Here’s 10 examples, off the top of my head, of conversations i have actually hadwhen I have had to postpone a website launch and the client has asked why?…..

My answers:

  1. The changes you sent to the design brief on Wednesday
  2. The 150 images you sent to us yesterday to be included on the site
  3. The 50 pages of text for the website you sent to us Tuesday…. in the post….. er, on paper
  4. This is the first time your boss has seen it?
  5. You never told us all your organisation used IE4
  6. Yes, as we mentioned, 1024×768 won’t fit on your bosses smaller screen
  7. What do you mean your logo is changing
  8. So you’ve actually not got any content ready for sections 3,4,5,6 and 7?
  9. Ah….. so you want sections 3,4,5 and 7 removed from the navigation….
  10. The guy who controls your domain is leaving early today?

The list could go on…… what I’ve learned to do is take some responsibility on to ensure I don’t repeat mistakes I should have learned from.

Things that can slow down your project

What I have learned is good communication is paramount when developing any website. It’s a learning process, and you hopefully can only get better at it with time and experience. There’s always unexpected challenges, but there’s some stuff that needs discussed from the outset to avoid the vast majority of headache.

I loved being a web designer and developer. I love the thought process and the finished product, but there are so many other factors out-with a web designer’s control that make being a web designer suck sometimes.

I’ve came across a lot of situations….

  1. Domain Name Registrars who for some reason don’t release domains
  2. Hosting companies that take your site down and don’t tell you until your client spots it
  3. Other web design companies you win clients from who make it a difficult transition
  4. 3rd Party IT people (who manage client internal PCs and email) who are as useful as a chocolate fire-guard
  5. Clients who think a CMS comes with free lifetime CMS training or telephone support
  6. Clients who don’t know how to cut and paste
  7. Clients who think it’s your responsibility to get them website sales… from this point on
  8. Clients that want a blog, but don’t want to write anything in it
  9. Clients that think their £500 job is the only website your 7 man team is working on
  10. Clients who don’t supply content in time, but still want the website launched on time
  11. Clients who don’t supply content
  12. Clients who think it’s your job to update their Joomla or WordPress installation for life
  13. Internet Explorer….

Ive been designing websites since 2000 – so I have made a lot of mistakes.Here’s a quick web design & development project checklist for clients and designers – a collection of the some of the more important stuff I’ve learned – that might save you time and money in the future.

Managing Client Expectations

If you’re aiming to agree a fixed price for the development of the website, as we do, ensure the project goes smoothly before you start, by communicating with your client at the outset. They’ll appreciate you for it, there will be less surprises, and you may be able to start making a profit from fixed cost website design jobs again.

Here’s stuff that needs to be discussed:

  1. Prices can change even for a fixed cost website
    • Web Design Costs are dependent on how many hours is spent working on a design and how many times the client asks for changes to it
    • Show the client your portfolio – that is the type of sites you build, do they like it?
    • Has the client supplied examples of the sort of site they are looking for?
    • Estimate a cost for a job, based on early discussion.
    • Ensure the client knows you can quote for a job only on the information you have available to you at the time
    • Confirm a job cost on reviewed client requirements
    • 50% of job before start, 50% on completion
    • Ensure the client knows you are costing the job by hours and you do have other clients
    • Make sure all your costs are approved before starting a job (remember VAT)
    • Ask the client to send you an email notifying his acceptance of the project scope and cost
  2. It’s impossible to make a site that will look the same in all browsers;
    • Specify which Resolution / Screen Size the Website Should Be Designed to
    • Specify a fixed width or fluid layout
    • Inform the client which browser versions you support
    • Ensure the client is aware of website font restrictions or recommendations and web page download considerations
    • Ensure the client is aware websites look different than on paper
  3. Content should be supplied by the client in a form easily used
    • Who is supplying the text?
    • Who is supplying the images?
    • Get the client to supply all text, photographs and content in electronic format
    • Make sure text supplied, if formatted, is in a web-ready format
    • The client should supply an example site-plan, in a bulleted list
    • The client needs to specify any specific functionality required at the outset
  4. ‘Milestone’ dates for the project should be agreed
    • Communicate missing any milestone date for supplying content / adding new content will have an impact on launch commitments and costs – both of you have businesses to run
    • Agree content delivery date
    • Agree Site Architecture Freeze Date
    • Agree Site Functionality Freeze Date
    • Agree Design Freeze date
    • Agree Launch Date
  5. Changes to the brief should be communicated and costs agreed / timings considered in electronic form
    • No Favours – The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the bodies of well meaning web developers
    • Everything should be charged out, agreed and accountable
  6. Websites can go down every now and then
    • Who hosts the current site?
    • Get Contact Details
    • Hosting is a recurring annual charge
  7. Domain transfers sometimes go a bit Pete Tong
    • You are at the mercy of third parties
    • Who controls current domain(s)?
    • Domains need registered every year
    • Get Contact Details
  8. Emails might go down for a period of perhaps 24-48 hours
    • Who controls current email(s)?
    • Get Contact Details
    • How many email accounts to you have/need
  9. Launching a website can be about pressing buttons and waiting
  10. Websites Get Hacked
    • All CMS needs kept up to date
    • In most cases hackers seek to deface the site
    • A hacked site can mean disaster in Google
    • A site that has been hacked can be rescued
    • Who’s in charge of security / CMS updates
    • Agree maintenance fees
  11. A Winning Website Is never ‘Finished’!
    • The client should keep his site up-to-date with news if he has a CMS
    • Training for the CMS should be costed if required
  12. A website is subject to Laws of The Land and the client should investigate these
    • The UK Companies Act
    • UK Distance Selling Regulations
    • Website Accessibility Recommendations
  13. Agree ongoing responsibilities
    • Who is responsible for the client's email, hosting and domain management
    • Do you ‘guarantee’ a website is fit for purpose for say 1 year?
    • When will annual billing start and occur

I’m sure I’ve missed some things out, but I wanted a post on the site I could point my clients to, to educate them on some of the less talked about aspects of developing a website. I expect to modify this page every now and again.

Take responsibility, agree the scope of the project, recognise the requirements to meet the brief within allocated time-frame, and bill for your time.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Now I aim at all times to communicate with the client as much as possible to ensure any web development job doesn’t get out of control.