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Too many cooks spoil the code
altdelete




msg:4655479
 6:41 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

I tried to find a good, succinct title for this thread :)

I'm frustrated right now with a situation that has happened at least once or twice in my freelance dev career: clients who edit code, don't really know what they're doing, then expect you to fix things.

I finished a project and was just waiting for the final edits that always need to be done. I get message from client that there are some display issues. Well, looking at the stylesheet, I see all sorts of additions to the CSS that obviously were done by someone else. The designer on this project has added some CSS as well, incorrectly and containing errors. The designer doesn't really know what he/she is doing with the CSS but even though I've mentioned it several times before, insists on trying to do edits rather than have me do them correctly.

The client is an agency I've been working with for some time, but I think they have lost money on projects in the past and have told me they are trying to do as much themselves (having designer do things) rather than have me do things (correctly). Problem is that they don't really do things right.

It's frustrating. Have things like this happened to you?

I'm trying to tell them nicely that this new way of doing things is just not going to work well for me. I don't want to turn something over, have someone else hack around at it, then turn it back to me to fix. Crazy.

 

graeme_p




msg:4655488
 7:16 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

In terms of clearing up after someone, I posted this some time ago:

[webmasterworld.com ]

but in that case the client has taken my advice ever since.

I am currently sorting out a mess for a client who:

1) got a site developed by a developer who is OK, but over-complicates things, and is unconventional (so its hard to figure out what he has done).

2) got a very complex design done that works OK as a static design. It is full of duplication, especially of very specific css (stuff like .myClass ul.anotherclass li input[type=submit] that is repeated with slight variations).

3) he has had two people attempt to weld the design to the site, neither of which could complete it.

I am almost there with it. It has been tedious and frustrating, and it is impossible to fix the design to the extent that I can feel the end product is really good - but he is paying me hourly which is considerable comfort.

I got the work through a freelancing website, and I am really, really glad I did not bid a fixed price. In fact, I did earlier and lost to one of the guys who failed to do the job earlier. The fact that two people had failed to do the same job (I checked the client's history when he got back to me) was a warning.

mack




msg:4655507
 8:00 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

Working with someone else’s code can be hard, especially if they work in a non standard way. You spend half the time working out what they are doing and the other half fixing things.

I would be tempted to contact them and explain you are responsible for the dev part. Anything that is later done to change your work is not your responsibility. They may indeed be keen to save a few bucks by doing some modifications in house, but why should they expect you to fix up their in-house mistakes without charging.

Their savings are in effect costing you!

Mack.

tangor




msg:4655576
 10:24 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

There's a sign on my desk: "$150.00/hour. $450.00/hout if you help."

The other way I put is I'll look at code suggestions but will not look at inserted code to finished work.

The third way I put it is hire all of us as a team, select a team leader/code auditor and let's get going!

altdelete




msg:4655743
 1:19 pm on Mar 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

graeme_p, sounds like quite a mess. I've fixed a few sites in my day as well. It always amazes me that there are people out there who don't really know what they're doing, yet people pay them money to do work.

Mack, your suggestion is very helpful. And yes, why should I clean up their in-house mess? This whole in-house stuff started a few months ago and I knew it wasn't going to be good. I've tried to roll with it and make things work. You see, the designer told me they had lost money on a few recent projects so the designer was going to have to do as much of the site as they could themselves. (It's WordPress, so anybody and their dog's cousin thinks that if they can create a post or drag a widget, they "know" WordPress). But when I started seeing code put where it shouldn't be or CSS that was either a mess or just plain wrong, I did gently mention it. I've always guided them to best practices, etc. They had someone in-house before who really messed their WP sites up...long story.

So, it's pretty clear to me they're trying to save money. But, not my problem. I wasn't hired as a clean up person.

Tangor...thank you for that sign quotation! I was trying to search for that last week. I remember seeing something about an auto mechanic who had such a sign in their shop that said something like "My rate is $150.00/hour; $250.00/hour if you want to watch; $450.00/hour if you want to help."

Tangor, your second point is SO right on! That really hits the nail on the head for me! I do NOT want to look at inserted code done to my finished work! This project was done. I handed over everything, just like usual, (including my final invoice, by the way, that hasn't been paid). I then wait for the final edits which are usually almost always just a few little changes to the CSS. No biggie. The point is, I was done and now they have screwed with the stylesheet so much that it makes my head hurt.

So I guess my position is, I finished the project, they chose to mess it up. I can choose to fix it or not.

But you know what I just remembered? Years ago, I took the time to craft a thorough, well-thought-out Terms of Service. I reference it with every invoice I send, so that the client knows that by paying me, they are agreeing to my terms. One thing I made sure to put in those terms is a section on modifications to work made by the client or a third-party, like another developer. It hasn't happened to me dozens of times but happened enough working with clients that I knew I needed something in there to cover it. (it's WordPress...they think they can do whatever!). My terms clearly state that what they've done is against my terms, the hourly rate at which I will correct such edits...and the fact that I'm under no obligation to do so.

Your comments are SO VERY helpful to me! I have been freelancing for over 7 years and have had lots of ups and downs. Mostly, I feel isolated at times. But I'll save some of that for another thread. I had somehow forgotten about webmasterworld, but I am so glad a Google search brought me back here.

Please know that your comments have really made me feel a whole lot better.

altdelete




msg:4660921
 6:19 pm on Apr 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

Here I sit a few weeks later, thinking I have resolved this issue but haven't really.

I finished a project for the same client over a month ago. I've been paid in full. Everything is great.

Then client sends me a list of items for this completed project. It's a WordPress customization and they're doing the site in 2 languages, utilizing a translation plugin. That's fine. In the original description of the project, they said THEY would be doing the translation of the site.

I'm going to bid this as a new project, since it is. They have a list of about six edits they want me to do (because they don't know how.) But also...the most irritating part...they've added over 70 lines of CSS to my completed project!

Here we go again. The CSS is repetitive; they usually add whole blocks of declarations for a selector just to change one value (for example, want to add some padding on the left of a div? Just copy ALL of the declarations for that div and then change one of the numbers in the padding declaration!) Some of the CSS is breaking the work I completed for them.

I wish I could find the short and sweet words that would make them understand that I will not work this way. When I first started working with them, they would add maybe one or two small items to the CSS and I'd go hunt down the original CSS block, figure out what they were changing, and incorporate the change. Now, though, there's no way I'm doing this. It would take at least an hour to do this with the amount of changes they made.

I could use some help coming up with the words to tell them that this is just not going to work unless they are going to pay me for my time. Either I develop the site, which includes CSS edits, or they do, but two people cannot do the CSS. It just doesn't work, which is why I put the whole section on client modifications in my terms.

I make the site work, they do edits, then expect me (apparently) to clean it up and do work weeks down the road for free. Ain't happening.

How do you, personally, handle these situations? I'd be curious.

Yet again, though, I go back and read my Terms of Service, and everything is spelled out clearly. I'll correct any errors within 14 days of client signing off (I think I need to add that final payment is considered client signing off as that isn't clearly stated.) I also reserve the right to charge a reasonable fee to correct any errors I'm not responsible for including edits made by client.

I guess I know what to do, but when you work with a client for several years and things start suddenly morphing a bit, and you know that they're trying to cut corners, these things creep in. You don't want to damage the relationship with the client, but you also realize that they are trying to squeeze as much out of you as they can, to the point they're taking advantage.

It's a business and sometimes I let the desire to keep the working relationship good get in the way of being a business person first and look out for me.

tangor




msg:4661371
 12:05 pm on Apr 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

The short and simple is: "At completion of Contractor's WORK and acceptance by Client, that WORK is deemed complete. If the client changes the Completed WORK, including CSS, it will be considered NEW WORK. Any consultation, edits, or modifications client desires Contractor to perform will be billed as NEW WORK."

That's the written language, which you hand over the next time you consult, but you also say as you point it out: "I can't keep fixing your CSS problems. Leave the CSS alone. It costs you more for me to fix what isn't broken every time the CSS is messed with."

If they are unhappy with the declaration then shake hands, say goodbye, and walk away. That, of course, depends on what your revenue is with the client.

I'll work with some "code meddling" clients because the overall scope of Work is significant, but for something that nets me marginal income and nothing but heartburn, I'll say goodbye.

altdelete




msg:4662109
 5:39 pm on Apr 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks tangor.

I've worked with code meddling clients before but usually after I address the issue once, they behave. In this case, I've been working with this person for some time, the work has been significant, and now they are changing the way they approach projects. So, although I've addressed the situation numerous times, they're making excuses and/or ignoring me. My dilemma then, and reason for posting, is that I do respect our working relationship. I don't want to sever things, but at the same time, their ignoring me shows me that *they* don't value the relationship or my input.

I think that there are money issues at play and by having someone who doesn't really know what they're doing edit the CSS, they're trying to save money. It isn't working ;)

Whether to walk away after numerous attempts to address the issue does depend on revenue...up to a point. To me, the aggravation is NOT worth it. I'm already feeling like I need a change and need to do something different that will be more fulfilling. Life's too short to bang your head on a desk each day doing something that isn't fulfilling.

Thanks!

tangor




msg:4662204
 1:34 am on Apr 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Okay (I feel your pain!) this is the last resort. When they call for a fix you say "Did the CSS change? I'm not fixing it. For anything else I'm your Huckleberry."

And DO NOT FIX THE MODIFIED CSS!

And if what they want changed involves CSS, tell 'em why. ONCE AGAIN. Repeating, over and over, "It ain't broke, quit trying to FIX it! Take more photos! Write more Content! Leave the CSS alone! Oh, if I have to work with CSS YOU HAVE MODIFIED, there's 100% surcharge. IN ADVANCE! I'm not kidding!"

Then walk away.

You know you want to do that, but that's pretty extreme. :)

For me it was ONE client in nearly 30 years of coding (staring with BASIC and DOS applications to over 20 years on the web) who angered me that much to say the above. In my case it worked: I got their attention. Since then I take the client's temp and if it is going South I opt out before that speech has to be made. There are too many customers out there, if you keep after it and you are good at what you do, etc.

It is up to you to find that sweet spot between rolling over and wrath of the coder.

In reality, is this CSS thing really really really that big a deal? And secondly, if they are going cheap is there a way you can satisfy that and still make a profit? That's the bottom line. You know the value of your work, your time, your future with the client. When things go south on their end (pinching pennies) it's a sure bet that at some future time you will not be paid, even with threat of a lawsuit. Been there, done that a few times until I quit being the "nice guy with answers" and the "business man with results". I'm that way now, even with family and friends when it comes to my coding.

Find your comfort level, that's what all the above is about. Coding for dollars is a tough business, don't let anyone tell you different.

A ramble, a memory of learning the biz over 30 years... with an extra overlay of pro studio and stage musician concurrently for the last 55. It's a People Thing! The Customer (and they are not always Right!) is an aspect of business one needs to deal with.

BTW, my answers may not be your answers, or anyone else's!

altdelete




msg:4662606
 4:35 pm on Apr 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

tangor, your answer is fantabulous :)

You're right: It is about finding that sweet spot between rolling over and just taking whatever they throw at you and coming unglued.

In reality, is this CSS thing really really really that big a deal? And secondly, if they are going cheap is there a way you can satisfy that and still make a profit? That's the bottom line. You know the value of your work, your time, your future with the client. When things go south on their end (pinching pennies) it's a sure bet that at some future time you will not be paid, even with threat of a lawsuit. Been there, done that a few times until I quit being the "nice guy with answers" and the "business man with results". I'm that way now, even with family and friends when it comes to my coding.

Find your comfort level, that's what all the above is about. Coding for dollars is a tough business, don't let anyone tell you different.


In the greater scheme of things, no, it's not a really, really, really big deal. But then again, it is. If I work on the site and have things just so, then come back the next day and things have been edited to screw things up, it's time lost. If I come back weeks or months down the line and there are lines of code I didn't put in and they're causing problems...well, I just have to remind myself that at that point, it's a new project.

I think for me there's a disrespect that gets to me. I have an emotional response to it. I'm sure I shouldn't, but I do. It's like people assume that they can do what I'm doing, that they can just go in a mess with things, no biggie. It amazes me that this happens after years of working with me, that they would disrespect or not value our relationship any more than this. But then, it gets back to money...

So yes, I do just have to find my comfort level and what I'm willing to deal with and at what price I'm willing to do it.

For anything else I'm your Huckleberry."

And DO NOT FIX THE MODIFIED CSS!

And if what they want changed involves CSS, tell 'em why. ONCE AGAIN. Repeating, over and over, "It ain't broke, quit trying to FIX it! Take more photos! Write more Content! Leave the CSS alone! Oh, if I have to work with CSS YOU HAVE MODIFIED, there's 100% surcharge. IN ADVANCE! I'm not kidding!"

Then walk away.

You know you want to do that, but that's pretty extreme. :)


Yes, I would love to do that sometimes, and yes, of course it's extreme. But you know why I would love to do it? Because after seven times of being assertive and kind and them acting as if you've said nothing, or making excuses for why they mess with code, you get frustrated. It's like you're talking to a wall.

Thanks tangor!

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