Working with web developers

August 27, 2017

Working with web developers

What does a developer do? 

A web developer (a.k.a ‘web content developer', ‘developer’, or simply ’dev’) builds and maintains websites and apps with the client and consumer in mind. He (or she) is responsible for programming the code that 'tells' a website or app how it will look and function. 

One developer may focus on setting up the 'back end' of a site ('back-end developer'), whilst another may focus on adding style and functionality to the website ('front-end developer'). These roles are separate from a web designer who is responsible for the overall look and feel of the website. It is quite conceivable that one person can be skilled enough to do all three roles, however – in AgencyLand – the roles are usually split. 

Web development can be divided into three parts:  
  1. 'Client-side’ scripting: code that executes in a web browser and determines what users will see when they land on a website. 
  2. 'Server-side’ scripting: code that executes on a web server and powers the behind-the-scenes mechanics of how a website works. 
  3. Database technology: that helps to keep a website running smoothly and efficiently. 

For small-scale web projects, one developer may be able to work on all three parts. For large-scale web projects, the parts may be divided between multiple developers. 


Agency development work 

Web and app development is usually always project-focused. The types of projects that you would typically see within an agency can be small (such as a competition landing page or eDM template) through to large (such as an e-commerce site or a site covering multiple international territories). 

Your agency may have developers on staff, or you may contract out development work. If you work alongside developers, this is your ideal opportunity to soak up as much information as you possibly can. The more you know about the digital world the more value you will be able to give to your clients and give back to your team. 


Working with developers 

In case you haven't yet noticed, developers are a very different bunch of people to account managers. Understanding these differences will save you a lot of frustration going forward and help you to work harmoniously together.  

Some key differences between account managers and developers: 
  • The knowledge and understanding gap is greater than between other agency teams. 
  • The personality gap is greater than between other agency teams. 
  • They have different working styles; 
  • …and different expectations.  
  • An account manager's job is to scope, budget, schedule, and chase. A developer's job is to solve and build. 

The bottom line is that everyone is (or should be) playing on the same team, working on the same projects, with the same goals and objectives. You'll need to learn to modify your usual approach in order to get the best out of your development team. 


Top 10 quick tips that will make your life a whole lot easier: 

  1. Learn the lingo. The more you understand what your developers are saying, the more intelligent conversations you will have, and the more respect you will gain in the eyes of your team. 
  2. Learn the process. Work to gain a solid understanding of the steps involved in the development process, so you can better appreciate the amount of time and expertise that is required. 
  3. Empathise. A developer's job is usually complicated, pressured, and thankless. So is yours, so you have some common ground on which you can empathise. 
  4. Be nice. Devs (like all human beings) respond well to gentle words, praise, pleases, thank yous, and rational conversation.
  5. Share the vision. If your developers clearly understand the end goals, the business needs (for both your client and agency), timelines, budget, and expectations, they will be far happier to buy in and go along the journey with you.  
  6. Involve your devs early. It's important that someone from your dev team is involved from the beginning of your campaign or project planning. They need to be part of the discussion so that they can give their input and advice. In turn, you'll get better scoping, better project and task ownership, and less friction during the project. 
  7. Don't pass on the stress. You can be either the shield or the conduit between your client and their deadline pressures, and your dev team; you have a choice as to how much stress you conduct.  
  8. Devs don't know everything. Unless you are offering a templated system, very rarely will you have cookie-cutter development projects. Most projects will have some element that is unfamiliar to your developer. Research and testing time should be included in every development project, to allow your devs the time to think, solve, trial, and execute. 
  9. Respect the headphones. If a dev has his headphones on, that means he needs his uninterrupted space. Unless absolutely necessary, try not to talk to him during headphone-time.  
  10. Get to know your team. Take the time to talk about non-work things and aim to build genuine relationships. The more your dev team knows you like and respect them, the more inclined they will be to help. 


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