When asked to picture a web developer I expect most people imagine an overweight, milk bottle thick, glasses wearing, acne ridden man-child slouched over a desk in a dark room. I'd like to think I don’t really fit that description, but one thing I’m sure I do have in common with other developers is the regular need to complain and gripe about daily occurrences and issues, which normal people just get on with, don’t have exposure to, or simply don’t get.
There is something strangely satisfying about sharing a moment of empathy with a total stranger regarding a fairly niche topic, so my hope is that other web developers will be able to identify with a few of the below developer irritations and share in my pain.
So without further ado here are a few of the common web developer irritations that I come across. (All images are credited to Randall Munroe @ xkcd.com who has handily summarised some of these pet peeves in comic form).
The lack of a root domain A record and lack of non-www to www redirects
I expect even the non-developers reading this will appreciate this particular web developer irritation. You type in ‘some-domain.com’ in the address bar, but the returned browser reads, “The server cannot be found” or “DNS lookup failed”, only for you to then go back to the address bar and prefix it with www. (e.g. www.some-domain.com) , and surprise surprise, you are returned to the website.
This is due to a lack of a root (aka base or apex) domain DNS record. As a webmaster/developer, it takes literally seconds for this additional record to be added, yet it will make things easier for the hundreds of users visiting your site, not to mention giving you peace of mind that those users will actually make it to your site. If you are worried about having two DNS records to maintain/update then you could always set up one as a CNAME record rather than an A record meaning you only ever need to update 1 IP address.
Finally, once you have added this second record make sure you implement HTTP 301 based redirects for all requests to a non-www resource to redirect them to the www. equivalent. Not only does this keep things like log files more consistent, but it also prevents you from having multiple URLs identifying the same resources, which will make reviewing and reporting on your analytics data more cumbersome.
Nonsensical, non-descript on non-existent source control commit messages
I personally try and make my commit messages as descriptive, detailed and generally useful as possible. I have been in situations before where I need to implement something and know I have made similar changes to another project sometime ago. Most of the time I am able to track down these changes (and normally some context as to why they were implemented and how successful they were) thanks to my commit messages. They become an even more important time saver when you are collaborating with other developers; after all, no one wants to have to read through every single line of someone else’s changes, just to work out what they did and speculate as to why.
However, on many occasions, I find either poor quality, nonsensical or missing commit messages. I know that at times this is due to tiredness, frustration or emergency commits as the below comic illustrates, but please people just add a sensible overview of what you have done. It doesn't need to be more than a sentence, just something other than mashing the keyboard with your hand!
Weak and reused passwords
Let me get this straight, you have reused the same password on almost every set of login credentials your own. It was “dictionary7” (you only added the 7 because a few years after using the password in 1995, most websites enforced the requirement of a mix of letters and numbers), and now all your social, email and forum accounts have been compromised, and you want my help? … You’re on your own my friend.
In an ideal world, we would create a new highly secure password for each new account we create and memorise all of them with ease, but we are not robots, and unless you are using a good quality, trusted password manager (which I suggest everyone does) this will be very difficult. However, there is no excuse for not utilising a selection of difficult to crack passwords over your many online accounts. As the below comic illustrates it may be easier to create a secure and memorable password than you think.
Poorly maintained, de-railed or incomplete support forum threads
Support forums can be one of the most useful tools you can utilise when trying to either debug a complicated issue or gain an insight as to what the recommended method of implementing a new feature might be. That is of course when the quality of the forum threads is up to scratch; when they are not it can be a very frustrating and painful process.
Derailing a thread (taking the flow of the responses off topic and ignoring the original posters queries) is generally frowned upon and kept to a minimum by forum moderators (assuming the mods are active) but all too often I find threads where the poster has described the exact issue I am having, which at firsts is joy to my ears, only to find there are either no responses or just a few from the OP containing the word “bump”. Perhaps the only thing more exasperating is when the only response is the OP stating “Never mind, I’ve fixed it now” but offering no kind of explanation as to how!
Being expected to know everything about anything in the realm of computing
I don’t feel this one requires much more of an explanation, and will likely be an incredibly common web developer irritation. You could study IT, digital, the web and computers for your entire life and only scratch the surface of what is out there. There are so many different areas and specialities now that digital is so deeply integrated into our daily lives and yet my family, friends and even some colleagues (who also work with computers every day) assume that I am the fountain of knowledge for all things computers.
Yes, I may be a little more up to speed than the average Joe (no pun intended) but in reality, I answer the vast majority of these questions using a combination of common sense, Google and trial and error. I am certain that if I insisted that the below flow chart was consulted as a pre-screening step before people were allowed to ask me their ‘computer questions’ I would have to deal with about 60% less!