It’s hard being a custodian

You put your heart and soul into a web site, you put in those extra hours of fine-tuning some pixels, some scalability fixes, enhancing the accessibility or just plain making sure it’s valid and therefore as future-proof as possible. Enter: the customer.

Within a week they have usually messed it up some way, one or several of their code monkeys, who usually are more “creative” than skilled, have been let loose on the code. And this will happen as long as they have access to the source code (which they, of course, should have, they’ve paid for it). But I sincerely do think that the customer should think again before they start doing their quick fixes, maybe just realize that the things in what they got in the delivery was made that way it is intentionally and not just out of chaos.

This then comes back to us web developers; it’s tough to have reference cases when you know most of them are screwed over. Meeting a potential new customer, one wants to show the different projects one worked on before one lost control of the code:

Here’s the web site as it should have looked, before it got to the sorry state it’s in today.

It’s hard being a custodian, saying goodbye to your loved one.

I know this is the order of business, but I really wish some customers would think twice. For their own sake.


  • You're demanding for customers to think? Oh man. What kind of outrageous demand is that?! πŸ˜‰

  • Mats says:

    I feel your pain, it's like when you have to work with designers who has only done catalogs and brochures and you need to make small changes to some of the graphics and you get a completely different image back which doesn't fit in its intended space anymore.

    I whish I was better at Photoshop … :S

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Some do. Or so I've heard… πŸ™‚


    Learn Photoshop now! It'll make your life better (or at least you'll be freakingly talented at editing your summer pics…). πŸ™‚

  • It’s Hard Being A Custodian

    Robert Nyman (9rules member) laments on the fact that the hardwork you put into a design might all be for nothing once the client gets their hands on it. Just the way life goes, everyone is a tweaker….

  • Kalle Wibeck says:

    For these situations one should try to always get the client to buy education and web management services from you/your company.

    This service will include a monthly/annual code review from your team and a fixed amount of hours (per month) for fixing up the mess created by the clients programmers.

    Not that many clients are longing to buy these "services tickets" but you could include this in the original offer as a returning post-delivery quality inspection.

    If some issues takes to long to fix up you will have to charge extra for these issues…

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Yes, that's usually the procedure, some sort of support agreement to cover up for such.

    But then, not everyone agrees when it actually needs fixing and what kind of mesuares should be taken. You'd be amazed at how many companies that turn down such an offer too.

  • Mark says:

    I've tossed around the idea of using blogs for content management for my church site for the purpose of avoiding the problem above. Usually the problem I've run into is that people will paste their content directly from Word into Contribute or FrontPage and get very strange results. Blogs usually have a very limited amount of formatting options, so the chances of screwing up the look & feel are much smaller when using blog technology.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Yes, I agree. However, any <acronym title="What You See Is What You Get">WYSIWYG</acronym> tool worth its name should handle such things as content pasted from Word or something similar.

  • drift3r says:

    You are so there! πŸ™‚

    I had major discutions with my customers over this … I never lost any of them and only one has destroyed his site entirelly (a pseudo I know it all computer geek who didn't even knew what a monitor resolution is … wtf?).

    The thing is that they just love me (or at least it's what they tell me) for what I put into the argument before we actually do the site. Usually I win but not ever. And sometimes I still have good surprises from clients who really come up with very good ideias.

    But because of the previous arguments I have, my sites stay on-line unaltered for a long time! πŸ˜€

    I'm a (pseudo)happy web designer! πŸ˜‰

  • Robert Nyman says:


    I'm happy for you! πŸ™‚

    Some times explaining the importance of certain things strikes home with the customer, sometimes not. It's basically about convincing them that we really do want what's best for them and their audience. It's also about gaining their trust.

  • Nutrox says:

    How about creating a CMS for your websites? That way the client can update the site content without ever having to touch the source code.

    If they do decide to make changes to the source code though, and they screw things up, then it's their fault. Once the site has been approved, and is out of your hands, you don't need to worry about it any more.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    The thing is, almost every web site I work on is based on a CMS. But the problem is that the client usually wants to cut costs and therefore leaves the code over to its own developers.

    And, as you say, that usually ends up with them screwing it up. So, yes, I don't have to worry about it but it makes me sad when you put a lot of work into developing as good a solution as possible and they then just ruin it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.