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Miscommunication in webdevelopment

Link: Miscommunication in webdevelopment

Filed under: Webmaster, Webdevelopment by Brian Turner

I do a lot of hands-on webdevelopment work for my own websites. I know my goals, aims, and technical feasibility of implementing different options. It’s a good arrangement.

I’ve done a few webdevelopment projects for clients, including for multi-million pound SME’s. Although more challenging, both myself and the client were usually very clear on objectives and implementation from the start.

However, recently I took on a project that looked simple to do, but turned into a complete nightmare. Objectives and implementation suffered from miscommunication from the start.

And it’s my responsibility in representing my company to be sure that miscommunication does not occur. If it does, it is myself at fault, not the client’s. And therefore my job to correct.

So let’s look at a couple of my recent adventures in misunderstanding from miscommunication:

1. Misunderstanding the size of the project

I recently undertook to rebuild a client’s website on a much more search-engine friendly platform.

I was told the site had around 500 pages.

My error was not checking this.

Sure, his site was poorly indexed by Google, but once I had FTP access I should have clarified just how many files were on the site.

Especially as the client site actually had almost 800 pages.

Here I made the mistake of misunderstanding the size of the project, and hence the work involved, and it seriously undercut my margins because of this.

2. Misunderstanding the complexity of the project

The client informed me that the existing site was built on include statements in ASP, and wished to maintain the flexibility it offered.

I’ve built sites with include statements in PHP. I’ve also used a simple CMS as a publishing platform. I thought this site would benefit from a combination of both, though I’d never done both together.

How hard could that be?

A lot harder than I ever imagined.

The result was having to work until midnight two days running, fixing issue after issue – because both approaches were inherently incompatible without extensive workarounds. I frequently had to solve various issues laterally as they came up.

Ultimately, I misunderstood the complexity of the approach I had decided on.

3. Misunderstanding the work required

I learned early on that the client didn’t simply want their site importing from a search engine unfriendly platform to a fully search engine friendly platform, all with bells and whistles on top, such as XML & RSS etc.

They were looking to make changes and updates to the site layout while the project was being carried out.

At first I was happy to oblige on edits, but as the suggested changes kept coming in, I realised that either we continued as originally agreed, and complete the website with agreed changes on an agreed schedule – or else take time out to apply repeated changes that would delay the project indefinitely.

I soon had to politely make it clear to the client that I was working on the changes paid for, and that further changes would have to be costed for after the project was completed.

Here the big lesson was to work on one thing at a time - and that meant working on the agreed changes before applying new ones.

4. Misunderstanding costing

Because I misunderstood the size and complexity of the project, I offered to charge a nominal fee for the overall project.

The result is that for the extensive time involved, I ended up working for peanuts.

As before, I had to take the burden of misunderstanding the project from the beginning – but for further changes to the site after completion I made sure I charged on a per-item basis.

This way the client was properly aware of the value and cost involved, especially where small text changes were requested that otherwise really were not required.

5. Learning from mistakes

I have never walked away from a project before, but I was seriously tempted to drop this one and simply refund the client their money.

I didn’t because I felt I had to accept that I should have ensured there were no misunderstandings from the start, and therefore completing the site was a matter of professionalism.

Point is, I’ve learned to be clearer from this experience that not only can some projects be more demanding than expected, but also some clients can also be more demanding than expected.

And that it does nobody any good to try and do too much for too little. That’s not running a business – that’s running yourself into the ground.

The bottom line from my experience is clear:

  • Ensure you understand the size of a project before you start
  • Ensure you actually know how to implement the project before you start
  • Ensure requests for extra work are billed exactly as that
  • Ensure your costing reflects the work involved, rather than made on ad hoc presumptions
  • Ensure communication with clients always remains clear
  • Take responsibility for any misunderstandings that may occur




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