Everything on a website must exist for a reason and many techniques must be applied within reason. There must be reasons why we work in a particular way; why we create this site when many similar ones already exist; why we choose one layout over another or even one photo over another; why we leave X pixels of white space between different content sections and why the pixels on the screen have certain colors; why buttons have a particular shape, color and size; why we select a particular tag over another; why we choose to name our ids and classes in a certain way; why our content needs to be written in a specific way and why it must be relevant and timely; why we apply a decorative style via stylesheets with hacks; why we write our code differently or with the help of a framework; why we stay away from certain technologies; why we use Flash/Silverlight or why our videos are encoded in a specific format; why we name our links and their corresponding files in a certain way; why we target a particular category of users; why we freelance for clients or not; why we cooperate with other companies or why we allow them to acquire/acqhire us and many others. We must be able to name these reasons when asked and this requires an almost encyclopedic knowledge. Being able to clearly articulate these reasons and persuade a client through our own opinion after we have heard his/hers is a vital skill for every web designer.
If we think of design as a craft, all these logic-based decisions will be the materials we use to create our final products. Although materials often look and feel the same, under a microscope they show entirely different characteristics (hardness, porosity, conductivity etc.) and therefore react completely differently under high load. But it's often the carefully picked materials that determine the quality of the end product. For that, web designers need to have good reasons.
Reasons can change dynamically over time, but they can't simply disappear. If we do everything for our clients as fast as possible—preferably for yesterday,—our reasons will be weak, our solutions bad and they will leave dissatisfied, simply because we lacked the necessary time to think through the details and reason through the unique context. Moreover, if we lose our reasons, we will enter a dangerous spiral that forces us to make even faster decisions with even less reasoning.
Reasons are an element of differentiation among web designers, because they contribute to having a specific, recognizable style. The other day I saw a beautiful graphic in an article and the voice in my head said: “Strange. Looks similarly to...” So I stopped for a moment trying to decode this similarity. As I couldn't, I went further in the article and I saw the name—Radim Malinic. My mind: “Of course! See?” Apparently, he made his style so distinctive that I could recognize it immediately. And this is not something that happens to me regularly. There must be some very strong reasons behind everything he does, otherwise he wouldn't be able to achieve such level of stylistic consistency.
Web designers and clients often have different, colliding reasons to (want to) do the work in a certain way. The challenge is to find common points, where the needs of both sides intersect. Complete sacrifice of our own reasons for someone else's is a fast way to the bottom. Then our work becomes commodity and our replacement is just a matter of time.