Why do developers like things in an email?

Have you ever been frustrated by a developer who wants you to email everything, instead of being willing to talk in person or over the phone? For the client, talking is often quicker and easier than writing a comprehensive email detailing the issue. Most developers understand this… but we still ask for email. Today I’d like to explain why.


When you write, you are forced to clearly and logically describe a problem in steps or language that another person can follow (and replicate later). Without this clear written description of a problem, a developer really can’t replicate it, isolate it, test it, and thus fix it.

Recalling a conversation about an IT problem goes something like this:

“Errr… I think he clicked that, then maybe that, then there was some sort of issue with the menu which I only half remember. I also don’t remember what browser he was using, what other software was running, what the step before or after was… and I’ve forgotten whether this was high or low priority…”

Compare that with a written description of the issue:

“Using the main menu of the website, navigate to “Services” > then “Haircuts” in the drop down. You will see that this second level drop-down menu goes behind the banner image, making it un-clickable. It works fine in Firefox, Safari and Chrome but is broken on Explorer. This is a big problem as customers can’t access the haircut pricing. Our TV ad goes to air this week and advertises this page of the site so I would appreciate if you could take a look ASAP. “

You get the idea. Basically a developer needs accurate, logicically and comprehensive details in order to do their job. That sort of detail is almost impossible to capture in a meeting or over the phone.


Screenshots are often essential to illustrate a complex issue. They’re best when accompanied by annotations or a written description of what is required. Again… impossible to do in a meeting or over the phone.

Collaborative workflow

Developers rarely work alone. Even a small production agency typically has a project manager/client liaison, several different developers who work on different aspects of your website code, and a designer. When you ask for changes, often ALL those people play a part to make it happen. If everything is written down clearly then there is no assumptions or miscommunication during that process. Without it written down it is extremely likely to get mixed up, misinterpreted, or lost entirely within that workflow.

A paper trail

We need to keep a written record of work pending, in progress and completed. This is for scheduling, scoping, and billing purposes, and is essential to the day to day operations of a web design firm. Don’t forget, a firm like ours has hundreds of clients, and everything is virtual. We don’t have any physical reminders around us so we are totally reliant on written communications to keep things organised and to refer to down the track.


Don’t get mad at your web developer when he/she asks if you could please email that. Developers may seem meeting or phone resistant at times, but it’s generally not out of laziness or disorganisation. Quite the opposite – it’s the only way we can really work efficiently, productively and accurately.

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