I went to Dallas to visit my brother for Thanksgiving. And on my way home, a man close to retirement age sat next to me while I waited to board the plane. He began talking to me said he spent 27 years in the Coast Guard flying planes, and that he now installs equipment in helicopters. He asked what I did for a living. And I told him. He then asked, “How hard is it to build a web site?”

I thought for a second, buying some time by uttering, “Well…”

What could I tell this man? It’s easy? It’s really hard?

It seemed both answers were true. It’s really easy for a layman to use a WYSIWYG and start building, or set up a blog and start blogging. But to create something that users find useful and that’s usable and desirable is really hard.

But I knew he wouldn’t really understand what I was saying. So I told him it depends on what you want to do. And I suggested he use sites that already provide the types of services he desired. And I left it at that.

The rest of day I continued to think about his question. How hard is it? I imagine it would be like me asking a brain surgeon how hard is an operation. And I wondered if brain surgeons field those kinds of questions. I’m guessing no.

What I’m getting at is that there isn’t the same understanding of the profession. People know brain surgery is hard and wouldn’t try to do it themselves and likely don’t ask brain surgeons if brain surgery is hard. But I tell some random guy I build web sites and he says he wants to do that and asks me if it’s hard.

Now it’s possible I misinterpreted this one man’s perception. But my general experience leads me to believe that because there are tools out there that allow people to easily build sites—albeit mostly bad ones—the web profession as a whole suffers because people think it can’t be that hard. And I’m guessing that this perception will be hard to shake as more tools to help people build sites are created. And that bothers me.