Common Preventable Mistakes in Web Development Projects

Posted on August 7, 2012 by
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Mistakes happen every day in the web development process and it is nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, mistakes can become something really powerful at your disposal. Your mistakes can impart important lessons that you’ll carry throughout your career as you continue to hone your skills set. These mistakes are yours; so don’t deny and never shy away from them. They can even become significant milestones in your career development. Every so often web designers view mistakes negatively, which in turn become detrimental psychologically. Mistakes equal to failure only if you don’t learn something from them.

Many web designers work hard and stay late, trying to get things done, but instead inadvertently make some embarrassing mistakes. The online web development can be really valuable in this respect. Forum members are usually more open about their past mistakes and they often share tips on how to prevent common mistakes. This can be really helpful for new web developers who haven’t gone through similar obstacles. With this in mind, web developers should turn to online peers to find out worst web development mistakes they’ve ever made.

Accidentally activating an unfinished version

This mistake occurs across the spectrum for beginners and experienced professionals. This is a very easy mistake to make as our project progresses. It happens when we are working on an unfinished version of a project and at some point when we tinker it, we accidentally designate it as the active version. It’s easy to get things mixed up when we are working in a back-and-forth workflow. This can cause all kinds of headaches and chaos. Caution and awareness are necessary to prevent this serious mistake from being a constant part of our personal experience. Before finalizing a change, we should make sure we are using the correct files and upload them to the right location. This may not be a sure-fire way to prevent the mistake, but we can significantly improve our chances.

These are possible real life mistakes:

  • Putting a half-finished version (with many non-functional modules) on the top of a fully-working live version
  • Accidentally sending products to customers when testing an ordering module
  • Experimenting with an active database instead of a working copy
  • Uploading an original version of the website, overwriting all customized settings and code changes made over the years

Back-up related mistake

This mistake often comes to light once web designers realize that they have accidentally overwritten an active live version with a wrong version. This problem is common in many web development projects and they’re openly lamented by professionals. Most of the time, we find ourselves panicked when someone in the team realizes that there are no viable back-ups. This usually hits us just after the team loses a live version of the website and a replacement is urgently needed. There are easy steps to prevent this episode from becoming a remorseful moment in our career. There are low-tech and high-tech solutions when addressing this potential problem. Solving this can be as simple as performing a daily back-up, even when no change is made to the active version. To make our task easier, we could use automated back-up software that guarantees daily back-up task. It’s a good idea to store the back-up in multiple locations, such as local hard drive, cloud, DVD or USB flash drive.

These are possible real life mistakes:

  • Moving a dynamic, CMS-contained website version across to a new physical server and forgetting to back-up. It turns out the files are badly corrupted during the transfer.
  • Failing to back up compiled Flash files and replacing them with newer version. It turns out the new version is completely non-functional and broken.

Typos and using wrong measurements

These happen fairly often and for some reasons, we end up using the wrong words and measurements, so to speak. Typos generally happen because we miss a key, hit the wrong key or hit a key twice when we type. This mistake can be prevented easily if you regularly proof all texts with features available in web design software and word processors.

Measurement mistake is a bit more complicated, because measurements may vary greatly from project to project, which means web developers must be alert to what they are aiming and sizing for. People could also get sloppy when they push toward deadlines. Prevention is usually easy, just double-check everything before publishing your work; this should decrease your chances of getting embarrassed.

These are possible real life mistakes:

  • Buying a domain name that contains a wrong word or typo
  • Resizing a few hundreds of images and they don’t fit into the allocated spaces in the web layout
  • Photos gathered from third-party sources still have watermark on them

Communication mistakes

One serious problems encountered by developers and clients is the breakdown of communication. People may let things slip by or become unclear, which makes them unsure whether others involved in the web development project are really on the same page. This could be caused by the hesitance to ask for clarification and the lack of confidence, something that may reflect poorly on us. When it happens, people may decide to proceed with shaky understanding of what really happening.

Every time the web developer team communicates with clients, some ideas may unintentionally get lost in the translation. While we can’t control the communication style on client’s side, we should be clear and concise to make sure that the discussion stays on track. When dealing with clients who are unfamiliar with the web development field, making them understand what you are saying can be really tricky. If necessary, arrange additional meetings.

These are possible real life mistakes:

  • Underestimating the amount of task your clients want.
  • Not reading requirements document properly and spending a few days coding something that isn’t asked for
  • Clients ask web designer to work with ASP and re-code the entire e-commerce website

Coding mistakes

Coding is a complex and in-depth process, with many different layers, which can cause us to get lost in it. One misfired keystroke and the entire project can turn to a virtual nightmare, with no easy way out. As you code, you should always be mindful and avoid burying mistakes, which can reveal themselves after the website goes live.

Comments are often included to leave breadcrumbs trail in a maze of code. This is definitely a good habit but may still cause some problems when executed improperly. Your coding comment can bite you back, if you throw some unprofessional and nonsensical words. Comments are officially a part of code and you should take one last look at them to be sure that you’re not leaving something you would rather clients not see.

These are possible real life mistakes:

  • An IF statement that uses = instead of ==
  • Improper coding for the “Submit Payment” button, causing numerous lost transactions.
  • Leaving profanities in client’s code
  • Improperly tagged comments that make them appear on the page

Filler content mistakes

Frequently, web developers are asked to build to a website when clients still don’t have the actual content. Filler content is useful to let designers know how the website might look when real content has been delivered. Remember that technically less savvy clients may consider “Lorem Ipsum” displayed in some areas of the website as something essential and consequently it is published with the live version of the website.

Once again, everything comes down to vigilance and the importance of double-checking all elements before the website is published can’t be stressed enough. Make a generic checklist before publishing any part of the project to avoid publishing filler content. Because “Lorem ipsum” could be used to replace all blocks of text, such as in the About Us and Privacy Policy sections, you should check all nooks and crannies to prevent it from slipping through the cracks.

Tool-related mistakes

Improper tools can ruin your web development project and it may happen more often that you’d like. New web developers, who are unfamiliar with latest developments in the industry, may use wrong tools and platforms. At some point, software that’s supposed to be a godsend, may not compatible with other tools used in the project. Solid communication can help in this area and you can release a documentation that standardizes software and tools used in the project. You can leave this decision to the client, but often you have the freedom to choose tools and platforms that fit your requirements.

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