Not so long ago, not remotely just a few times, have I stumbled upon situations where the lack of technical knowledge, combined with the need for results and the strategy of sustaining an income stream, have created a, usually similar, mix of dead ends, very difficult to come out of.
Let’s look at a real-life, put in abstract terms, scenario of such a predicament, from the perspective of a consultant that was asked to say an honest opinion.
The players in this “game”
On the one hand you have the client, the one that had already spent tens of thousands of Euros or Dollars, in order to have a new website built. Based on this expense, he also set in motion advertising, marketing and business plans with strict deadlines, in all of which though, had taken into account that the website would have been ready to rock. The client is currently in the position of waiting for the website to be finalised and launched into production.
On the second hand, you have the developer of the website, one team of a contact person and a subsequent team of developers. Having gotten the money, they are currently in the position of having to finish what was started, polish it and prep it for its production life.
Nothing wrong here so far, since this is a situation that is most common around the world, not only in website development projects but also in software development in general.
What is really happening gets to be very different from the “ready to launch” scenery which was created by the development party. While the client is eager to have things finished, assured of this in a way that is was made to look organic and physical, flowing, that the website is indeed being finished, a consulting party is put into the mix to find out things that would need to be changed or tweaked a little bit, in order to miss on as less things as possible before the site goes live.
And here is when it happens, the consulting party, in the context of professionalism and ethical reporting of the situation, realistically, reports hundreds of problems with the website, after conducting the audit, requested by the client.
Psychologically, it was expected that a couple of things, small things would be found, easily corrected and of minor importance really, maybe sorts of “you missed a spot here”, before finishing the painting of the house if you will.
When building software, the parameter of subjective perception of concepts is very central in the whole process. From how you design a database, a data model, the structure of your custom classes within the code, to how you build the front end and the user interface of the system. Its always there.
What makes the subjective factor great though, is experience. Experience adds upon subjective perception, it enhances it, it adds insight to it, makes it solid and certain, deterministic in many cases.
There are rules around building software, which you can, but should not break. This is nothing close to being taught in your university or something you can guess. Its something you know after many years of trial and error, close observation, research.
One of these rules is standards. Each type of platform, take self-hosted WordPress websites for instance, has its own un-written rules, along with some that are clearly stated around the web. When you, for instance, take a WordPress website and don’t use a child theme, you must expect there will be problems down the line, when the theme needs to be updated, at some point, when something changes on PHP or the WordPress core source code. When at the same time you make deep edits to the theme’s code, again without a child theme, this possibility, almost in all cases I have personally seem, becomes a certainty.
The politics of pushing back
The actual problem here is not technical knowledge. This can be acquired, it can even be passed on in some degree when there is an inspired will to do so. The problem here is politics.
When the consultant in our story, provided the report, the developer got to take a look. Needless to say that one response, sent via email, made to look very professional, mentioned that using a child theme is not possible in this scenario, not even preferred, because of the customisations requested by the client.
Never in my entire career have I seen a situation, around WordPress, where a child theme should not be used, in leu of CSS and PHP customisations. Never was I, not considering myself an expert, unable to apply customisations without using a child theme. And its not just me, its how the community of WordPress clearly says how to use these things, why not do them differently.
Let’s skip it please
My personal outcome of this story is one and only one, let’s skip the politics please. At the very least, among professionals. If you don’t know something, its fine, we don’t know anything more that what we had the luck to experience. But trying to make wrong look right, even after you have fully secured your compensation, is bad politics.
There is one thing I learned by strolling through such situations since 2002, truth always comes up, when it does, bad politics is the first thing that mutates into disgust, disappointment and the feel of betrayal. Of course, career and business prospects, can’t prosper in such an environment.