Every now and then, I like to see what other web people are up to. Just surfing around looking at web designers’ web sites, you can find a lot of neat ideas.

You also see a lot of stuff that makes you cringe.

Yesterday, I was looking around and came across this (the actual, unvarnished screenshot):

Web page with error messageGreat websites are a lot about design, but not all about the design you see (except when something like this happens, and then you start seeing it). And, while there’s something to be said about “the shoemaker’s children with holes in their shoes,” this gaffe is hugely serious. It’s not just an ugly warning message yucking up the middle of the screen. It’s a gaping security hole asking, no, begging, to get hacked. Maybe it’s just a single slip. But now you’ve got to wonder what else is broken in the code under the high-gloss. Maybe it’s an honest mistake. Maybe (I hope) by the time you read this, they’ll have discovered it and fixed it. But if I were a client on their portfolio list, I’d be pretty upset.

The bottom line is: just about anyone can make a site look pretty. (I’m not bashing graphic artists here. There’s a difference between someone who can make a site look pretty, and someone who can make it say “Wow!” But there’s a lot of pretty to be had pretty cheaply.) But, with web sites as with anything else, most of the time you get what you pay for, and sometimes, if you let all the fancy bells and whistles beguile you, a whole lot less.