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August 28, 2012

10 Things That Can Go Wrong with Projects (and how to solve them!)

August 28, 2012

After launching 100+ websites, we've learned a thing or two about common challenges teams face throughout projects. Sometimes our clients will ask at the beginning of a new project: what can go wrong? And how do we stop it from happening? Thinking about these potential roadblocks ahead of time is a great start, so Jeb, Kasey and Jason shared solutions for 10 common things that can sabotage your website projects.

Jeb says:

Jeb Banner1. Content
The Problem: If a website launch is delayed, 9 times out of 10 it is because the content isn't ready. Most clients enter a project very optimistic about their content creation abilities. But they often forget that they will be doing this work on top of their current workload. Not to mention most clients have no experience creating web content (copy, images, graphics, videos) and often find themselves overwhelmed and behind. Content is the hardest part of a website, not the design or coding.

The Solution: either hire an experienced copywriter internally or outsource it to the web company you have hired. If you stack content creation tasks on top of your team's existing workload chances are it won't get done.

2. Design
The Problem: clients often have very strong feelings about their website. Totally understandable. But the problem is that they often they mistake themselves for the end user and give design feedback which reflects their own interests more than the target end user. Also, multiple project stakeholders start giving input which can result in what we call "frankensteinian" design- competing/clashing ideas.

The Solution: follow the user. Trust your web team to design a website that will work for your user. It may not be exactly what you personally want but that's ok, you aren't the target audience, right?

3. Expectations
The Problem: everyone has them and chances are they aren't the same. Every project begins with unspoken expectations. This isn't intentional or malicious. Often clients don't even know what their expectations are until they get into a project- "I guess I was expecting..."

The Solution: this comes down to the agency working hard throughout the project, especially the beginning, to help the client articulate what their expectations are and align them with the scope of the project. This is often repeated throughout a project. You can never over manage expectations.

4. Hosting
The Problem: sometimes a client's IT team will have specific requirements for website hosting. There may be email or third party integration. There may be security requirements.

The Solution: it is never too soon to discuss a website's launch and hosting. Waiting until the final weeks or days of a project almost always results in a stressful launch for everyone involved.


Kasey says:

Kasey Bradley5. Focus
The Problem: you are in the process of developing a site but you have not properly defined what the goal of the site should be. Are you trying to drive sales or just promote your business?

The Solution: establishing goals for the site goes hand in hand with managing expectations. Defining a focus for the site early on can help in determining what pieces are critical to the success of a project, and can decrease the the possible of eleventh-hour additions down the road.

6. Functionality
The Problem: there are a lot of devices out there - computers, tablets, mobiles - and you need to make sure you can reach audiences on all of them. You also need to be sure that your audience can use these devices to access your site. Most importantly - everything should work. Having a presence online is now essential for attracting new business, but having a site should never come at the expense of functionality.

The Solution: parallel development and testing are essential for web projects to succeed. Nothing tarnishes a site launch like a broken homepage link or missing image. Sure, it won't be the end of the world if people can't see the news section of your site right away - but it could be embarrassing.

7. Communication
The Problem: when you have large team contributing to a web project communication issues are bound to arise between the multiple departments involved. If your content creators are unaware of the design team's schedule, or if your design team does not have the contact information of the content creators, you risk missing a deadline should any issues arise.

The Solution: have a dedicated points of contact and redundancies set in place to alert them to the completion of various parts of the project. Also, be sure to keep a document outlining the responsibilities of different members of different departments, including their contact information.


Jason says:

Jason Ward8. Ego
The problem: Everyone has opinions, and most of them have value. The problem arises when parties are unable or unwilling to set aside their own opinions and look for the value in the opinions of others. This is of particular menace during the creative phases of a project, when egos can be bruised by clients or other team members who do not like a person's ideas or deliverables.

The solution: Collaboration. No designer should work on an island. Bounce ideas off of one another constantly in order to have buy-in from others. The opinions of others can only make your designs better, either through cooperation or reflection and iteration based on the critique of your peers.

9. Ownership
The problem: Every car must have a driver, and only one driver. Just so, design and marketing projects should have one and only one director. Too few drivers causes a lack of direction. Too many creates problems with navigation and the burden of internal bureaucracy. A lack of a single owner for any given project can result in missed deadlines and inattention to results.

The solution: Have your team assign "principals" to each project. The principal will see to the progress and organization of the project while leaning on the rest of the team for creativity, content, QA and as a general sounding board. The principal will take responsibility for the project's success, and is likely to thrive with the freedom and trust granted him or her!

10. Trust
The problem: Too often clients want to maintain control of their projects, or to be involved in every aspect of the creative process. Client buy-in is important, as is client engagement. What can be troublesome is a lack of trust for the designers and developers. A lack of trust can result in conscious and unconscious constraints forming in the minds of the creative folks you hired to produce the earth-shatteringly awesome site you asked for!

The solution: Start the relationship with an open mind. After all, you chose the firm because they have a great reputation, an excellent portfolio, and the most badass team! Instead, allow them to take risks, bust the mold, and then reign them in if your expectations aren't being met. Don't make them earn your trust... allow them the opportunity to lose it! You'll be happier with the results, 9 times out of 10.


Have you experienced other project problems you would add?

Thanks to our client Ted Weaver from Pension Fund for suggesting this topic. Do you have a topic you'd love to see us write about in a blog post? Tell us your ideas here.

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