Software and web developers are people too. You face challenges like all of us. And not just who’s going to make the next coffee. Rather ones such as spending a week hunting for the code needle which has gone astray in the proverbial code haystack. You know what I mean, right? From coding to clients, this job isn’t for the average Joe.
Indeed, software and web development are highly skilled disciplines. They are ones which, to those who don’t understand them, can look like magic. Or witchcraft. But, just like any other creative endeavour, the work that goes on behind the scenes can be complicated and exhausting and sometimes quite messy. The front end the client sees typically doesn’t reflect the backend. A great web developer will make it look easy.
Some of the daily frustrations you face will ring true for creatives who aren’t web developers, too. In one way or another, all creative people who work for clients, to tight deadlines, have been there. I feel your pain.
Here are 5 things only you will get.
#1 Updating a website you didn’t develop
So, the client asks you to update their existing website, which was created by someone else. Shouldn’t be a problem, you think. “Can I get access to the server,” you ask, optimistically. But, there’s a pause… “Ehm… I’ve got the WordPress password.” Oh, you think, I’m going to be doing this the hard way…
Of course, once you have found your way into the back end of the website, working with someone else’s code can always offer up some delightful surprises, especially if the previous web developer didn’t tidy up their code or include comments to identify their tags. Without the comments, finding the right elements is like playing hide-and-seek with Casper (the not-so-friendly ghost).
#2 Building a website with no designs… or content
In an ideal world, a web developer will get a package from the designer and the content team, which should contain almost everything they’re going to need. But how often does that happen? How often do you, instead, find yourself with no strategy to work to, or having to ask for files or templates that they should have sent. Now, that’s frustrating!
Also, because clients sometimes don’t really know what is needed, when you ask for a high res logo, don’t be surprised if the client supplies it in a Word Document.
#3 When the client needs a ‘minor’ change
Web developers tend to be perfectionists. But, it’s difficult to achieve perfection when you’re dealing with thousands of lines of code, any one of which can have unforeseen effects on any other one. But, if it wasn’t difficult, anyone could do it.
This is why, when the client asks for ‘a minor tweak’, your heart sinks. There’s no such thing as a ‘minor’ tweak. Any alteration might set off a chain reaction that’ll run through the code like the San Andreas fault runs through California. And you’re the Superman who has to hold it all together.
#4 The more amends the merrier (not)
This frustration can occur when the practicalities of bringing the original idea to life throws up problems of design or function. Sometimes the images just don’t load fast enough or the text just looks a bit too crowded on the screen, or it looks fine in all the browsers, but not so much on mobile. It’s the sort of problem any creative person faces in turning an idea into a finished project.
The danger is that a project never feels entirely complete. It never quite meets the web developers exacting standards. Well, the only way to deal with this is to compromise, accept the job as it is and move on. There comes a point when you just have to accept that 80% as good as you wanted it to be, is 120% as good as the client expects it to be.
But, just because you think a job is finished, doesn’t mean the client does.
The flip side of this problem is when the client seemingly doesn’t want you to finish. A sure sign that this may be an issue is when they tell you that the deadline has moved back. Then back again. Then back some more.
#5 Being asked to work for free
“I’ve got no budget for this, but it’ll be great exposure for you!” Unfortunately, this one never goes away. Almost anyone working in the creative fields will tell you that, time and again, clients try to get them to work for credit, or shares, or exposure, or any number of other ways of saying “free”.
What they’re basically asking, in these cases, is for you to use your expertise to make them rich and, once you have, they might give you some of the money you’ve earned them. Clearly, the people who make this offer don’t see it in this way. They probably think their business is such a safe bet that anyone would be honoured to get in on the ground floor.
And you feel so tempted to ask them, if working for free is such a great idea, why don’t they do it and pay you instead?
This list of daily frustrations felt by web developers goes on and on. So I’ve rounded up a few of my other favourites.
- Having to explain to the client that, unlike in the movies, you can’t whip-up a piece of software by next morning. This isn’t Mission:Impossible!
- “So, how long will it take?” they ask, in all innocence, when they haven’t told you how many pages they went or what they want any of them to do.
- Then, when they do offer you a design, you find yourself having to be diplomatic because the design they want is terrible and they’re terribly proud of it. What do you do? Maybe you can nudge the client in the right direction with a few suggestions and amendments as you go along. Or, maybe, you just have to swallow your pride, do the job and take the money.
- Your computer is too slow for the programs you need to have running all at once, so crashes. Every day. That never grows old.
- A particular frustration is when the job is finally done, you’re happy with it, the client is happy with it, then the client’s mate, who “knows all about web design”, says they hate it and suddenly the client hates it.
- Ultimately, you’re not a counsellor for your client’s emotional problems and you’re certainly not a charity worker who’s prepared to work for free. You’re the friendly, neighbourhood web developer.
How to deal with daily frustrations
Firstly, go easy on yourself. Some days you just can’t diagnose the problem. If today is one of those days, step back and do something else for a while. Come back to the problem with fresh eyes either a few hours later or, better still, after you’ve slept on it. You can often be surprised how obvious the solution seems when you come back to it.
If you don’t have the luxury of time to step back, you can always get in touch with a friend and run it past them. Sometimes, someone else’s problem can seem like the easiest thing in the world to a fresh pair of eyes.
This is a great opportunity to share the burden and to offer to do the same for your friend. After all, if you can help someone sort out their problems, it gives you a few minutes of the warm fuzzies, knowing you’ve helped the web developer community.
Finally, go easy on your clients. Be patient with them, educate them, and then delight them with the work you produce. Be philosophical about their inability to communicate with you by reminding yourself that, if they understood what you understand, they wouldn’t need you to build their website for them; they’d be doing it themselves.
It remains the case that website function can look like magic to those who don’t understand it. So, enjoy your status as a magician!
Your turn to crack the code
Obviously, if web development is what you do, each and every day, you’ll have your own frustrations. Feel free to come and find me, let off a little steam and tell me all about it… You never know who else, out there, has the same issue – and I might even be able to offer a solution!