Why is my developer so slow to reply to emails

Disclaimer: This post is part of the series ‘Why is my developer…’ It is aimed at explaining some things you might have noticed about the web developers you’ve worked with. I am by no means saying that all developers act that way, neither am I justifying anything that amounts to bad behaviour. I also attempt to give solutions.

Do you think your web developer is taking a long time to reply to emails? Or at least that he/she is taking longer than your other business partners? You are most probably right. I’ve even heard stories of developers replying to queries only after weeks. And here is why.

Web development is computer programming applied to web sites and computer programming requires a lot of deep concentration, sustained over hours, every day. As a web developer, when I say that I will come up with a website in 10 working days, I mean that I will have to devote ALL my core hours for the next 10 working days to building that website.

To be productive in web development, I have to make room for a lot of distraction-free time. That means phone turned off and mailbox shut. I look at my emails in the morning and at the end of my day. And if there are too many, the ones I can’t deal with then will have to wait for next time I open my mailbox.

What’s more, I suspect there is a bit of a shortage in (professional) web developers. There are days where, if I was to reply to my emails in real time, I’d pretty much spend the day doing that. I am forced to prioritize, so general enquiries are pushed back after more specific ones, which are pushed back after anything relating to projects I am busy delivering now.

And web development projects can sometimes extend over week or months. So priority needs to be given to emails relating to that project over that long period of time.

The way forward when it’s just taking too long.

From the web developer’s side

It doesn’t take that long to return an email to say that you are busy and can’t deal with an enquiry. I know from experience that it can be hard to disappoint people, let alone consistently over long stretches of time, but it’s the polite thing to do.  I sometimes set up an automated reply that says when I am going to be available next to deal with fresh enquiries.

For projects that you are not interested in anymore or just can’t fit in, it’s also nice to provide an alternative. Find a developer who would be happy to take on these projects. You will make everyone happy: the client has someone to talk to straight away, the other developer gets a new project and you are free from clients insisting that you make yourself available.

From the client/partner side

No need to insist. The best thing you can do is move on. The only exception is when you need info from the developer to access the site, where in practice you have no choice.

That said, take time to consider whether your project really is that urgent and if it is not worth waiting for the developer. Maybe waiting is a little price to pay for good work.

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