Website Project Disaster – Watch for the Warning Signs

Cybervise was started as a business to help businesses with the websites they already own. Unfortunately, that can mean helping clean up a mess left by another developer.  I am not 100% convinced that the issue is always with the past developer.  Yes, there are plenty of examples where developers did not fulfill their contractual obligations, but there are just as many stories where leadership on the part of the client led to costly mistakes. The stories I am about to tell are meant to help business owners who are currently going through a website development project avoid an unhappy outcome. Here are some examples of where a website project can go wrong:

  • Live before its Finished –  During a past project, the client went to a trade show early in the website development process and started handing out market materials with their new website address before they had even written the content for the site. No surprise, they started getting calls from folks that the website was down and they couldn’t go online to respond as they were told. We got a call late on a Saturday telling us to take the site live right away because of this problem. This was a bad decision because 1.it  made the final deliverable unclear and 2. the client had no incentive to ever finish the site because they already had something working. Eight months later we were still waiting for them to send us content.
  • Employee Turnover – Our worst example of this is a project where our website contact was switched four different times; starting with the IT manager and finally ending with a summer marketing intern. The problem is: each person had a different vision of the website and as soon as we started working with a new person, we got a new site map. With each site map, more project delays and more costs for the owner. Are you delegating your project to someone who has the bandwidth and decision-making power to see the project through to the end?
  • Avoiding communication – One of the my major pet peeves is when I can’t get the person who hired us on the phone or get any timely response to our emails.  This sends a clear message on how important the website is to the business if the owner wouldn’t take five minutes to talk to their webmaster and ensure that progress continues. If you don’t have time to dedicate to the web project right now,  postpone until you do.
  • Figured out what they wanted AFTER site was built – As the owner or CEO of a business you need to be in the loop on the website project. Often the business owner will finally get around to reviewing the website once it is 95% done.  What do you if it is not the site you wanted?  At this point, as the developer,  our contract has been fulfilled and the only choices are to finish the site you don’t like or start over, which of course will cost more money.  Don’t wait for someone to show you something,  ask to see it.

The key thing to learn here is that what we were experiencing had nothing to do with technical problems or technical capabilities, these are leadership problems.  Stop treating your company website like a marketing project that you can delegate and never think about again.  A good website will be an active member of your organization that will help to grow your business.  Start treating it like one.

Do you have other project warning signs?  Please share your advice and save others from this fate.