The 10 Secret Myths Of Website Development

Unfortunately for web developers, there are many myths about development that clients, and even some junior developers, believe about websites. Many believe we have magic buttons or that it’s only a matter of copy and paste to do what we do and make their site successful.

These beliefs can harm both your business and client opportunities, as well as the client itself, because it often leads to poor choices in choosing a freelance developer. These myths spread through shady sources who promise a business in a box and fame and fortune overnight.

All these myths have been taken from real-life clients that several freelancers have come across more than once.

Myth 1: SEO will make my site popular.

Truth: SEO only helps your site to get seen – it doesn’t ensure that your site will be revisited or your products will be purchased. You must have great content (keywords or not) and a great product or service.

Myth 2: All I need is a pretty design, what the backend looks like doesn’t matter because no one will see it.

Truth: No matter how awesome your site looks, if the code is terrible, you’ll have have nothing but problems. Whether it’s cross-browser issues, SEO problems or readability issues, it’s worth paying a good developer to code your site the first time, versus paying for a shoddy developer and then having to turn around and pay someone else to fix it.

Myth 3: All code is the same, so why should I pay $100 an hour when this other guy is offering services for $10 an hour?

Truth: All code is not the same, just like all car mechanics, lawyers and doctors aren’t the same. Bad developers use tables for coding, have messy code and don’t care about semantics. How does this hurt you if the website “appears” to work? Search engine bots don’t like wading through bad code and tables, so it may be harder and slower to get indexed. Bad semantics means you’re losing out on SEO by not having proper link titles, image alts and title hierarchies. Bad developers only “duct-tape” your site together. It works but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

Myth 4: My website has to look exactly the same in every browser including Internet Explorer 6.

Truth: Your website doesn’t have to look exactly the same in every browser – in fact it’s an absolute impossibility. While you should strive to get it as close as possible, new technologies are coming out every day that aren’t supported in 10 year old browsers like IE6, or that severely slow down or crash the browser. Gracefully degrading is a process where certain features are removed or pared down in older browsers, to make the site work better, even if it’s missing a few design elements like rounded corners. Most major sites like Google, Twitter and Facebook already do this. It’s also unlikely that the average user will even notice  difference.

Myth 5: A freelance developer is only out to make money and doesn’t know what my site needs.

Truth: It’s a freelancer’s business to care about your site, which is why you should listen to him/her when they mention that flashing website backgrounds, dancing monkeys and splash pages are very annoying, frowned upon and bad for usability. We spend lots of time every day learning this kind of stuff to help your site succeed.

Myth 6: Just talking about features is the same as adding features to in a contract.

Truth: Some clients don’t realize that just because they mention a feature in a conversation through phone or email, doesn’t mean we’ve agreed to do it. Every feature should be in the estimate or contract, and if you decide to add something down the line, make sure you’re clear when you tell the freelancer it’s something you want to be added (and make sure you realize you’ll have to pay for it as well).

Myth 7: Coding websites is easy. My friend’s daughter does it.

Truth: Like drawing, anyone can code a website. However like drawing, not everyone can be the Leonardo da Vinci of web programming. It takes years of experience and work to really get the knack of development down. Not only do you need to learn code, you need to learn various bits of multiple coding languages, keep updated on new releases and worry about getting it to look right in all major browsers, screen sizes and operating systems. That’s a whole lot to learn.

Myth 8: I can just use Photoshop’s slice feature or Dreamweaver’s design view to code my new site.

Truth: You should never use a program to code your site. It simply can’t anticipate browser problems or follow proper semantics. Working, viewing and fixing code from these sources is always terrible – not to mention the fact most of them use tables instead of CSS – which is definitely the wrong way to go in code.

Myth 9: Just filling my meta tags with keywords will get me to the top of Google.

Truth: If it was that easy, everyone would be at the top of Google. As a matter of fact, Google no longer uses meta keywords in factoring ranking. The best ways to obtain higher rank is still good content, traffic and inbound links.

Myth 10: A freelancer developer isn’t a real business, so it’s ok to call them at 10p.m on a Sunday night.

Truth: A freelance developer is just as much a business as a big web agency. We all hold normal business hours and it’s inconsiderate and rude if you call late at nights and/or on weekends, unless they specifically list those hours as business hours (or you’re international and they agree on those hours ahead of time). Even if we’re working at 10 p.m that Sunday and even if we answer a few emails on weekends, it’s still not nice calling after hours. It’s about the same as a telemarketer calling you at 2 a.m. (that’s happened to me as well).

Your Turn

Have you found myths that several clients have believed in? What were they?

Photo courtesy of wili_hybrid