My Top 10 Web Development “won’t do” list

If you’re in the web development or software development industry then this list will probably remind you of situations you’ve encountered. If you aren’t in the business then I hope this list is educational.

Won’t do #1: I won’t build a site for companies that I consider to be unethical.

Won’t do #2: I won’t work for minimum wage just because someone has a limited budget. This should go without saying, but actually it doesn’t. I’ve had college students write me and ask if I could build them a site with blogs, forums, image galleries, video, social networking and audio uploads, and all within their budget of $300 dollars. No, I that’s just not going to happen. If all you have is $300 dollars my suggestion is to spend that money to buy some books on CSS, PHP and Drupal and learn how to do it yourself. It takes time, but it is doable. Hey I’ll even provide the Drupal tutorials.

Won’t do #3: I will not create mockups for a site as part of the bidding process for a project (before a formal agreement has been made). I did early on in my days as a freelancer, but I got burned, and I learned my lesson.Likewise I will not give detailed explanations of how I intend to structure a module or turn over written documentation to that effect before payment has been made. There is a term for giving advice as to how to build a site or how to approach a particular technical issue, it’s called consulting. Consulting is a service, and some companies make their money providing only this service. Telling you how I intend to do my job before you hire me is essentially handing over free consultation with no compensation. Some companies will demand detailed proposals from multiple developers at the same time and use the compiled information to structure their project. I have seen it happen more than once.

Won’t do #4: I will not do things the wrong way in order to reduce the price. When things are done incorrectly it reflects badly upon me and it will cost you more in the long run. You can’t make things cheaper by cutting corners, that’s not the way I work.

Won’t do #5: I won’t add an unlimited stream of new features to a project without a reassessment of project scope. This is a big one, and I think anyone in the business can relate. “Ooh the banner is great, but is there any way that you could make it animated so that when I hover over it it reads me the morning news in German?” Well… of course I can, but that’s going to take me an extra 7 or 8 hours, and you didn’t say you wanted this when we wrote the original estimate. The real question is this: Do you want the feature bad enough to pay me to do it? If not, maybe we should postpone it for the next phase of development.

Won’t do #6: I won’t hire or work with third world outsourcing companies. Sure, I could turn a profit by handing over work to Indian design sweat shops that work for 4 dollars an hour, but I won’t.

Won’t do #7: I won’t work with companies who misrepresent or hide who they are. I have had this come up before and it was not a pleasant experience. The company in question presented itself as being an established web development company that was simply looking to hire a few new people. I started out with them on a contract basis only incrementally realize that their so called “team” was nothing more than a rag tag group of individuals that they had recently contacted just as they had contacted me. One by one the “team members” abandoned ship and I was left with the job of managing all existing projects, handling documentation, client relations, programming three modules at the same time, and building a huge site that had been seriously underbid. Needless to say I didn’t stick around for long either.

Won’t do #8: Just because I am doing a project for you doesn’t mean I will be willing to chat with you on skype at all hours of the night for free. First of all my wife gets angry really quick if skype starts beeping during dinner, and even more angry if I answer. Nor is it ok to “check in” with skype 20 times a day to see how things are going or to ask random questions unrelated to the project. If we are going to chat I need it to planned and focused on a particular issue. When skype starts becoming invasive I turn it off. I have to to stay sane.

Won’t do #9: I won’t allow the lines between friendship and business to be intentionally distorted. I can remember several cases where this has come up. A client calls, or sends a casual email: “Hey Aaron, you want to go have a beer with me…” or “Hey, you wanna come eat dinner with my family” only to arrive and be assaulted with several hours of work related questions. This has happened to me several times. I won’t name names, but they know who they are. These weren’t accidents I am talking about. The clients often had stacks of paperwork prepared, their laptops out and ready and there was no way of escaping. When this has happened I have always walked away feeling hurt or cheated… hurt in the cases where I really considered the person a friend. Would you invite your architect over for dinner and in the middle ask him to draw up the blueprints for a boat house you are thinking of building? Again, consultation is a service; please don’t try to manipulate me into giving it for free.

Won’t do #10: I won’t take orders from random people within an organization who don’t have any authority. All decisions related to my work should be approved within your organization and passed to me through someone who I have been clearly told has decision making power. Sure, your secretary has a right to his or her opinion about the color scheme on the home page, but my email inbox is not the sounding board for that opinion. Why is this important? Because telling me to change a color, or to move something around means work, and if your organization has not decided officially that this action should be taken then I may be left to put things back how they were (which is even more work).