Web Developer or Expert in all Things Tech?

I hate telling people “I don’t know”, especially clients as I feel they have hired me for my expertise, and to say “I don’t know that…” feels like failure.

However, I do find that I do have to say this from time to time. Sure admitting fault could be a good trait, I guess, but that is not what this post is about… it’s about setting boundaries, and expectations and educating my clients on how things work and the services they may need.

I can’t help but laugh when I am introduced to someone as a ‘web developer’ or ‘programmer’ to have them respond, “I have been having a problem with my computer maybe you can help…”. 

No One is an Expert in all Things

The most common issue and point of misunderstanding I come across with my clients has to do with servers and infrastructure. There is often an expectation that because I work with websites I am also an expert at server configurations, troubleshooting, and setup. I’m not. Sure I know the ins and outs and can have stood up a few servers in my day, but that does not mean I am an expert on the subject.

I remind my clients that there are folks out there that have made entire careers out of server administration just as I have made my career about web development. It’s important to know when to call on different people and not assume that someone is a jack of all trades or that all things are closely related.

Earlier this year I signed a new website maintenance client, the first ticket they submitted: “I am having trouble setting up a new wireless printer”.

Know When To Call In The Experts

In my job conducting website maintenance, I rely heavily on other experts for such things as server maintenance, security updates, and configurations. At FatLab, we host websites, however, this is through a partnership with Rackspace where I hold a fully managed account. I often get website support tickets that I determine to be a server or network issue and once I have that diagnosis I contact the people who run the server.

This tactic seems fine with clients most of the time. The bigger issue occurs when they have been sold a low-cost self-managed solution for their infrastructure. Self-managed means exactly what it suggests… you are responsible for maintaining it, keeping it up and running, and keeping it up to date and secure. Sure you can save a few bucks by going this route, but unless you have in-house IT talent who specializes in maintaining web and database servers, I highly recommend that most organizations ensure their hosting environment is fully managed.

Make Sure You Understand What Services your Services Providers are Actually Providing

One of the hardest lessons, I have seen folks learning is when they need to pull a backup of their site files or data only to learn that they don’t have a backup. Why? Because they were not subscribed to managed services that included backup services and were responsible for finding their own backup solutions.

Any organization’s website is an important marketing tool and it takes a team to run it. Though a ‘team’ sounds large and expensive it can be as simple as ensuring you have signed up for the right services and your vendors provide the appropriate services. Please do not assume that your web developer is also a server technician or other expert.

Related Posts

Explore a critical perspective on web design’s stagnation over the past decade and the hope for a vibrant future. Is current web design lackluster? I think so.

Design and development might seem like two separate tasks, but if they don’t mesh, your web project fails.

Rarely do developers give thought to the lifespan of their code, however some sites and applications can remain online for a long time. What is your legacy?