There’s something that I see in the web industry that bothers me. It’s still a widespread practice, though it should have ended a while ago.
This practice is destructive to both clients and developers, and ultimately helps no one. Hopefully, by talking about it, we can help eradicate it.
What I’m referring to is when developers deceive their clients.
Why Does This Happen?
Web development has been around for at least two generations now. Most of the origin stories that developers have heard from their heroes include one account of telling a new client “Sure I can do that!” and then learning a new framework or language over the weekend.
The web isn’t the same place it was in the late 1990s.
It’s impossible for any one person to know everything there is to know about the web anymore. That’s why no one calls themselves a webmaster anymore — the title is inaccurate when there are new languages being invented every month.
But many developers and studios will still tell prospective clients that they know how to do something, even when they don’t. It’s a very dangerous gambit to make.
The client doesn’t know what they don’t know, so of course they will ask if you can solve their specific problem. But you owe it to them to be honest with them and tell them I’s never solved that problem before, or perhaps, I’m not familiar with that platform/language, but I know someone who is. Then, let the client decide how they want to proceed. But never tell them you’re an expert when you clearly are not. They damn sure shouldn’t foot the bill for you to learn, either.
Is it because some of us are too afraid to specialize that we feel compelled to take on every job, even when we are unfamiliar? Is because we are so immersed in a scarcity mindset that we’re afraid to say No? Perhaps we believe that since others were able to do it years ago, we can as well?
Our integrity is not worth the fallout that deception causes.
Because here’s the thing.
The web moves fast. Incredibly fast these days. And while it may impress other developers or even clients if you know more programming languages than you have fingers and toes, we don’t need to mark out for that attention. It’s not the target we should be aiming at. Each person in our industry should play to their strengths.
You can be so-so at a whole bunch of things, or you can be really good at just a few. I’d rather sacrifice width and breadth of knowledge in order to have depth of knowledge. I would rather specialize in a few areas and kick ass at those, than be merely adequate at a many.
You only have so many hours in the day, and if your attention is divided in a million directions, it’s hard to focus on anything at all. The things you pile on your plate, the more mediocre you’re going to be at all of them.
So, make your choice. What things do you want to be really good at? Stick to those.
Are there skills that you want to be possess and be good at? Either make time to learn them or refer those inquiries to someone who does.
And don’t ever deceive your clients. Because they deserve better than that.