don't call out the nasty sites our friends are so proud of is because we're trying to be nice. Right? You don't want to hurt their feelings. So we'd never say “janky” when they show us their site. Instead, we smile, and say “nice…” when we think that honesty would hurt their feelings.

Maybe it's not that. Maybe you're not saying “janky” because you know if you do, you'll be on the spot to fix it all. And frankly, we're all busy, right? So we don't have time to critique because we know it's going to mean extra work – and if they're a friend, likely extra work for free. So we stay silent.

And if those two reasons aren't it, maybe you're like me, and occassionaly see the janky site and think, “hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and maybe they know something about that target audience that I don't.” But deep down inside, it feels like a bit of a copout, right?

Three Things You can Do to Help

It won't shock you when I tell you that the first thing to do is get them on WordPress. If they're just doing a simple site, you can even point them to But if they need more, there are inexpensive hosting solutions like Dreamhost, and they can be up on WordPress in no time.

The second thing you can do is point them to,, or – all of which offer several themes that can help them look good right away. Sure there's a price. But remind them that the time they spent also cost them time. And then tell them nicely that designers are professionals at what they do and so they should leverage that expertise.

Here's the last one, and the most important (in my book). Get a rolodex of WordPress designers, theme wranglers, and programmers so that you can recommend their work. There are tons of them out there. I'm part of two Facebook Groups that help me network with a bunch of them so I can regularly recommend their services. This does three things:

  1. It lets your friend know you don't plan to do the free work.
  2. It helps you learn who does what in your local WP community.
  3. It keeps everyone focused on their own core competence.

Honesty is still the best policy

In the end, while we think we're doing our friends a service by not being honest with them, the reality is that their site may get worse and worse until it needs major surgery and then it may well land on our plates with little we can do about it. Is that really what we want? Not me.

Most of the people I help are not web developers or designers. When I'm honest with them about the 10 things that are wrong right off the bat with their site, they pause for a second, and some say, “You're right, what can I do to get out of this and let someone else do it?” while others may get initially defensive but then circle back to ask for help. Either way, they know I care.

Oh, and the other reason I want to be honest with them? I hate janky web sites. What about you?