Dear Clients: How To Work With Developers

Dear clients,

I know things can get lost in translation between us. After all, you’ve been handed some beautiful designs from your designer and now it’s your turn to give them over to your developer (that’s me) to translate into a real working website. I know you may not know all of the technical jargon, the design words, or the usability issues. It’s my job to help you out with those sorts of things.

However, there are some ways you can make your developer’s life easier. We may have been working together for several years by now, or you may be brand new to our relationship. Either way, I think it’s time we sat down and talked about our communication skills. If I don’t understand or have all of the information I need upfront about the project, we’ll inevitably run into some issues between us.

Have all the resources ready before you hand me the files

This seems obvious, but I’ve had a stream of projects lately that are being pushed for development, but aren’t ready for development. I can’t tell you the number of times a client has handed me half-completed designs, designs without fonts, designs without exportable vectors or completely unfinished designs, expecting me to work miracles. I can not, I assure you (even if animated SVGS look like magic, they are not). Please don’t ask me to hurry on starting a project before your agency itself is ready. There’s no point in starting to code something if I don’t have the correct fonts. I’ll end up having to go back and recorrect all the spacing once I do, which is just wasting both my time and yours.

I’m a developer, not a designer, so please don’t hand me wireframes and expect me to turn them into anything representing a good design. That’s what designers are for.

Please don’t ask me to rush the project if it takes you a week to hand me the correct font files. The project isn’t ready. Have all the assets ready *first*.

I need to know what functionality you need

I’ll always directly ask what functionality needs to happen on this project. Are there carousels or tabs? Popup modals or animated icons? Lazy loading or Ajax? And it never fails that halfway through coding something, I discover a major bit of JS that needs to be written that wasn’t disclosed up front.

I always, always, always, need to know what a project entails when it goes above and beyond basic HTML and CSS. This ensures I get an accurate quote to you, the client, and that there are no surprises for either of us in the middle of a project. So I don’t need to come back to you and request another $1,000 because you forgot to mention that super-awesome-but-time-consuming-custom-map-animation, and so I don’t have to figure out how to squeeze another week’s worth of work into the last 2 days of a project. This help eliminates stress on both ends, I promise.

I know you may not know every piece of functionality up front when the project is still in the estimating phase. But by the time you hand me the finished designs for coding, you should have a full functionality punch list.

Nitpicking on a pixel level

This is actually less common than it was years ago (thanks to responsive design), but can still be a problem for those clients who know enough of design and/or development to break things. I know you want an item to be exactly 240px high everywhere, regardless of the amount (or lack of) content, but that’s not the web. I’m sorry. Even if I could get it to be the same height in one browser – it definitely won’t be on the next. And what happens when someone adds a title that takes up 4 lines instead of 1? Let’s not waste precious time trying to reduce something by 1 or 2 pixels to match something on a completely different page with completely different content.

No one will ever notice your pixel nitpicking, I promise.

Design Consistency is key

This one is meant more for your designers. It’s important to have consistency in your designs. This ensures a usable (and reusable) UI and clean codebase: less bugs, longer lasting websites, less code to look at when you need to update it quickly.

  • Use the same hex number for all your medium grays, dark blues, bright reds or whatever. I’ve had projects that had no less than 15 different hex numbers for the basic same gray before.
  • Use the same heading sizes across all pages (I’ve had a project where the H2s were 24px, 25px, 26px AND 32px with no rhyme or reason)
  • Have consistent container widths. Or no containers at all. But be consistent and use guidelines.
  • Don’t flatten your files EVER.
  • Have all vector/line work as exportable SVGs. I can export them myself, just make sure they’re linked in PS properly to their vector files.
  • If you don’t use free, open-source web fonts make sure¬†you tell your boss this so they’re not confused when they hand me the files and I tell them they have to pay $400 a month for all your fancy font choices (and no I won’t steal the font for you).

What I promise

If you can help me and do the things above, I can help you and give you a website you can use for years. One with no bugs, that is easy for your users to actually use. I can finish your project on time and get it launched without issues. We can work together in harmony and make your own clients happy. We can do this!


All your developers.