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How to tell your employer his work is terrible

When you're a subcontractor

   
8:38 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member encyclo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I got a call last week from another web developer in my home city who was looking to offload a bit of work that he "didn't have time to complete". I went over to visit, and he admitted that the reason he needed help was that he wasn't able to do the job because he didn't have the slightest clue how to.

He wanted a simple feedback form for one of his client's sites: pretty basic stuff, but I know that many developers who come from the print and graphic design industry don't have the appropriate skills. It was easy money, and the guy has got a load more jobs of the same nature to do in the future. A nice, simple little earner.

The problem is, the work is harder than it would at first seem, because the guy really has absolutely no clue whatsoever how to do anything related to web development. He sent over his page for the feedback form, and it was so poorly-built that I has to redo it from scratch. He uses Go-Live, but I don't think he knows what HTML is. He'd adjusted the size of the main table so often that there were more than 40

td
columns, each a few pixels wide.

If it was just that, I'd not be too worried - but there's the rest of it. He has apparently no sense of style: it's not just that it's exceptionally ugly (you could argue that it's a matter of taste), but it is verging on the unusable. He has no notions of information design. The site I built the feedback form for has a Flash splash page with no skip link (and no standard link either - no search engine could get past this page). After the splash page, he has a Flash menu positioned vaguely in the middle, a bunch of poorly optimized and jagged graphics, and the other internal pages have absolutely no navigation or links whatsoever other than an animated, spinning "Back" button (done with Flash, naturally). Text is dark, on a dark background (we're talking a real-estate site, not a gaming site). I could go on, but suffice to say that his other sites are much the same.

So, what approach should I take? The guy's got some good (but obviously clueless) clients, and he can offer me a good little supplementary income: but I could never publically associate myself with the work I do for him, and I'm risking finding myself improving his reputation - he who could be considered a "competitor" in some ways.

Do I tell his that his work is terrible, do I shut up and take the money, or do I just walk away? I had offered to do some basic SEO for him, but if he accepts, I'm going to have to tell him that I'd need to completely redo his site.

Any thoughts?

10:13 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



How bad do you want the money? How bad do you want to be on good terms with the guy? How much more practice do YOU need at the things HE'S terrible at?

Build yourself a simple "yes/no" matrix. Fill in the blocks. Don't do ANY "maybes". My guess is that you'll walk. Unless real friendship is involved.... which really can change the equations....

11:02 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Do your part and don't tell anyone ;)
12:14 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member encyclo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I didn't know the guy from Adam until I met him last week - he came in via a link in a local niche directory and filled in a contact form.

It's easy money. The work he's currently offering is the kind of stuff I can do in my sleep, and if he can supply a steady stream of such work (I think he can) then for the moment I'm happy to get the income. I'm not looking to get on best-buddy terms with the guy, but I don't want to wreck a profitable relationship.

I'll be just fine if I only stick to doing the basic stuff, but I could get into trouble if I accept to do SEO for him - because I'd be forced to rip apart his work and it could backfire.

I'm considering changing the business relationship more into my favor: I think I'd be on safer ground in the long run. If I take an SEO job, I don't want to stay as a subcontractor - I'd take on his client myself under my name and reputation, bill the client directly and give the guy a percentage as the finder's fee. In pure money terms he's not going to lose out, and if necessary I can throw together some kind of non-competition contract which is not too restricting. If he's not OK with that I'd have to consider backing out, but then he'd just have to find someone else (not easy round here) so I've got a strong bargaining position.

Does that sound like a better plan?

[edit reason: grammar][/edit]

[edited by: encyclo at 12:37 am (utc) on Oct. 22, 2004]

12:26 am on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Yup. Way better all around. With that setup, YOU win, and he doesn't lose a lot (mostly because he didn't HAVE a lot to begin with.... as in, how long before one of his clients finds out how little the guy REALLY knows? Now THAT'S a loss....)

CYA....

[Edit: actually, the guy may be a WHIZ at brokering, and if you can work with him on that basis, you'll both be winners!]

12:06 pm on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member henry0 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



What could be so terrible in being straightforward?

Your interlocutor knows very well that he/she has no clue in any tech aspect when applied to web design
However he/she might be a good marketing person (and surely is)

I will approach him/her and lay the whole thing on the table

You are good at ......
I know how to ......

Letís work together (we are complementary!)

Then there are no problems in stating that the whole site needs to be revamped

I wish I found that kind of relationship :)

Regards

Henry

3:11 pm on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I would take the approach of an advisor, and explain what is taking place "behind the scenes" in the code and what the end result will be, both in terms of aesthetics and crawlability. Once you have his confidence, you can begin to speak more freely. In any relationship, business or personal, once trust is established, difficult topics are accepted and welcomed openly, instead of defensively.

Cheers,

CaboWabo

6:07 pm on Oct 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Take the work - suggest to him that you do the majority of it in future and he takes a finders fee.

Money for nothing him and easy source of work for you.

9:16 pm on Oct 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



He uses Go-Live, but I don't think he knows what HTML is. He'd adjusted the size of the main table so often that there were more than 40 td columns, each a few pixels wide.

GoLive has the feature called a "Grid" which allows you to move items with pixel-pefect precision. Coming from a print design background, I thought this was great -- it worked just like Quark or Illustrator -- until I learned HTML and realized that each time I "bumped" something up or down a pixel, it created spacer columns and a mess of nested tables. (I no longer use GoLive.)

Do I tell his that his work is terrible, do I shut up and take the money, or do I just walk away? I had offered to do some basic SEO for him, but if he accepts, I'm going to have to tell him that I'd need to completely redo his site.

If you decide to tell him "his work is terrible" as you put it, then I'd suggest that you stick to the objective items. For instance, show him how he can shrink that 350K jpeg down to 20K.

I wouldn't critize his design style, since that's subjective. But if you can demonstrate how it affects the user's experience from a usability standpoint, then you have a case to make.

2:51 am on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



What about contacting his clients and pitch to them your much better solutions? Show them the errors of going with an amateur and how much *money* you can make them.
11:24 am on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member henry0 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



That would be UNETHICAL!
12:17 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



No its called business. Your showing them how to save/make money
12:35 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I think you'd be suprised at how many 'web designers' there are out there who are just like this guy, some of them doing good business too. Whatever model of business you suggest, it's probably not a bad idea, personally, to play the hat game - you're more the 'web designer' kind of guy, I come more from the 'web development' camp - ok, I also do web design, but you have 'your style' I have 'my style' - and keep suggestions slow, subtle, and very general - with the emphasis on how he could become such a better designer for seo-minded customers than his competetion, etc., if he gets more into looking at / understanding the source code. If you can find things to admire that he does, that's great - like, he's obviously been successful in getting customers, he's probably good at marketing and people-stuff.

You might want to divvy things up - you take over some projects completely with the finders fee for him, it goes in your portfolio - and for the stuff that's going under his name, just do a bit of necessary tidying up that doesn't require extensive HTML surgery, see it as 'just a job' without your personal investment in the big game scheme.

Much can be lost when things go sour between people you work with, customers often don't have a clue and don't have the time to deal with quibbling web people, you can know for 100% that you're right, but for the customer you're just a quibbling techie who isn't easy to work with (even if it's some non-issue the other guy brings up).

12:46 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member henry0 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Essex_boy
You have you way I do have mine
Just glad we are partnering
no hard feeling, just the way I am.

Regards

1:37 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I do quite a lot of subcontracting, and i generally find that it's a nice way to get some extra business.

As to:
>> How to tell your employer his work is terrible

- you don't. It's just a job, so get it done and concentrate on your part. Your "employer" in this case, is your customer, it's not the "end customer" that is your customer.

If i was doing a web page for some firm, say a bank or whatever, then i wouldn't want to tell them that their way of doing their business (the banking) sucks. That's their business, i've got mine. My aim would be to get repeat purchase, ie. another order sometime, so the customer comes first, just like the old saying "the customer's always right" (even when you know better).

I would suggest though, stuff that i was sure about, like "next time we do this, perhaps we could [...]", or "this can be done in a lot of ways - i'm used to doing this-or-that because of such-and-such, but it's nice to learn a new approach" ... and so on.

Added: In this particular case, i'd say to the guy that "you know, next time you can just send me a photoshop image, and i'll do all the coding, as that will save time for us both, whatchathink?"

2:05 pm on Oct 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member essex_boy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Henry0: No problem.
4:47 am on Oct 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



That would be UNETHICAL!

Sanctimonious?

Some people play business and some people run businesses. I wish you were my competition.

1:54 am on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Seems to me that with his obvious marketing skills (getting lots of work while giving low quality - hell, he must be a good salesman) and your design skills, you have a winning partnership. Pitch it to him that way. I would bet $$$ will make him smile. Tell him you want to free him up to generate business, must be a strong point. You have a golden opportunity there, use it. Don't just try to get some of his customers or work, look at the bigger opportunity.
2:55 am on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Some people play business and some people run businesses. I wish you were my competition.

Is that a quote from that old 80's Charlie Sheen movie, "Wall Street"?

Anyway, it sounds outdated...

6:39 am on Oct 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Personally if I didn't need the money I'd not bother. I'd rather spend the time working on my business and bringing in more profitable, repeat customers.

Having said that if you choose to take the work I'd do it and keep my mouth shut. And charge extra for all the cleanup you have to do. ;)