Failed web projects are both costly and frustrating. They can set your business back months, or even years, and make you wary of anything or anybody that has to do with the web. Your gut can usually tell if a project is becoming a train wreck, but here are 10 specific, telltale signs of a failing project – complete with handy GIFs.
What are the project goals? How will you know the project was successful? Who are the main points of contact? These questions need answers as soon as possible, and the agency you're working with should ask them at the kickoff. It's fun to get to know everyone at that first meeting, but you need to get down to business, too.
A website redesign should not take a year or more to complete. There, I said it. Sure, a project timeline needs to take into account the effort's scope and complexity. But I've found nearly all web projects I've worked on that have taken longer than a year have either floundered or have come dangerously close to it. Goals change. Roles change. Requirements change or are forgotten. There's turnover and knowledge loss on your team or your agency's team. All of these scenarios become more likely the longer a project takes. An aggressive timeline may be challenging to stick to, but trust me, it's worth it.
When has "Oh sorry, I'll get it to you tomorrow" ever ended well? Maybe this is the print journalist in me talking, but deadlines (and the enforcement of them) get sh*t done and keep the project running smoothly. Your project team should set firm deadlines for you and themselves on every major deliverable, especially if you have an unmovable launch date. And they should pester you endlessly about meeting them. It may be annoying, but you'll know they're committed to launching your project on time and on or under budget.
Every web project needs a document clearly stating what your team is building and what it isn't building. Everything from supported browsers to what happens when a user submits a contact form needs to be defined and approved. Don't assume everyone knows these requirements; you're probably wrong.
You think they're just being nice and accommodating all of your feature requests. In reality, they're probably digging themselves – and you – into a hole, and neither of you will realize it until it's too late. Web development takes time and money. Any feature that isn't specified in your original scope of work will likely require additional time or money to complete. If your web team doesn't proactively acknowledge this, it's setting itself, and you, up for failure.
Integrity works with clients all over the country, some of who are hundreds of miles from our St. Louis office. But we've found that the best way to communicate with clients, no matter the distance, is face to face. In fact, with services like Skype and Google Hangouts readily available to just about anyone, distance really is no longer a valid excuse. If you can't regularly meet with your web team in person, you should make it a point to have as many video calls with your project team as possible. Phones and email are great tools, but they omit a level of real-time, personal interaction that's crucial on complex web projects.
Bad web projects tend to reach a point where the daily goal is no longer to make progress but to attempt to navigate a litany of completely preventable crises. These catastrophes probably started with something harmless – an oversight, a miscommunication – but eventually turned into a towering inferno of angry phone calls and catty emails. Over-communication and assumption-free documentation from all project members goes a long way in preventing these fires.
Imagine going to an auto dealer to finally pick up your brand new car, only to discover there's paint missing on one of the doors or the vehicle makes a weird noise when you shift into reverse. You'd be pretty livid, and rightfully so. After all, if the manufacturer didn't catch this obvious stuff, what else could be wrong with the car? The same holds true for web projects. If your agency delivers a web app with broken links or incomplete functionality, there are some serious flaws in its quality assurance testing process. Your project is a big investment; you deserve the utmost attention to detail to ensure your product is as bug-free as possible on launch.
As our fearless leader so eloquently puts it, trust is the foundation of every web project. If you don't think your project team is being honest with you, or if you think being honest with them will harm the project, send up the distress signal. It may be that the agency team needs a new designer, developer or content strategist on the project who is a better fit. It may be that you need a new agency to complete the effort. What you certainly don't need is to stay silent, because the distrust will only grow and the result will almost always be failure.
When a web project is going badly, every day is dreadful and every deliverable is a death sentence. The fires and the frustrations cause you to lose sight of the project's original goals. You just want to get it over with and forget about it. Loss of pride is the culmination of every symptom on this list, and it's the worst. Believing in your project idea from the outset and finding the right web team that shares your values can keep the pride in your project alive through launch day and beyond.
Integrity knows what bad projects look like, and we avoid them like the plague. We're the web firm you want to work with again and again. Contact us to see how we can achieve your business goals with an awesome user experience. We've been expecting you.
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