We ask a lot of Web developers. It’s no simple task to create a functional website from scratch, and we don’t always make it easy on them. The thing is, when we create difficult circumstances or make unrealistic demands, we’re actually making it less likely they will be able to give us what we need.
If you’re hoping to improve your working relationship with your Web developers, and better equip them for the task at hand, then we have a little advice that might help. Here are a few tips about working with a website developer.
Developing and Designing are Not the Same
The terms ‘Web designer’ and ‘Web developer’ are often used interchangeably, when they shouldn’t be. Designers and developers fill two very different roles, and they require very different skill sets. Web designers are similar to graphic designers—they create the look and feel of the website. They’re often responsible for planning the user interface (UI), and in general, they create a static image of what the website will look like.
Design First, Develop Second
Many a project manager and business owner have wasted the time and efforts of a developer by failing to abide by this maxim. It’s important to have a concrete idea of what you need your website to be before you have the developer start coding. If you don’t have a complete design in place, you’re going to be having your developer throw away, undo, or supplement his work somewhere down the line.
Imagine, for a moment, that instead of building a website, you’re building a brick-and-mortar office. If you come to the contractor halfway through the project and tell him things like “Why is the floor tile? I wanted hardwood!” or “You know, I think we really need a second bathroom,” you’re going to have a frustrated crew that’s upset it has to undo all the work it’s done already. You’re also going to have to adjust your expectations about the timeline and cost of the project.
The best way to avoid “tearing up all the tile” is to design thoroughly first. If you cover everything you want and need in the design, then it will be more straightforward for the developer to put it all together.
The Developers are Going to Need Things
Just like the construction example, in order to build a website, developers are going to need certain resources. The design, mentioned above, is a big one. They will have a much harder time giving your website the look and functionality you want it to have without a design put together first, especially when their background is in GitHub, not Photoshop.
But that’s not the only thing they’ll be asking for. Just as important as the design is the content, which, if you’re building a new website, you’re going to need a lot of. Don’t expect your developer to create it. He writes in CSS, not iambic pentameter. You’re most likely going to want to hire a dedicated content creator—like a copywriter or a content marketer—to get that job done.
And, among other things, developers are going to need your authorization on things. In other words, they’re going to show you mockups and samples, and you need to give them a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. The longer you take to respond to those requests, the longer your developer will be sitting on his hands.
Scope Creep is a Problem
Scope creep (also known as “kitchen sink syndrome”) is when features or requirements are added to a project that’s already in process. This increases the amount of work that must be done to bring the project to completion. It’s a problem frequently seen by developers since their managers so infrequently understand how much work it takes to add the features requested after the fact.
If you want happy developers, you need to be aware of this problem and work to avoid it. Much can be done by following the first piece of advice, and designing thoroughly before coding begins. But, in the event that things must be added after the project begins, understand that your timeline is likely to extend as a result. In any case, make sure you and the developer are on the same page, and have a clear understanding of what’s expected, to avoid wasting time and effort.
Project Timelines Can Vary
It doesn’t really matter how “simple” of a project you think it is. Building a “digital office,” shall we say, is a process that takes time and effort. And since you probably don’t know how to code yourself, it’s best to leave the timeline estimation to the professional. That said, there are a few things that you can do to speed up the timeline.
Coders, programmers and developers often talk about a zero-sum game that’s played with three variables: release date, feature set and development resources. If you want to modify one variable, you need to modify the others appropriately. In other words, you can have an insanely fast turnaround time on your website development. You just need to be prepared to give the developer everything he needs at lightning speeds, or you need to strip the feature set down to bare bones, or possibly both.
In other words, you can have quality, low cost, or speed, but you can’t have all three.
The Developer May Disagree With You
Lastly, you need to be aware that because you’re a human being, you are prone to having ideas. And, for the same reason, not all of those ideas will be good ones. From time to time, you may experience disagreements between you and your developers. This often comes because you have suggested a feature or design element that goes against best practices and their industry experience. Be prepared to accept that they know more about building a website than you do, and that they know how to put the polish on your ideas. Respect their expertise enough to trust it.
Hayden Beck has written content for some of the biggest logos in the Silicon Slopes (Utah) and works exclusively as a private contractor writing SEO-friendly content that brings in organic Web traffic. A graduate of the University of Utah, Hayden spends his free time enjoying every winter sport the Rocky Mountains have to offer.
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