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Don't trust Web Designers

© March 2009 Anthony Lawrence

Web designers - I'd like to take some of these people and whack 'em one upside the head.. I can't tell you how many times one of these firms has screwed up one of my customers by not having any technical understanding of what the heck they are doing.

My apologies to those of you who are competent. No doubt that's probably most; I tend to remember the screwups and of course if things are done right, nobody calls me. But..

I've had "web designers" take cgi generated pages and turn them into static pages. Of course that tends to break things and three days later I get a call from the customer wondering why the data on the page hasn't changed.. I've had other helpful folks insert Php code into pages on sites where we didn't have Php enabled - and then, after I enabled Php, I found their code was broken anyway and I had to fix it! Simply brilliant..

Worst ever: installing a Windows .exe file on a BSD server and being surprised (shocked!) that it didn't work. Couldn't I "translate" it? Sure..

Earlier this week I had another Web debacle. The web folks told my customer he needed to repoint his DNS servers to their servers and of course he, thinking that they must know what is needed, complied. Unfortunately, there were several things wrong with that. One, he runs an internal mailserver. Two, he uses VPN's for a number of remote employees and those VPN's are accessed by a particular host name in their domain. Of course the web folks didn't know anything about that so their DNS server couldn't help. Mail broke, the VPN's broke, and chaos ensued. Simply brilliant.

That's happened more than once. Screwing up mail servers, VPN's and other host names needed is just par for the course. I told my customer that he needed to remember this:

Just because someone can design a web page doesn't mean that you should trust them to know anything else. It doesn't matter how long they have been in business, how beautiful and professional their work is, or how many glowing recommendations they have: they might not know beans beyond their specialty.

Of course real Web Designers probably are as aghast as I am. But my customer can't tell the difference and actually in this case he had no choice because there's some industry specific software involved..

By the way: they really did do a nice job on the site itself. No complaints there.

Don't trust web designers. No offense meant to those who do know what they are doing, but there are apparently enough clueless ones out there to necessitate this warning. Probably you'll be fine, but do you really want to risk it? At least make sure that somebody who does know a network from a route is standing by..

Well, unless your website, your email and your VPN's etc. aren't important. In that case, have at it. Give 'em your passwords at your registrar.. no worries, right?

Here there was no real damage done, because my customer was careful enough to make the change on a Saturday. He knew it was screwed up by Sunday and had everything back in place for Monday morning. Then I made the proper changes on Monday night. All set.. at other places and times it's been worse. Much worse.

See also Control Your Domain.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Tue Mar 31 21:43:02 2009: 5931   TonyLawrence

I'm not oblivious to the fact that any real web designer could point out my lack of competence at page design.. :-)

Tue Apr 7 15:13:10 2009: 6032   JohnMc

Man what a can of worms this article is. Trust me when I point out that it isn't just Web Designers that have an issue here. I have seen holders of MCSE's, A+, and other certs execute the epic fail, more times that I can count.

My classic was the IBM consulting group than came into my employer at the time that happened to be a Fortune 10 company. They had installed a new contact center app in our Atlanta center. Problem is it did not work. Or should I say it was not getting the feeds from our main frames in Tampa. They were saying it was the networks problem. (Its always the network's fault.) We had a pair of DS3's at the time routing between the two sites so I doubted that.

I dispatched a tech to the Atlanta site and had them tap a Dolch analyzer to the hub to capture some simulated data retrievals. Looking at the traces I noticed an interesting thing. If the client query to the server took less than 5secs everything was fine. Longer than that and an HTTP redirect was fed on the wire to a domain we had no route to. So the client just hung at that point. When I inquired as to who owned that domain I got a 'well this is the domain to our backup db server...'. The 'our' being the IBM consulting team.

To this day I have a plaque on the wall that has a letter of appreciation from my internal customer and copy of the apology to him from IBM and the CD of the Dolch trace. Bottom line -- trust no one till they understand what other services are on the customer network -- regardless of what business card they are holding.

Tue Apr 7 15:23:45 2009: 6033   TonyLawrence

When you are right, you are right.

Though from what I've seen, A+ certs are completely meaningless - I don't even think of that as a cert because I've seen too many very clueless people holding one..

Msce's generally can at least tell parts of their limbs from parts of their trunks..

Tue Apr 7 15:30:37 2009: 6034   JohnMc

Guess it depends on the person holding the MCSE. My general observation is that give me a holder of a CCNA and MCSE and I will pay the premium for the knowledge. The MCSE alone lacks a great deal in any depth of understanding related to WAN design and limitations as it applies to application deployments in an enterprise environment.

Tue Apr 7 15:51:37 2009: 6035   TonyLawrence

I won't argue that :-)

I don't deal with Enterprise customers - I keep to the little guys, so that's not even an area I can compete in. Any CCNE is far ahead of me..


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