Things That Keep the Grumpy Designer Awake at Night

I’ve learned many lessons in my years as a grumpy designer. One is to try and separate work from the rest of your life. It’s a healthy practice – one that leads to (slightly) less stress.

But, try as I might, certain things stick with me. Things that stay at the front of my mind all day and night. This vicious cycle results in less sleep and more grump. Yes, that’s wonderful for inspiring columns. Not so good for the soul, though.

I’m willing to bet that others are facing the same issue. The growing complexity of web design is making it harder to relax.

Feeling better starts with sharing. So, allow me to dig into the depths of my psyche. The following is a look at web-related issues that keep me up at night. Make a cup of coffee and join me on this nerve-wracking journey.

The Never-Ending Quest for Web Security

Security has long been a thorn in our sides. We can build websites in any number of ways. However, they all seem to be a target for malicious actors.

I work primarily with WordPress. I love the flexibility it offers. But securing these sites is a constant battle.

Hackers have numerous points of attack. They might take advantage of a plugin vulnerability. Or they might crack a weak password. They’re even stealing session cookies these days.

WordPress isn’t alone in the struggle for security. But working with it each day seems to magnify the issue. It has become a constant presence in my mind.

Sometimes, the situation feels hopeless. You plug one security hole – only to see another one pop up. Cleaning up a hacked site is tedious at best. Plus, the thought of data theft is enough to make anyone nervous.

Perhaps the answer lies in not going it alone. Web security is a vast subject. Threats continue to evolve. Thus, working with expert tools (and humans) is worth the price.

Even so, security issues make it harder to fall asleep.

Web security is a complex issue with no easy answers.

The Always-on Work Culture of a Web Designer

Remember my goal of separating work and life? I’m terrible at it. Sure, I do well enough during slow times. But I drown when things get busy.

The web industry has a 24/7 work culture that’s hard to escape. A website won’t wait until business hours to break. Most clients won’t consider the clock when making a request, either.

It used to be easier to get away. Before smartphones, you could leave your desk and inbox behind.

I can recall vacationing in places that had no internet access. I could go an entire week without email. How quaint!

Good luck avoiding your inbox these days. You’ll need self-discipline and clients who can temporarily live without you.

Yes, I try to turn my brain off. I’ll even abstain from replying to an email – for a while. Eventually, my brain gets the best of me. Things stay on my mind until I address them. So, why not respond?

That makes sense on the surface. It doesn’t lead to much peace after hours, though.

Online culture makes it difficult to get away from work.

The Things Out of My Control

Web designers can only control so much. Security is one example – but there are others. Modern websites tend to rely on third-party providers.

That covers everything from web hosting to SaaS (software as a service) to plugins. We may get to choose which tools to use. But we must also trust them to deliver.

What happens when something goes wrong? We might be able to contact a support person. However, some providers take days to respond. Plus, some companies are using chatbots as their first point of contact. Navigating these tools is no picnic.

The result leaves us stuck in the middle. Our clients want to know what’s going on. Meanwhile, we can only rely on what the provider tells us. A lack of communication can be frustrating and worrisome.

It’s about more than downtime, though. Sometimes, a product makes a significant change that impacts your website. Things may not work the way we (or our clients) expect. That leaves us scrambling to figure it out.

Gmail’s recent bulk-sender policy changes are an example. The change’s impact went beyond my expectations. That led to a lot of rushing around to fix email deliverability issues.

Sure, we can try to prepare for the inevitable. But sometimes, all we can do is react.

The Expectations of Clients and Myself

Expectations can keep any web designer up at night. Clients are asking more from us. They want high-end features in exchange for bargain-bin pricing.

That leads us on a wild goose chase. The quest to be faster, cheaper, and better. How do we squeeze in more projects in the same timeframe?

The expectations we have for ourselves are also a burden. I pride myself on getting things done. I want to create the layouts, pick the colors, and write the code. It’s the way I’ve done things for over two decades.

That’s becoming harder, though. The right tools can help. But there’s still a massive responsibility to do the job right.

Part of this may be cultural. Growth is expected and encouraged. After all, who wants to stay the same?

We don’t prioritize comfort nearly enough. Doing so may be perceived as accepting the status quo. Nobody wants to look like they’re stagnating.

All told, this adds to the pressure we feel. We must move onward and upward, regardless of the consequences.

There are great expectations placed on web designers.

Making Sense and Making Peace

So, what lessons have I learned? That was the point of writing this down, right?

I think web designers need to create boundaries – and stick to them. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get pulled into that vicious cycle. It’s hard – but better than the alternative.

Self-forgiveness is also a factor. It’s OK if you don’t know how to do something. There’s no shame in needing extra time to complete a project.

Sometimes, we’re harder on ourselves than any client could be. So, permit yourself to be imperfect. Give yourself some grace. None of us go through life without experiencing adversity.

Finally, don’t let your job become your only source of identity. It took me a while to understand that advice. But we all need time away from the online world.

Will the things above still keep me awake? I’m betting that they will. Perhaps it’s better to accept it instead of fighting it. Tomorrow can always be better.

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