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What are the misconceptions of non-tech folks when working with devs on web projects?

Sylwia Vargas
I teach React, Redux, JavaScript, Ruby, Rails at Flatiron School | I care about web accessible and inclusive tech | she/her
・1 min read

I am preparing a blog post for non-tech folks to manage their expectations but also explain how we work. For instance, I will mention that the idea of "simple" tasks is different when it comes to code (centering on PWA being an example), or that if they send us a text, oftentimes it's not just "copying and pasting it".

What are the biggest misconceptions you think non-techies have about web dev?


cover photo by by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Discussion (20)

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ghost profile image
Ghost

That there's a big difference between what most people understand as a "webpage" and a web application, the first being just static content or simple data storage/retrieval and the later can have a big application behind in the backend, that can vary from a simple task manager to a full fledged ERP or WMS.

Is not easy to understand and/or explain that the "web" part is just the GUI, and sometimes a bunch of fancy animations and cool design looks more "expensive" than a "boring" an possibly huge and complex API that only throws some json data, in plain boring B&W text that may have been through a lot of data crunching, processing, collection, consolidation, cleaning, etc.

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ghost profile image
Ghost

thinking about it, maybe Google search is a good example to give, the huge effort and work of an entire company of talented devs and the visible result is just a blank page with some text on it. And a few years ago it was even more bare.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Wow, yes, that is spot on. Taking it a step further, maybe I should include some basic dictionary to help us have some platform for communication as well.

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ghost profile image
Ghost

that's good, we have a lot of fuzz words around, and many concepts have been "rebranded" making some technical terms kinda fuzzy, like: cloud (i.e. just dynamically allocated remote servers) and "apps" (I particularly despise this term). And some widely used but not always well understood like API, REST, framework, SaaS, PaaS, etc. Would be also good to give a shout out to some out of fashion technologies that lack the flashiness but that are vital and sometimes discarted for the wrong reasons, resulting in huge waste of time and money like: SQL that many ditched for the NO-SQL fad, PostrgeSQL that is awesome and considered as old and obsolete by many; good old HTML and CSS that is quickly disregarded and "replaced" with JS, not very successfully if you ask me.

I think you are in the right track, I haven't saw much info to fill the gap between tech and non-tech, and what are there is filled with buzzwords, fad tech they try to sell, old ideas repacked and rebranded to be re-sold as new and condescending explanations about "thingies", "clouds" and "apps", worsening the misconceptions.

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Nicolas Bailly • Edited

I've been a web developer for 10 years and I'm guilty of this.

When I started working as a web developer the term "web app" didn't exist, all we had were web pages and web sites. Now some of these pages were built with a framework and would make dozens of SQL queries, pull data from a Memcache cache and call some third party APIs or internal APIs (we didn't call them "micro services" either back then)... But they were still web pages.

And I've never made the switch to call them web apps. What I personally call a "web app" is a single page application, and I use it in contrast to native apps.

So yeah... I'm sorry I think I'm devaluing our work in the eyes of non technical people :-/

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Sylwia Vargas Author

Oh please don't worry, there is so much confusion about these terms in tech community themselves. I was already thinking about creating some dictionary of tech terms for people learning to code because as I'm teaching, I see that many folks struggle to power through the terminology.

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Max Ong Zong Bao

What is shown on a design will not be 100% accurate for a website due to technical limitations.

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Sylwia Vargas Author

Oh, that is so correct. On this note, also I will add that the discrepancy may be bigger if the designs were made by a hobbyist-designer and that we need wireframes for both mobile and desktop. Thank you!

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Sunny Golovine

I see a ton of comments here about "just copy-paste" and "one small change". I've always described that to non-technical folks like this:

"Say you have to take your car to a dealership to get the clutch fixed. The clutch only costs $60 but the dealer quoted you $1200 to replace it. Most of that cost is in the labor required to remove everything from the engine bay and then put it back when youre done. Web development is the same in that something that looks trivial to fix might be much harder depending on where it is".

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Ah, that's a good analogy — thank you! I'll give you a credit there :)

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Dog Smile Factory

They often don't understand that being a web developer is a true profession requiring a significant amount of knowledge, skill, commitment, and experience. They've heard over and over again that anyone can learn to code, which may be true, but they completely underestimate the amount of time and dedication required to accomplish that. So many times I've had managers and customers, frustrated by what they think is a too slow rate of progress, complain that they should just learn how to do the coding themselves.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Oh yes — and also "I can do it myself, I know html". I'll include a mention on the "slow rate of progress" in my write-up. Thank you.

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jsn1nj4 profile image
JSn1nj4‍‍👨‍💻

I've gotten the "it's just a simple redesign" and "it's like copying and pasting" too many times now...

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy

Like some client enquiries: "I've already got the domain name and hosting, just need the design done".
Yeah, registering the domain name was definitely the hard part :|

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author • Edited

<sarcasm> We definitely should charge less in such a case because they did majority of work already! </sarcasm>

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jsn1nj4 profile image
JSn1nj4‍‍👨‍💻

🤣

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jsn1nj4 profile image
JSn1nj4‍‍👨‍💻

I'm actually really glad to have not heard that one yet. 😅

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Sylwia Vargas Author

This exact comment from one collaborator prompted me to start the thread 😂 thank you!

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dastasoft

"Every change is a little change" When the project haven't clear goals or a solid strategy it's common to change the scope, requisites and features all the time.

I often see in webdev changes are considered minimal, because "all are colors and a few ifs", non-techies tend to have more respect (respect in terms of consider difficult) for the backend work.

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Sylwia Vargas Author • Edited

This brings painful memories 😂 thank you!