“I Want a Clean Layout” and Other Things WordPress Developers Are Sick of Hearing

When speaking of groups of people, it can be tempting to fall into a “they all think this way” sort of mentality. That’s how stereotypes are born and if history has taught us anything, it’s that stereotypes are toxic.

When I think of developers, I envision a group of people hell-bent on creating awesome things for people to use and enjoy. There’s a curmudgeonly few in the bunch, of course, but for the most part, the WP community is filled with awesome people.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t human and don’t have complaints. Or things that drive them up the wall. I recently reached out to developers far and wide to get an idea of what things they are absolutely sick and tired of hearing. Those pseudo words of wisdom. Those throw-away buzzwords. Those oddball semi-infuriating things clients and even other developers say that get on their last nerve.

What follows are real insights from 23 WordPress developers. While there are common threads between many of the responses, I was surprised by the variety captured here. Though this post is very much an “airing of grievances,” it’s also another example of why the WordPress community is so great. Different perspectives and differing opinions help us build great things. 

And now, to the list.

Fast
Quick and easy… Yeah right.

1. “This should be quick and easy.”

This simple sentence rubs Jason Resnick, WordPress developer and co-host of the podcast WP Dev Table, the wrong way.

“I always think to myself, if it’s so quick and easy, why isn’t it already done?”

2. “We need to rank high in search engines.”

This is something Emily White, a web and graphic designer focusing on the Genesis Framework, hears all the time.

The higher you climb, the harder you fall... or something like that.
The higher you climb, the harder you fall… or something like that.

“I think clients still really struggle to understand what that means,” she says. While she admits there are things developers can do on the technical side to improve SEO, the rest is up to them.

“Content is king when it comes to rankings and lots of folks don’t want to put in the consistent work to make that happen,” she adds.

Most often, people are looking for a “magic button” to “catapult” them in the rankings.

“Sorry folks, that button doesn’t exist.”

3. “I don’t need to understand the WordPress community to make a plugin.”

Understanding WordPress and the community around it is the first obstacle to developing a great product.
Understanding WordPress and the community around it is the first obstacle to developing a great product.

Jean Galea, a WordPress developer and founder of WPMayor.com is most annoyed by developers who don’t take the time required to fully understand the community before diving into development on their own.

“This usually ends up with them creating strange interfaces that users struggle to understand,” he says.

Such developers also tend to have trouble promoting their plugins because they don’t invest the time required to understand the community’s needs or to get to know people who, “can help push their plugin to new audiences.”

4. “The client is stupid.”

Clients aren't stupid.
Clients aren’t stupid.

Joseph Casabona, a Front-End Developer at Crowd Favorite is tired of hearing these words come from other developer’s mouths.

“There’s a bit of a problem among developers that seems to be a sort of thinking that ‘everyone should be as smart as I am,’” he says, noting it’s the developer’s job to make sure the client understands.

“More often than not it will not be stupidity, it will be miscommunication,” he says, then adds “If you can’t talk to a client (or student/customer/peer/whatever) you may not be in the right field, because teaching (whether we like it or not) is a big part of our job.”

5. “Why do I have to pay more for that?” and “How do I do [x]?”

Chris Wiegman, a Senior Web Engineer with 10up, offered two things he’s sick of hearing, one from clients and one from developers.

On the developer side of things, more often than not, he can reply to the question with a link to Lmgtfy.

6. “I’ll know it when I see it”

Carrie Dils a WordPress developer, consultant, and speaker, kept her response short and to-the-point.

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is her favorite thing she hears to hate, “regarding direction for site design.”

Some clients can be so impatient!
Some clients can be so impatient!

7. “ASAP”

This simple acronym is the main pet peeve of Rhys Wynne, Lead Developer of Winwar Media.

“It puts undue pressure on developers as very few things are an urgency in terms of development,” he says. He also argues it doesn’t make any sense.

“‘As Soon As Possible’ can mean anything from tomorrow, to in three years time…” He argues setting a deadline with a developer is a much better way to manage expectations.

8. “Can you search for this for me?” 

Well, that’s not a direct quote but it is the gist of what Kevin Muldoon, a WordPress blogger and Internet marketer, finds the most tiresome. On his Rise Forums, he often sees people who don’t do enough to help themselves.

“There are a lot of people that do not take the initiative to find answers to questions themselves,” he says. For instance, WordPress users won’t search for an answer to their question on Google or Bing before opening a new support thread.

“Frequently, they are asking other members to do the hard work for them because they can’t be bothered to do it themselves,” he says. Help with technical questions, he gets, but something that can be answered with a simple search? That’s just annoying.

“The ones who do well in web development and internet marketing are the ones who try and resolve problems on their own and only ask for help once they have reached a brick wall and do not know how to proceed,” he says.

9. “Well how much less would it be if it’s not responsive?” or “How much less would it be if you removed accessibility features?”

Cutting corners won't save you money in the long run.
Cutting corners won’t save you money in the long run.

“Besides cliché ‘I can probably do this myself, but…’ lines we’ve all heard from potential clients, my biggest pet peeve relates to clients trying to save money by cutting corners on crucial features,” says Leland Fiegel, a WordPress theme developer at Themetry.

Which is how you end up with those two doozies listed above.

“I get that budgets are tight, but responsiveness and accessibility should not be the first on the chopping block,” he says. “I don’t offer any sort of meaningful discount to cut things like this out, and instead attempt to educate the client on why it’s not a good idea to do so.”

10. “It doesn’t work.”

Both as a developer and Head of Support at WordImpress.com, Matt Cromwell has a lot of trouble with those three words.

“I know it seems so simple to the user sometimes, but man… that’s a really unproductive thing to say.”

More often than not, something “doesn’t work” because there was something happening on a person’s site before his plugin was ever installed.

“It’s like telling the President of the United States ‘The IRS sucks,’” he says, which would of course warrant a sarcastic response like, “Thanks to your input, we know exactly how to fix the IRS for future generations.”

11. *Radio silence*

Sometimes the worst thing a developer can hear is nothing at all. Jill Binder, a WordPress web developer, gets especially irritated when she’s, “…working on a project with another developer and they don’t let me know that they’re unavailable for a week or more.”

That leaves her scrambling for what to tell the client should they inquire.

12. “Pixel perfection.”

“It’s completely ridiculous that I have to overlay the mockup on top of the live site and nudge everything 1 or 2 pixels,” says Amber Weinberg, mobile and WordPress developer.

PIxel perfect?
PIxel perfect?

“The user is NEVER going to notice these differences. Also, it’s going to be off in other browsers anyway,” she says, then adds, “Even if we could get divs to line up perfectly, the fonts themselves will render everything off by a tiny bit.”

A waste of time, for sure.

13. “I need a site as soon as possible, but I won’t have the content ready for you until the day before we launch.”

Though developers and designers like to think how a site looks and functions is the most important aspect of a site, “content is the real key,” says Connor Turner, President of Armadillo Studios, Inc.

“To build a functional WordPress site that truly represents the client and their goals, content needs to be the driving force,” he says. He admits that some decisions regarding layout, plugins, and overall functionality can be made beforehand, but without the content, developers are “just guessing” as to what needs to be done.

The WordPress sites he’s built that “really hit their targets,” had their content complete in the initial stages, allowing it to act as a driving factor for all other decisions.

14. “I want this above the fold.”

“As we know, times have completely changed with the rise of mobile use,” says Brian Gardner, CPO and Partner of Rainmaker Digital and founder of StudioPress, “and the traditional ‘above the fold’ barely exists anymore.”

Add to that the fact that design trends have “moved into a more spacious approach,” and you end up with sites that feature designs that are more spread out anyway, rendering this terminology all but irrelevant.

15. “Hi, I want a website. How much will it cost?”

Adam Mills of Bottomless Design hears the above all too often.

The best things in life aren't always free.
The best things in life aren’t always free.

“That’s like asking a contractor: ‘Hi, I want a house, how much will it cost?” he says.

“Between the countless different styles of houses, the endless types of features which can be added, and each family’s particular set of needs, it’s impossible to properly answer that initial question without some additional info.”

The same holds true for websites, he explains.

“Without knowing a client’s objectives, style preferences, and budget, it’s just not possible to accurately answer that initial question without putting both the client and the developer at risk of being dissatisfied,” he says.

To combat this, he always follows up with a request to complete his Design Brief and schedules a Skype call to make certain he and the client are on the same page before there’s any talk of pricing.

16. “Blind people don’t have time to visit my website”

Rian Rietveld, a WordPress back- and front-end developer who emphasizes accessibility, hears this gem when suggesting a11y improvements to clients for their websites.

Talk about out of touch!

17. “I know you are the expert and advise differently but…”

Do as you're told or push your WordPress expertise?
Do as you’re told or push your WordPress expertise?

Another thing that annoys Rietveld is when people acknowledge her expertise but ultimately want her to do as she’s told.

She offers a mighty example: “You must build a huge slideshow on the front page, an ubermenu, all social media buttons should animate, and after 10 seconds an overlay with a newsletter subscribe form should open, and all the images in my portfolio should slide at the bottom of the screen, and the colors of the pages and headings should change with all categories.”

18. “Hey, you can’t do that!”

Not a direct quote, but a summation of the biggest pet peeve of Justin Tadlock, web developer and owner of ThemeHybrid.com.

“If I had one complaint, it’d be about developers crying foul when someone actually copies, modifies, and/or distributes code when given explicit permission to do so,” he says.

Otherwise, he doesn’t have much to complain about.

“Criticism,” he says, “can help drive innovation,” even if “it’s something I get tired of hearing about.”

18. “WordPress is a technical mess” or “Jetpack is bloated and should never be used.”

Any broad statements like the above get to Brandon Kraft, Happiness Engineer at Automattic. While such statements do tend to offer some truth, they aren’t helpful for finding any sort of solution.

Is WordPress really a mess?
Is WordPress really a mess?

“Jetpack has done a lot in the last few years to improve, both the perception and the reality,” he says. “WordPress might not use the common OOP standards, but has incredible backwards-compatibility and the coding as it is has opened the doors to thousands to participate through plugins and core development.”

This isn’t to say that everything is just perfect, “but I’d much rather take in and give out specific bits of feedback that those project developers could potentially investigate/act upon rather than broad statements that the project developers can’t really do anything with.”

20. “I want to hire you to make a custom add-on for All in One SEO Pack. Since your WordPress plugin is priced at $79, you should make this custom add-on for me for $29.”

A specific complaint, to be sure, but one that is understandably irritating for Michael Torbert, CEO, Semper Fi Web Design, the company behind the SEO plugin.

“I get this a lot for custom work that will take 2, 5, or even 20 hours,” he says. “Some have a hard time understanding why paying half the price of the original plugin (which is sold to many people) for the development of a small add-on (which is sold to one person) isn’t reasonable… My wife would be pretty upset if I worked for $1/hour.”

21. “I want a website exactly like this one [LINK], but better”

Website fail?
Website fail?

“Everyone wants to be original,” says Tim Bowers, head of support here at WPMU DEV, but mimicry is definitely not the way to achieve that.

Another thing he can’t stand to hear? “I have a shoe string budget, and absolutely need…” he says, then finishes the sentence himself, “a realistic budget!”

What Are You Sick of Hearing?

Being annoyed by the little things people say is largely pointless but when compiled, can show commonalities between all developers and clients. It highlights expectations on both sides. And with knowledge like that in hand, maybe we can all work toward anticipating some of these issues.

That’s the hope, anyway.

Now it’s your turn to sound off and let your pet peeves fly. What are you tired of hearing clients or other developers say? Please share below. It’ll be an enlightening experience for us all. 

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