Why your last Web Developer sucked

Over 10 years ago I had a bad rock climbing accident on a route that someone else set up and broke my right foot and shattered my left ankle. Yes, it hurt, but all these years later, I still regard it as my fault.

I was really into rock climbing at the time. Buying stoppers, quickdraws and webbing. Building my “rack,” as it’s called. I was reading everything I could get my hands on. Part of being a rock climber is knowing how to tie knots. You have to know this, because sometimes you have to improvise. One of the most popular knots to tie is the water knot. It’s a bomb proof knot that can take a fall and will never come untied. Well, almost never.

For a water knot to remain viable, the extra webbing at the end of tying the knot or the “tails” as it’s known, should be about two inches in length. This is to prevent the knot from coming untied during a load or fall. The mechanics of the knot dictate that with two inches extra, as the knot tightens under a load, it will use that extra length to compress. Less than two inches extra and your risk goes up considerably.

For years I had watched my mentors tie these knots and tied several myself. I knew how to rock climb and I knew the risks. I took it very seriously, because life is priceless. One day, as we were doing some quick toproping, trying to beat sundown, I got to the top of this rock and noticed something weird. I couldn’t see the knot. More importantly, I couldn’t see the tails. The gear was under a load and the knot was coming untied. I instinctively knew something was wrong, but in my haste and trusting someone much more experienced than I, I chose to overlook it. Subsequently and in slow motion, the knot untied, I felt weightlessness, fell forward against the rock, grasping for anything that would stop my fall. What seemed like forever, happened in seconds and in the distance I heard my wife scream, “OH MY GOD!”

I’m fine. I have 5 screws in my ankle and the doctor said, “when you get arthritis, you will most likely get it there first, so keep moving.” I do. I have replayed that event many times over in my head and what I sincerely took away from it was my utter neglect for not being prepared. I was a fool. If I had just stopped or asked questions, I would have been okay. At the time that it was essential for me to be involved, I chose not to be.

Opportunities for us to be involved are all around us. It’s natural for us to create boundaries for what we will spend our valuable attention on. As Web Developers, we don’t have the luxury to choose to not be involved. As Clients, it is absolutely your job to include yourself and ask questions. You are spending an absolute fortune getting your website built, if you are not communicating, you are just giving money away.

My whole Web Development career has been focused on communication. As any business owner will tell you, 70% of your time is spent on managing your business and 30% is spent actually doing the work you love. Needless to say, after over 17 years in the Web Development field, I have spent a lot of time managing my business. At this point, Web Development Clients are not new to building a website. In fact most likely it’s their third or fourth time. Yet, day after day I here from Web Developers and clients alike, that their web project has gone bad.

I have spent the last 10 years developing a Bulletproof Web Development Process that addresses the very communication issues that come up in every Web Development project. Even though I have refined, tweaked and modified the process over the years, still issues can happen. Clients will be happy to tell you that it’s the Web Developer’s fault and of course Web Developers will maintain the client just didn’t get it. The truth is, you both suck.

It really comes down to engagement. Both sides have to be involved. They have to ask questions. Web Developers are shooting in the dark. They don’t know the clients business, so they are asking questions that they ask every business. Clients need to reveal more. They need to dig deep and explain why their business is unique. Don’t wait for someone to ask, that moment may not come. Web Developers need to get on the phone and talk to these clients. Managing your client by email is a disaster. Yes, it’s a disaster, stop it.

5 Ways to (un)suck your website development experience

  1. For the love of god, have a weekly conversation in person or on the phone. Don’t have the time? How much time would it cost to recover from the missed deadlines or the money lost?

  2. Please, someone create some structure. If the client is trying to create structure, that means there isn’t any. If the client is unavailable to speak with the Web Developer, let the chips fall where they may.

  3. Create questions and ask them on the phone. Questions create pathways. The questions both are asking, may not provide the answers they are looking for. It’s only through discussion, that those answers are revealed.

  4. Stop blaming each other and take ownership. Things got off track, yeah it sucks, so build a plan to fix it.

  5. Do some research and educate yourself. There is no magical Website God that will show you the way. This is real life. It’s amazing how much effort people put into researching purchasing a car, but won’t put even a fraction of that effort into researching a new website or a clients business. Just put the time in. Force yourself. It will get easier along the way.

I wrote this post to be direct. If you are interpreting it as a rant, you have missed the point of this post entirely and you may want to either get out of the Web Development Business or stop requesting websites to be built for your business. I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors.

2 thoughts on “Why your last Web Developer sucked”

  1. @robertgadon: Engaging and thought provoking post as usual, Wes. Thanks for sharing. That last paragraph….ouch! I didn’t take it as a rant. But clearly you had some people in mind who need to get better organized and improve their communication and management process. ;-).

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