Even website owners should care about code

Most of the time when a web designer talks to a client about code, the clients eyes glaze over.

This is understandable. Code can be pretty intimidating. In fact many web designers legitimately argue that clients don’t need to understand the code on their site.

Although there is no good reason why a client needs to know anything more than some basic HTML (if you don’t then its time to learn) they should still discuss code with their web designer.

The reason it is important to have this discussion is because how a site is coded has business repercussions.

Take for example a recent conversation I had with @sheerman. He tends to focus on coding extremely lean, clean code. This is ideal if a site has to download like lightening. However, it also makes changes to the site slightly more cumbersome.

If you want to constantly update your website, including moving elements around or making design changes, then you maybe better taking the approach favoured by @emerritt, another designer at Headscape. His approach is much more flexible but does result in slightly more code that could slow down a site.

Web designers argue endlessly about which approach is best. In reality the answer depends on the clients needs. That is why sooner or later web designer and client needs to discuss code. They don’t need to get into specifics, but they do need to discuss issues such as whether flexibility or speed is more important.

Of course that is just my opinion. What do you do? Do you discuss coding with your clients? If you are a client does discussing code terrify you? Let me know in the comments.

  • I understand that you need to discuss things like flexibility and speed with your client. But I don’t consider these discussions as ‘code’ discussions. I think a web designer should translate this discussion to code in his own mind. The client isn’t interested in which method of coding is used. He just expects speed when this was discussed with the designer.
    This is how I see it, keeping my clients in thought.

    • Yeah that is a fair comment Sven. I probably worded things a little strongly.

  • I assume @edmerritt isn’t as skilled at CSS & HTML and wraps everything w/ tags, even when not needed.  I don’t like seeing that, it’s pointless.  If you create lean CSS / HTML you can still grab the elements you need, if you know what you’re doing.  I consider CSS to be my specialty and I have no problem focusing on the elements I need even when a client needs changes. 

    It’s all about skill-set.

    Btw, every site should be optimized for performance.  Performance should never be sacraficed.

    • Not sure I agree with your assessment there Andrew. That is a very black and white way of viewing the world.

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  • I think clients think in terms of “problems to be solved”, but not about HOW they ment to be solved! That’s part of the designer/developer’s work, and should not me negociated with the client.

  • You are so right. I recently started using my blog and slowly understanding html code. I read somewhere that Google reads the code for SEO purpose and that how they do ranking. so, why not learn more to get more traffic to my website.  

  • vladiim

    I think it’s important – the more clients appreciate and understand what you do, the more they value you.

    I’ve found they listen and care when you frame the discussion in a way that the client can clearly see the benefits back to them. 

    If you want to do a large refactoring job discuss the cost implications of technical debt. As you mentioned above, speed is another great argument – both Google and Amazon have some nice studies showing slower sites cost them business, again helping a dev frame the code discussion in the client’s language.

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