Tackling the 3 Problems that Prevent Web Development Flow

I specialise in helping companies that develop websites. Part of that is giving them training and consultancy around using Lean and Agile methods, specially tailored and focused for the web.

One of the things I'm often asked about is how to improve estimates for projects. I think think a lot of the time, what this question really boils down to is: how do you get better control of the time that it takes to develop, deliver and get paid for a web development project? I think the answer is by making sure that you keep a close eye on those aspects of the web development process that are outside your control and may take FOREVER. Here are three problems you should really keep an eye on.

Problem: Late/Non-arrival of assets

This is the biggie. Many clients who commission web sites do not understand how much extra work is involved in preparing "assets" for the web. By assets, I mean any kind of content, written copy, graphics, images, sounds, video. The effort required in writing good copy for the web is especially underestimated.

Solution

Make it clear which content aspects of the website your client is responsible for producing. Make it clear that, in your experience, this is an aspect of web site production that affects timescales. If the issue is web copy, suggest that they hire (or you hire) a good web copywriter to produce the copy.

Problem: Lack of sign-off

Actually, this is another biggie. Actually it's two.

  • For the client mucking about with designs endlessly is (seemingly) much less risky than exposing it to the world.
  • In a lot of hierarchies, many, many people have the power to say no, very few people have the power to say yes.

Solution

Make it clear how much lack of sign-off costs. One way to do this is to take the costs of lack of sign-off out of the development budget! I have recently seen this work with termendously powerful effect with one of my clients. Another way is to offer discounts if sign-off happens within certain periods. Make it clear that quotes are valid and timescales can only be honoured if sign-off.

If they really do want to see hundreds of different designs, tinker with things endlessly. That's fine. But that needs to be on a time and materials basis.

Problem: Unavailability for Meetings and Feedback

Everybody's busy. Client's often express the wish that you would "just go away" and do the website. Unfortunately, quite often, what happens is the opposite - they "just go away". They stop responding to email and phone calls. This can be because they're very, very busy, but it can also because their business is changing in ways that mean that they won't need your website anymore.

Solution

This is an impossible situation and you have to make sure that your client understands this. If the client isn't available for meetings, or sends someone to meetings who is not really empowered to make decisions, make it clear to the client that the project is stalled and that no work is being done on it until they provide their input. Again, it's also very valuable to make clear how much this lack of contact is costing. Meetings with juniors who have no power to make decisions aren't free.

If they really are too busy. By far the best thing to is to sell them inidividual iterations. This provides them with the clean "Just Do It" experience that they seem to crave, whilst at the same time reducing risks for you. If you provide them with a working prototype at the end of every iteration, there's a much better chance that they'll come back for more.

I cover these problems, and their solutions in more detail in my course Building the Lean Web Development Team

If you liked this blog post you might like: "Six Things you Really Need to Know about your Customer" and "I'm your software developer, and I'm listening"


For further information, contact mark.stringer@gmail.com (07736 807 604)

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