Is the customer always right?

“It makes my eyes hurt, but this is what the client wants”

This plaintiff cry was heard drifting over the office from the front end team last week. Nothing that unusual about that – they are not the most reticent of teams at Collaboration Towers, but it was the content of the cry as well as the resigned and world weary tone that irked me.

If the idea / request – in this case an interface design for a web app – is that bad, should we really agree with the customer and tell let them continue in the belief that they are right?

Where, in fact,  do you draw the line between providing service and being a glorified automotron?

A large part of me thinks that these people – clients – are paying us for our expertise and our experience – shouldn’t we then give them the benefit of that experience? Are we doing a bad job but actually doing what the client would think of as a good job?

We should respect our clients enough to treat them like adults rather than toddlers who will throw a tantrum if their every mad whim is not served immediately – surely this is the different between employing a code monkey and a true craftsman?

Would you draw a circuit diagram and tell an electrician to wire you your house using this self-drawn circuit diagram?

ok, bad example – a lot of you would be capable of this without causing your house to burn down in an electrical fire but go with the metaphore people!

If you don’t want to do it for the client, do it for yourself – do you really want to be the person that has to always explain the lemon in your portfolio as “This wouldn’t be how I would have done it, but this is what the client wanted” with a shrug of the shoulders? How do you think that makes you look – does it make you look like you care about your client’s user experience?

The client almost always had the right idea for their particular problem – and lets face it, they (hopefully) know their industry / team / department / space better than you do – but the nuts and bolts of the implementation and execution should be left to the experts – that’s they pay you for.

Please  – don’t let your clients accept sub-standard implementations

Ladybirds in Chains

Some bugs in the wrong environment

What we can learn from… NaNoWriMo

It’s November which means that the internet is a quiet, eary place. Where once there was mindless chatter there is only dedicated silence with the occasional cry of “Another thousand done” or “What IS the collective noun for bee hives”

It’s NaNoWriMo time – National Novel Writing Month – that one month of the year where hungreds of thousands of people sit down to churn out a 50,000 word novel in November.

And a supprising number of people manage it, and here’s why. The philosphy of NaNoWriMo is to just get the words out, get the story told, write, write, write – don’t edit, you can do that later, just keep going. You don’t even need a plot.

Or in other words, stop shilly-shallying and just get on with it

And it’s liberating – my novel just had a few hundred word rant about elbow patches on tweed jackets (why!?) – it felt good. The creative dam was broken and before I knew it, several chapters had flown from my fingertips onto Textpad (oh how I love thee).

And then I got side tracked…

You may have gathered that I have a couple of Web Apps that I would like to sit down and work on but until recently they had only been in my mind, nothing had happened.

My first road block – I felt I should be useing a framework but I was reluctant to sit down and learn the behometh that is Zend but if that’s the framework that work has adopted learning something else may not be productive. And so it went on, round and round in my head, excuse after excuse and nothing got written.

Until last week – my novel lies abandoned, we may never know what Cameron and Jake were building inside that mysterious research centre, or why Alice the coffee girl dispised Gerald so much but they served their purpose, they broke the dam in my mind, the wall between me and just getting on with what I needed to do.

So dear readers, here is my NaNpoWriMo inspired advice, stop thinking, just develop – you can polish later but just start. Once you start you KNOW you wont be able to put it down, you will keep developing, refining, improving but as long as you keep to the matra of just powering though you may actually end up with an application that functions rather than just a slice of pie in the sky.