How NOT to Provide Instructions to Your Web Developer

Hint: Embedding images in a Microsoft Word file is never a good idea.

WheelsYears ago, I received a flyer in the mailn about a replacement for my helicopter’s stock ground handling wheels. For those of you who don’t know, you move a helicopter around on the ground by attaching wheels that lift the skids off the ground so you can push it. The stock wheels on my helicopter — then an R22 — were too small for me to clear the runners for my hangar door. These larger wheels — called “Big Wheels” — would give me the extra clearance I needed to get over the lip.

Trouble is, I didn’t want to spend $450 on a set of wheels, sight unseen.

So I offered the manufacturer a free Web site in exchange for the wheels. Being a guy who wasn’t particularly Internet savvy, he said yes. And thus began our relationship.

In the ten or so years since then, Walt has given me numerous items of ground handling equipment to test out. Some of it I really liked — like the Big Wheels that he gave me for my R22 and, later, for my R44. Others, not so much — the original tow bar design, for example, wasn’t quite beefy enough to tow my R44 from my hangar to my departure area some distance away at the airport. But it was all great quality stuff that I was pleased to have the opportunity to use and show off. In exchange, Walt got a respectable-looking website, first coded in HTML and then upgraded as a WordPress-based CMS. Lots of pictures — some of which I’d taken with my helicopter as model; the one above is an example. (Yes, my first helicopter had white skids).

The only thing that kind of bugged me over the years was the way Walt requested updates to the site. He’d sometimes send random photos with notes. Sometimes I’d make a requested change and then he’d respond with another change to the same page. I’d get bursts of email messages from him with new content. It got to the point that I’d usually wait a week or two after hearing from him to make sure there wasn’t anything else on the way. That led to me forgetting to take care of things for him and him politely reminding me and me finally getting it done.

Please understand that I don’t mind updating his site periodically. It’s not as if he does it every month — or even every year. It really isn’t (or should’t be) much work. And I use the wheels regularly. I don’t feel as if I’ve done enough work to cover the cost of them yet. After all, it isn’t as if I created some super spectacular custom solution for him. It’s not as if I spent weeks of my life developing and maintaining his site. And he really is a nice man who makes a great product.

About a month or so ago, I got an email message from Walt’s wife. (I didn’t even know he was married.) She wanted to know the best way to request changes. I told her to put them all into one email message.

The email messages started arriving a while later. Note that I used the plural form of the word message. I was busy with other things — a book, travel, etc. — and I didn’t take a look at them right away. She emailed me to confirm that I’d received them. I said I had and would get to it as soon as I could. She waited another week and then sent another email with a note saying that she’d put all the changes in one document, as I’d requested.

Attached was a Word document.

And then I looked at the other email messages. They all included Word documents, too.

I don’t recall asking for a Word document and I know damn well I never told her to embed the images in a Word document. There are few things as painful to me (or likely to anyone else) than removing more than 50 images from a Word document file.

EditsBut what’s worse is that she created it with Word tables and used notes inside the table cells to indicate which images to keep and which ones to remove.

Yes, that’s right — she also sent me images I already had. Images that were on the website.

And did I mention that the images were all different sizes and resolutions and proportions? They look the same here because she resized and cropped them in Word. But they’re all over the map when it comes to size and some of them are as tiny as 2-1/2 inches wide at 72 dpi. This is supposed to replace images that were at least 6 inches wide at 72 dpi. Do you know what they look like when I try to scale them up?

But it’s the inconsistent use of little down-pointing arrows and the positions of the images that I’m struggling with. Is she pointing to a replacement or the one I’m supposed to delete?

Understand that she didn’t reproduce the page the way it appears on the website. She didn’t label them the way they are on the website. From what she’s sent, it’s not even clear whether she’s introducing new products, removing old products, or just playing a really mean joke on me.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Walt and I love his Big Wheels. (Seriously: if you have to pull an R22 or R44 or R66 around, these are the wheels you need.) He’s a nice person and his wife seems very nice, too. It’s extremely difficult, however, to get the job done with what they sent. And not to scream in frustration.

I know they’re doing the best they can. But I also know that this could easily be a post in Clients from Hell.

So now I’m waiting for her to get back to me with more information and possibly some newer, larger photos so I can finish up, take a deep breath, and go have a martini.

Do you understand now why I don’t do websites for other people anymore?

3 thoughts on “How NOT to Provide Instructions to Your Web Developer

  1. Boy do I understand. I think that web developers charge really high rates to discourage clients so they don’t have to deal with situations like this.

    • That’s actually what I did. People started asking me to do websites for them and I told them (1) it would likely take a long time, (2) they probably wouldn’t like the results, and (3) it would cost a few thousand bucks. I REALLY don’t like building Websites for other people unless I get free rein to do pretty much what I want and really like the person/product. In other words, I’m a bad person to ask to do a site.

  2. I get advertisements “designed” in Word all the time. I use File Juicer to pull all the photos out and then work from there.

    Or I email them and ask them to resend it without putting the photos in word documents. Sometimes that’s too much to ask.

What do you think?