The Golden Rule of Web Design Implementation, Part 2

This is part two of The Golden Rule of Web Design Implementation. In part one, we learned that pages aren’t views, and that thinking in terms of views is much more beneficial. Today we’ll wrap up our analysis by looking into development.

As you may recall from Monday’s post, the Golden Rule is:

The time it takes to implement a web design will always average out to one view per day.

Our first corollary was related to views. The second is about development. Or more specifically, developers.

There’s a reason I put that always in there. It’s to remind myself (and you) that this rule can stand up to a lot of variables. As I’ve mentioned already, the technologies being used and the platforms being targeted are irrelevant. Plenty of other things are too. But what I found most interesting was this:

The developer’s skill level doesn’t matter.

This is counter-intuitive. If a weak developer needs an average of one day to implement each view, then shouldn’t a more experienced developer be able to get those same views done faster? The answer is no. In fact, it will take a strong front-end developer and a weak front-end developer about the same amount of time to implement any given design. We’ll get to why in a moment, but first let’s clear up some definitions:

  • By weak front-end developer, I mean someone that knows the basics of front-end development in the technologies being used. That statement above is obviously false for someone with zero experience.
  • By strong front-end developer, I mean a real ace. Someone that can put “HTML/CSS Expert” or “Adobe Certified Flex Expert” on their resumé without exaggerating.

All set? So how is it that a below-average developer and a bonafide expert will require the same amount of time to implement the same design? It all comes down to the perceived level of what constitutes a correct implementation. In other words:

Better developers don’t code faster, they code better.

Picture a standard HTML/CSS implementation. The design is there, and you hand it off to your weak developer and your strong developer, and tell them each to get to work. After X days (where X is the number of views, of course), you get both implementations back. Here’s what you can expect:

The weak developer will have done exactly what you asked. The pages will look just like the mock-ups, pixel for pixel, and work as intended. There will be nothing wrong with the design from a typical user’s point of view.

The strong developer will deliver an implementation that looks about the same. Surprised? Don’t be. That’s all these two implementations will have in common. Let’s look at some things the guru probably did that our weak developer didn’t even consider:

  • The HTML and CSS both validate, with no errors.
  • Each page has a proper doctype.
  • There is a clear separation of structure and presentation.
  • Accessibility has been accounted for wherever possible.
  • The HTML is semantically clear, and would be easy to restyle.
  • The CSS is beautifully minimal, and optimized for maintainability.
  • There are <noscript> blocks for users that don’t have javascript enabled.

Do you see the difference here? On the surface, it’s barely noticeable. But just beneath that surface is a trove of quality that goes far and beyond what was asked. To the guru, this isn’t even extra work. This is just how HTML and CSS are used.

Don’t blame the developer.

You may be thinking: “The guru shouldn’t waste time doing what wasn’t asked of him; he should be able to translate that extra time into finishing the implementation faster.”

Please don’t ever ask this of your developers.

Would you ask a master carpenter to build a simple chair as quickly as possible, and not “waste” time without worrying about quality, durability, ethics, or craftsmanship? Of course you wouldn’t. That’s simply not how experts work.

The solution to this problem is simple: choose the best developer for the job. If you don’t care about the internals of a deliverable, assign a developer that has lots of room to learn. If the project requires some baseline level of quality, consider a developer that is better versed in the fine art of building interfaces. Only call in the guru when the project requires an unmatched level of care.

And remember that no matter how hard you push, and no matter which developer you choose, you’ll never beat one view per day.

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2 Responses to “The Golden Rule of Web Design Implementation, Part 2”

  1. dan-menard.com» Blog Archive » The Golden Rule of Web Design Implementation, Part 1 Says:

    [...] the web, motivation) and sometimes Fridays « “Newspapers Have No Future” The Golden Rule of Web Design Implementation, Part 2 [...]

  2. Thomas J Bradley Says:

    I really love this idea and had never thought about it in terms of ‘views’. But thinking back to the work I’ve done this estimation technique seems so to fit–so appropriate.

    Thanks.

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