Clients Absolutely Do Care About Your Dev Stack

You’ll hear things like this over and over again in this industry:

  • “Clients don’t care what page builder or platform you use.”
  • “Clients don’t care what framework you use.”
  • “Use whatever stack you’re comfortable with.”
  • “All tools have pros and cons, so just pick the one you like best.”

Nonsense.

Clients absolutely care, just not before they know they’re supposed to.

See, most clients are naive about the tech. They need a website and don’t know all the ins and outs under the hood. They aren’t aware of any arguments or the pros and cons of various tools, processes, and methodologies.

They rely on us to know what we’re doing and make the best decisions for their project. The problem, for them, is that many of the “us” in this industry don’t know what they’re doing.

Let me give you an example from a different industry to help make my point.

I’ve spent much time in the photography world, which has no shortage of “momographers.” That’s a derogatory term for a stay-at-home mom with a camera who starts a photography business.

And yes, it’s true, plenty of men don’t know what they’re doing behind a camera either. So, we can spread the chuckle equally.

The barrier to entry for being a “photographer” is about the same as that for being a web designer. A $1200 DSLR and a $1200 computer setup are all you need for either one.

Don’t know photography? All good! Put the camera on auto to ensure the exposure is decent, and then you can crop, filter, and preset your way to mediocrity in the “digital darkroom.” Ahem, Lightroom.

Don’t know web design? All good! Grab a shitty page builder, pop in some done-for-you templates, make a few bad decisions about fonts and colors, and then let Chat GPT write you some shitty copy. Shipped!

The parallels are terrifying.

So, anyway, back to our poor clients.

You know what there’s also no shortage of in the photography world? Crying brides who don’t understand why the lighting is so bad, why the photos look low-res, or why so many important shots were missed.

It’s probably the bride’s fault, though, right? I mean, they “didn’t care” about the photographer’s “stack.” If they had just “cared,” they would have easily noted that a $1200 DSLR paired with a shitty kit lens and a stark lack of lighting tools wasn’t ever going to produce great outcomes. And they could have realized that an 8 GB SD card wouldn’t be enough for an entire wedding day.

The photographer’s lack of skill is one thing, but tools can also be inadequate.

Of course, it’s not the bride’s fault. Anyone who places blame on the bride in this situation is an asshole. Clients can’t be experts in everything. They have to do their best to vet the vendors they hire and then it’s a game of trust.

The fault lies with the people who charge money without disclosing their lack of professionalism or experience. And, it lies with people who throw around advice in an industry that sounds like, “Just pick the tool you like best” or “Clients don’t care about your stack.”

Do you think that the bride doesn’t care now? She for sure cares when you deliver that shitty, amateur-hour wedding album. That’s why she’s crying! And that’s on you!

When a client comes to me with a half-abandoned Elementor project that they’ve poured $10k into and I have to inform them that the whole thing has to be scrapped because the page builder is dog shit, the infrastructure is trash, it’s wholly headed in the wrong direction, and there’s nothing to salvage, do you think they care about the stack at that point?

Stop saying they don’t care. They absolutely care! When the wrong people use the wrong tools, they care a great fucking deal.

And this isn’t a rare experience. This is the norm.

Elementor, Divi, Wix, and Squarespace are the “kit lenses” of the web design world, used by millions of people with nearly zero meaningful qualifications.

By the way, “great photographers” are still tremendously limited by the wrong tools. Photography requires the presence and control of light, camera sensors that perform when light isn’t fully present (like in many wedding venues), actual lights and modifiers to provide extra or desired light, lenses that aren’t soft as baby shit, SD cards that can keep up without corrupting, and sensors with enough resolution to print gorgeous large canvases (the kind Brides like to order).

And WordPress developers who choose to use a page builder need one that outputs a heading when they ask for a heading, not a heading with a whole fucking family tree of ancestor divs and an inline style block that’s hanging around like an awkward drunk uncle who may or may not inappropriately touch one of the children.

Elementor! Divi! Beaver! Looking at you!

Stop saying tools don’t matter! When someone says that, I have to assume they’re either tremendously underqualified or they simply don’t want to admit that they use shitty tools to help them cut corners.

Now, let’s talk about stack issues higher up the food chain.

If you’re a Tailwind person, for example, I think you should inform your client that you’re using a radical approach to web design or application development and discuss the pros and cons with them. Just saying “they don’t care” and doing whatever you want isn’t professionalism.

This isn’t like a “BEM” vs “CUBE” thing. Everyone in CSS has their preference for how to organize styles. With a Tailwind stack, you abandon the traditional approach, create tremendous lock-in, and trash the source HTML. I wholeheartedly hope you get informed consent before bending someone’s project over like that.

The same discussions should be held with the client regarding JS frameworks, custom blocks, and page builders. They may not fully understand all the details, but it’s essential to give them a chance to hear some pros and cons and state their preferences.

Why? Because the tools used can have a significant impact on efficiency, scalability, maintainability, migration, best practices, and overall success or failure of the project. You know this, which is why you would care about the stack being used when commissioning your own project! Don’t lie!

Professional or not, tools matter. Stop mistaking general client naivety for a lack of caring. That’s a gross miscalculation of the vendor-client relationship. Treat clients the way you would want to be treated. Disclose the stack, engage in informed consent, and know your shit.

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5 comments

  • Thanks, Kevin. Educating clients is a must, as clients don’t know better.

  • Great article, Kevin. You show respect for and towards the client, who often doesn’t know about websites. I believe in education and having a good relationship with clients based on mutual respect.

  • Great article and well laid out with logical and professional reasons. Definitely share why I use certain tools over others and the majority of my clients love knowing and it builds the trust level up a lot.

  • Alexander

    Great read Kevin and you are absolutely right. I totally can relate to photography too.

  • Completely agree with the facts above. By not educating clients on these things we are 100% doing them an injustice. Great read.

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Kevin Geary

Kevin is the CEO of Digital Gravy, creator of Automatic.css, creator of Frames, and a passionate WordPress educator. If you're interested in learning directly from Kevin, you can join his 1500+ member Inner Circle.

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