Why is my developer so unhappy when we want to make small changes before launch?

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.

So, why does your developer get grumpy when it comes to tweaking the website before launch? In my experience, the main culprit is decision fatigue.

A website cannot be launched until it is a finished product. The typical (and according to me, the best) workflow for a small to medium website project is the following:

  • Website architecture – which pages do we want? How are they linked?
  • Content collation and copywriting
  • Design
  • Web Development/coding

Each step involves producing one aspect of the website but more importantly, it requires making decisions. For example:

  • Do we want a single About Us page or do we split it between Services and About?
  • Shall we use bullet points or full paragraphs? Do we want this picture on the homepage?
  • Shall I add a 100px high white space after the main title?
  • Shall I allow users to add pictures to this paragraph in the future or not?

All these decisions WILL HAVE to be made and implemented before launch. The earlier in the process, the more tempting it is for the service provider and the client to leave decisions for later. That is how small decisions (and often not so small ones) trickle down the whole process to pool up before launch, during web development. And that is how web developers often end up, say, improvising the design of the tablet version of the site or coming up with the copy for the privacy policy.

In addition to that, anything that was loosely decided upon is likely to be subject to change before launch.

In other words, web developers end up doing their work (which involves a lot of decision making already) + making decisions that were not taken at earlier stages + implementing changes where the decisions were not final.

Also, we tend to overlook how energy consuming decision making is. So, although it explains why we put off decisions in the first place, we do not recognise the efforts others are putting into making the decision for us. We don’t notice it.

By the time the client views the developed website and requests trying out another picture or correcting a typo, the web developer has already taken on more than his/her coding share. A fact left unnoticed. Hence the resistance…

How can we change this?

Being aware of the problem is the first step.

If you are a project manager

Please make sure that everyone understands that moving on to the next step of the project without having fully completed and approved the previous one is NOT being on time. It is only creating a debt of time and energy required to complete the project. Someone will have to spend that time and energy – and usually it is the developer, for the only reason that he/she is the last one on the line of production.

In particular, make sure to explain to the client why each piece of material and decision needs to be provided on time, even early in the process.

As you go through the developed version of the website and before you show it to the client, try to notice all the features the developer has had to come up with himself and show your appreciation. That should go a LONG way in smoothing things out when final requests come in.

If you are a web developer

First of all, use your experience and factor in last minute changes in your contracts. Decision making is also difficult for the client, and despite signing off the design and approving the copy, once they see the site on screen, they will feel differently about it and want to make some adjustments.

On the other hand, be firm and do not start working on a project if the content, design and copy have not been fully approved. Better ring the alarm bell at that stage then slow things down just before launch.

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