Avoiding Common Project Delays
With many decades of experience in web development we can safely say there is no such thing as a project totally devoid of hiccups or delays. The key is always communication and understanding on everyone’s part in the collaborative experience that is the creation of a website. We’ve created hundreds of websites for satisfied customers over the years and this is what we’ve learned.
Stage 1 (Kicking things off)
When the initial meetings have gone well, the proposal defined, refined and accepted and everyone is ready to get things started…
- Paperwork delays. All professional developers have official paperwork to be signed to protect both parties. Typically the developer will have scheduled in time to start a project and arranged for key staff to be available to commence the work. When paperwork isn’t filed they will be reluctant to start and delays shunt into any existing work.
- Payments most agencies require a portion of the overall cost paid to start the project. The web being so ephemeral not all clients appreciate the work involved in good design, build and hosting and delays in payment again will cause havoc in a companies arranged schedules.
Stage 2 (Design)
The design phase is when your personal designer is crafting you logo, website and banners.
- Be prompt and clear. Send good quality images and support materials to your designer. Consider what you do and don’t want from the design, review your competition and communicate it as best you can. Every days delay is a day when the designer is unguided.
- Critique and communicate amends to designs as clearly as possible. It’s not good to mention you don’t like yellow and images of trees 3 weeks after a design was started and uses those as key factors in the balance of a design. Typically no build work takes place until a design is singed off so every delay backends the entire project.
- Refusal to sign off is a constant problem. Customers fear signing off a design in case they change their minds later. Typically minor changes to colours can be incorporated later but without agreement of the design at this stage changes can have a ripple effect.
Stage 3 (HTML Build)
Following a design sign off the html build can begin to turn those flat images into living interactive code.
- Once the design is signed off the HTML people transform the flat images into the living framework of an interactive website. You should have the site structure defined and copy ready.
- When the developer asks for it you should supply it in an organised way that follows the structure (i.e. 1 page of about us content, 1 page with 3 news stories on it). When the content isn’t clear and doesn’t follow the agreed site plan it just adds delays and confusion.
- Similarly incomplete content is just as bad. Supplying content that radically changes in quantity, style or format can lead to new development work or scrapping and restarting of entire sections.
Stage 4 (Custom development)
Development of code, applications and other customer specific content.
- Probably more problematic than delays in supplying complete and accurate “text content” is custom development work that can be a headache and the biggest delay making scenario.
- Lack of sample data, login details and payment gateway details can have a huge impact.
- Often the client doesn’t know exactly what the system does, even with full specification documentation being created, and doesn’t know if it fits the bill until they actually start using it.
- When it comes to ecommerce an online stores integrity of product pricing, baskets, carts and checkouts are paramount and when the process is broken up by delays the focus on it becomes disrupted.
Stage 5 (Amends and Scope creep)
Content amends, design amends and additions not in the original proposal or reinstated after work has begun.
- Amends are the bane of any web development company. We know and expect them. However it should be appreciated that some amends have a massive impact on time while others are relatively simple. Any time you make alteration to a shopping system the integrity of that system is in question and anything that stops you making sales is just as important. This entails testing of every aspect of the system and not just on the area being amended.
- Remember you are not the developer’s only customer. If you are you should be worried as to why they aren’t working for a lot more people and relying totally on you for revenue.
- Bundle your amends and try not to be reactionary. When you gather your amends they can analysed scheduled and apportioned to the relevant people best placed to complete them this is efficient and saves time for everyone. If your amends come in on a knee-jerk ‘as you see them’ all marked urgent basis you risk being the customer who cried wolf and the developer never knows what is actually important and spends time replying to your calls that could be more valuably spent on making your site better.
- Remember a diligent developer will maintain a fix list with 100’s of amends and fixes actioned during the process and most of them you’ll never know about as they were fixed before they became an issue for you.
Stage 6 (Population)
Text, images, documents and resources.
- Most agencies don’t write your copy for you and especially when you have Content Management System don’t do the site population for you, after all that’s why you bought a CMS. They will train you on it but you need to have that copy pre-prepared and ready to go as soon as the site is stable and ready for it.
- Be prompt and clear. Send good quality “final” copy and files to avoid endless amends and experimentation with content you need your developer to insert for you. Amends are inevitable but keep them to a minimum by considering every one carefully with input from only those who need input and bundle them into one list of amends.
Stage 7 (Training and Going Live)
Those final days when it goes from a development project into live to the world to see.
- Arrange for the training of the people most likely to be using the sites CMS. Never rely on one person to know it all and don’t pack the training in for company directors and staff who won’t gain anything from the training.
- Going live you need to supply any outstanding logins for services (google analytics for example) to tie in with the service.
We understand that this list seems somewhat one-sided with the client appearing to be responsible for the vast majority of delays. The sad truth is that delays from your developer’s side, assuming they budgeted and scheduled time accurately and even with appropriate padding, will likely be from dealing with delays and emergency rushes from existing clients.
Of course your developer should be flexible and so should you. Communication is the watch word with both sides always keeping each other abreast of the situation and allowing room and sidestepping bottlenecks. Website development is collaborate. Use us to make your dreams reality, take our knowledge and skills and make them work for you.
By Alanna at 2 Aug 2014, 16:44 PM