the sky floor

50 Things Every Web Designer and Developer Shouldn’t Do

February 27, 2023

Let’s be real, we all love a good list, but this one is special because it is part 1 of a 100-item cheat sheet for web designers, developers, and clients. If you are a web service provider, you can use this to refine your business and offerings. If you are a client, use part one of the list as a field guide for warning signs – if you see these “don’ts” as you look for a web designer or developer, run the other way.

Web designers and developers shouldn’t:

  1. Constantly steer the client to the highest-cost option if a more affordable solution exists that is just as good.
  2. Only build a website if they also host it. Web design service should be a hostage-free negotiation. 
  3. Promise a firm due date without explaining that at least 50% of hitting deadlines is up to the client. 
  4. Have all the answers all the time. It’s okay to say, “I need to do more research on that!”
  5. Live in their parent’s basement – this is a joke; save that money for a downpayment while you can! 
  6. Ignore the client’s request for a particular web technology to favor one they prefer without explaining why or getting approval. “I always make headless WordPress, no matter what the client asks for.”
  7. Nickel and dime every conversation. Their time with you is built in if the project is priced correctly. If they need to tack on many extras to every invoice, they are proving they don’t understand the value they offer. 
  8. Undercharge: web design and development is only cheap when it isn’t excellent and goal-oriented. Website can be, but shouldn’t be a commodity.  
  9. Focus an excessive amount on scope creep. Scope creep is real, but claiming every lateral change in scope equals project creep demonstrates the relationship is purely transactional and not built around trust, value, problem-solving, and results. 
  10. Work every evening and weekend. Sometimes work calls for late nights and weekend emergencies, but a steady diet of this will burn out the best of us, which means the work suffers. 
  11. Hire out the complete development of the website overseas via Upwork, Fivver, or Freelancer (or others) without telling the client. There is nothing wrong with using affordable, paid help, but it shouldn’t involve misleading the client. 
  12. Bill by the hour. Stop billing and start pricing.
  13. Put all the risk on the client by producing estimates and hourly line-item invoices. The amount of time it takes to accomplish something is irrelevant. The only truth is that the work is profitable to the client and the web vendor – i.e., the client is charged less than their return, and the web designer sets a price that is more than the cost to him; for example, he can feed his family, pay his bills, and still save some money all for the fee he charges. 
  14. Hand-code marketing websites. 
  15. Use Squarespace or Shopify for a 1,000 SKU/product eCommerce store. 
  16. Tell a client it’s easy when it probably isn’t to them.
  17. Work a freelance side hustle for too long – this isn’t fair to your agency or your side clients long-term. In other words, start your own business after a while if you are freelancing on the side of your full-time job doing the same kinds of work.
  18. Design in Illustrator. Make a few vectors, sure. But turn that off for mockups and layout. 
  19. Trash talk about other ways of doing things. It isn’t worth the risk of making others feel stupid; plus, there is always something new to learn and consider. 
  20. Refer red-flag clients to other agencies you don’t like. If you don’t want to work with them, don’t pass them off to friends or foes. 
  21. Use Comic Sans for a font – unless you intentionally make something hilarious.
  22. Use only free image services. Unsplash and Pexels are great, but plenty of affordable subscription image services exist. Using licensed photos will set the website apart. 
  23. Make everything on a page move on load or scroll. Making it interesting to look at is one thing, making the user sea-sick is another. 
  24. Bring a gun to a knife fight. Use and recommend appropriate tools. 
  25. Work unceasingly without taking breaks. If you’re still reading this, give yourself 5, you’re halfway there (oooohhhh, living on a prayer).
  26. Be rude or condescending. 
  27. Trash talk clients to each other. The occasional good war story is one thing, but a consistent diet of meaningless grumbling will poison client relationships.
  28. Spend all-day doom scrolling social media. On second thought, this one is just for the sake of humanity at large. 
  29. Cut corners. Sometimes using “!important” declarations in CSS is easier; sometimes, it is the only choice, but sometimes it is just cutting corners. Using the best practices might take an extra 5 minutes, but it will be worth it.
  30. Work all day in their PJs. Slow mornings are great, but make the all-day PJ work day rare. Preparing for the day changes the frame of mind and improves productivity. 
  31. Take every single project just because they need the money. Being selective is better for everyone.
  32. Make themselves the hero of every interaction with a client. 
  33. Solve major disputes over text or email. Sometimes you need to get on the phone, Zoom, or meet in person.
  34. Treat new vendors the client has hired as adversaries. There is plenty of work to go around, and facilitating a team atmosphere helps everyone succeed. 
  35. Work from home if they can’t focus at home.
  36. Do spec work. Working for free to earn more work is called extortion. If the work is valuable, it shouldn’t be free!
  37. Agree to profit sharing as the only payment – if a startup wants to make part of the compensation package equity or revenue sharing, great! But unless the web designer/dev is working with a known success, there should be some pay. The kids gotta eat! Even if the work pays off eventually, that free work time could’ve been spent on actively paying work.
  38. Say yes to every project. If there are red flags, say no. Period.
  39. Write a list of 50 things. Woof, this is harder than it sounded. 
  40. Hide the accurate analytics stats when they aren’t favorable. All data tells a story. Sometimes we don’t want to hear that story, but clients will gain trust and respect when they are told the truth and offered ways to pivot and improve. 
  41. Charge for UAT or QA. Those stand for “user acceptance testing” and “quality assurance.” We’ve already established that hourly billing is a mistake, but do not line item end-user testing even if you bill by the hour. Build quality testing into the other items – the client doesn’t want to feel like they are paying extra to ensure the work was done correctly in the first place.
  42. Use or recommend the cheapest possible hosting. There are plenty of powerful but affordable solutions. The most inexpensive options usually give sub-par results. 
  43. Just copy and paste the content into the design. This one is for me as much as anyone else – give a basic read to the client’s copy; it is easy to just paste, but finding those little typos can save everyone time. 
  44. Say, “well it works for me,” without trying to hunt down the problem. Don’t gaslight clients. They probably have a legit issue, so walk them through providing details or troubleshooting if the problem is environmental.
  45. Copy others’ work exactly. It’s okay to be inspired by others, and the truth is that no one owns a specific box shadow or font color combination, but copying everything about another site is just lazy.
  46. Be a know-it-all. No one knows everything. 
  47. Be honest without tact. Honesty is a great value, but brashness can ruin it quickly. 
  48. Try to keep solving a problem without giving it some space. Sleep on a problem. Or go for a walk. Or hop in the shower. Problems often aren’t solved by just working harder on them. Some space will help free up the creative energy to solve it. Brut force isn’t the answer.
  49. Threaten to sue the client. If things go south, try to solve the problems quickly and amicably. If you follow #38, you probably will never have this problem.
  50. Only care about money. Look, everyone needs to make a living, but if we can all value relationships over economics, the world will be a better place. Of course, I want everyone to be well paid, but don’t sacrifice relationships in the process. 

Did you make it? If so, congratulations! Go get yourself that single-origin latte you’ve wanted and get to work. This list isn’t exhaustive, nor is it literally for everyone, but I hope it got the wheels spinning and helps you navigate being a web designer or hiring one!

What did I miss? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

If you missed part 2, 50 Things Every Web Designer and Developer Should Do, click here.