Like Eating a Box of Nails
Every designer knows that inheriting someone else’s work is no fun, especially in the world of web development. But turn the table on yourself, and make sure your own projects are ready to handed off, whether you like it or not.
There’s nothing more fun than inheriting a web development project from a previous designer. And when I say “fun,” I mean it in the sense that “eating a box of nails is fun.”
I recently was asked to update a site that another designer put together with a new feature, some visual tweaks and a couple corrections. No big problem, except here are a few highlights of the bucket of “fun” that was delivered on my doorstep:
- The site was in Flash. Seriously, why the hell would you use this nasty, slow-loading, crappy program (in only 12 FPS, too!) for just a brochure site? The end product took too long to launch, is ugly and makes any updates — even text — a pain in the ass.
- She left all her source files on the server. I mean all her source files — comps, old versions, bad code, etc. While this was good for me for making updates, it sure made finding the right FLA document a massive pain. (The client was also not happy about 150 MB of crap on his server.)
- The Flash library was a clusterfuck. Nothing was named, nothing was organized, nothing was in folders.
- She created PDFs that were nothing more than low-rez JPGs saved as PDF from Photoshop. So the one advantage the PDF format has — vector text and graphics — was thrown out the window. Making content changes required not only retyping the text, but trying to figure out what font was used.
- The designer tried to create a contact form (launching a new HTML page from Flash, naturally), nicked my code from a different site I designed for the client, and totally broke everything. Instead of porting a script to a different server, she tried to reference the script on my original server (which didn’t work), then edited the original script to make it work with her form, breaking my original form on my site without ever getting her own to work. If that made sense to you, it will also make sense why I took up hard liquor.
Here’s the interesting twist to the story: the designer did not know she was going to get fired. The client came to me, asked me to change the password for the FTP server — locking her out — and then wanted me to make changes.
Here are the lessons for today, kids:
- If you suck, you will get fired. You may not get any warning. She certainly didn’t.
- Always prepare a project for leaving your hands. No one else is going to understand if “site_absolutefinal_ver3b_tweak_20050607.swf” is really the production final or not.
- Make a backup before you dick around with other people’s code. Believe it or not, there’s at least one designer out there who doesn’t understand this.