Judging the work quality of other developers

You ever inherited a site done by someone else, and looked and the site and thought “what the hell where they smoking when they did that, and who gave it to the client making it seem like a good idea”?  C’mon you web-snobs, I know you have.  We’ve all done it.  Heck, I’ve done it recently.

There are two sides to every story

Well, I’m going to stop making any judgments about the quality of other people’s work unless I know the circumstances around how it got developed.  A day of reflecting on my own work has made me rethink things.  Yesterday I was working on a project, plugging away and I thought “hey, I’ve solved this problem before, let me go see what I did”.  So I pull out some old code, and next thing I know, I’m looking over some work I did some time ago.  I wasn’t super impressed. I found a series of nested if statements at one point, when really it could have been written in one line.  Is that the end of the world?  No, but it shows inelegance, and a lack of careful planning.  If this was someone elses work I would have thought “phfft, they’re lazy”.  Anyhow, I was disappointed, so I thought I’d fix it up and upload it for my (former) client….

And then it all came flooding back. 

So as you can see… in a lot of the cases the slightly less elegant code was a result of a changing landscape. I don’t think I could possibly build to quality, when the idea of “quality” is a moving target.  In that case, a nested if just worked for me.  When you’re bound by the triple constraints of cost, quality and speed, then something has to bend.  If the client isn’t willing to sacrifice cost or speed, then quality is going to suffer.

So I’m no longer going to look at

$some_dudes_name 'some name';
"The name of that guy was " $some_dudes_name

and think “why did they even bother”?  Maybe the developer was dumb (that’s always a possibility), or maybe that variable used to hold other information, or maybe they were directed that way, or maybe the dev inherited other code that the client wasn’t willing to let them alter it.  Who knows?

Until I know the history and politics around why something was coded the way it was coded… I’m reserving judgment on anyone else’s work.

Oh yeah, and that inelegant client code I found?  I never did fix it up.


PXLated wrote on

On the other hand, if the site was done recently and it’s loaded with tables and font tags and the developer is selling their services…well, I think one can be critical :-)
Ran into that last week and the developer was charging the client $75/hr.

Jakob Buis wrote on

About three months ago I nearly decided to fire a subcontractor for delivering bad code (he had already proved to have a problem with deadlines)...ultimately I found out the specific code was my own…ouch

PXLated wrote on

“I found out the specific code was my own”
Ouch is right :-)

Hostingx wrote on


This sounds soo familiar :P i think its the same by every developer :o

Madz wrote on

Well Derek, you have to always remember a few things;

1. Developers learn, designers don’t (sorry for the stereotype)
2. When involved in a Design Committee, you know you’re in trouble, whether or not they died or moved on…lol.
3. Budget equals final-product

PXLated wrote on

1) Ridiculous
2) Probably applies to all committees
3) Not always but often

Jonathan Gordon wrote on

Ya know, I’ve been working on a client site recently, (in fact, I’m writing something up for him right now—a bit of a complaint), who did the same thing: drastic change after drastic change, and it has caused the layout to go from simple div/css beauty, to a hacked table/div/css mess. It’s aggravating, and I think every day about what the next developer is going to say about me to this client when they do maintenance work on his site.

I hope they have as much compassion and understanding as you do, Derek, it’s very admirable.

This kind of affected my outlook on shoddy websites I come across in my work, but PXLated is right to say there are times the fool shouldn’t have had a keyboard. Heck, I don’t even make $75/hr. Dangit.

kyaw kyaw naing wrote on

No wonder, CodeIgniter is so user-friendly.

1) You have a deep understandaing/sympathy/empathy.
2) Your thesis. You are interested in teaching tech to non-tech mases.
Keep up the good work.

I am encouraged to try out BambooInvoice etc, now.