Realm Digital has dealt with a lot of clients over the years and we have built lasting working relationships. We have learnt a lot through experience and we have compiled a guide for our clients to ensure that we give them the know-how to run their projects successfully.
At this point, you might be doing a double-take and asking: “Hang on! Why is it up to me as the client to make the project run successfully? Isn’t that what I’m paying you for?” And it is definitely a valid question. But as much as it is the development house’s responsibility to ensure the timeous, successful completion of your project, within budget, there are eleven ways in which you as the client can ensure that your project stays on track.
1. Watch the calendar
Make sure your expectations for the delivery of your project is feasible. If you are looking at a launch date four weeks away and the development includes design, a payment gateway integration, shopping cart functionality and integration into your external accounting and CRM systems, it is fair to say that you are setting yourself up for failure. If your deadline is not moveable, decide on feasible compromises that will still deliver a beautiful, working product.
2. Respect the fence
Once you have decided which development items you are going to tackle during this phase, stick to it. Adding items that were not originally agreed to will delay your project and it might have a budgetary impact. Treat your web projects like a big buffet meal: put enough food on your plate, but know that you can always go back for additional helpings later!
3. Know what you like
Before you meet with the designer, do some research on other similar sites and give the team some references to work with so that they have an idea of where your head’s at. Spend sufficient time brainstorming with the designer, so that he/she understands your brand and what you want to convey through the design of your site.
4. Content and context
If you don’t want to pay someone to write the text that will appear on your website, make sure that you have the copy ready for your team. Also make sure that you know which sections and subsections you would like to have on your site and make sure that you have text for each of those sections. It is actually a great idea to pay a good copywriter to write some text. If you would like your development team to sort that out for you, provide them with a wish list of sections and give them some information to base the copy on so that they can brief their copywriter sufficiently. Remember, they might not know your industry, so they’ll need as much background and contextual material as you can provide.
5. Make the time
Often a project is delayed because a client simply doesn’t have time to respond to emails or give constructive feedback on scoping and specification documents. Know that your web project will take up a fair amount of your time and set some time aside on a daily basis to catch up on all the feedback they will require from you. As a guide, more of your time will be required at the beginning when the team decides how everything will work, clarifies scope and finalises design. During the middle period you will be able to see very little, but will rely on verbal or written updates. Towards the end of the project, you will start seeing the implementation of the work and right at the end a lot of your time will be required to do user acceptance testing. Don’t under-estimate how much work this is and it is absolutely crucial to the completion of your project.
6. Do your part
If the development team needs your team to deliver something, make sure that it is delivered at the stipulated time. Delays on certain crucial elements (like a login to a server or the high resolution version of your logo) could delay your project.
You will most probably be given an account or project manager that will be your main point of contact throughout the project. Ensure that you have regular catch-up sessions with him/her to ensure that you know what is happening on your project all the time. It also helps to identify possible problem areas early. In today’s switched on world, there is no reason to not have regular sessions, either via Skype, in person or on the phone. Your account or project manager should take notes with action points every time you have a meeting, but if you don’t receive this, ensure that you keep notes of these yourself and follow up on these items with them. You have a right to full visibility on delivery of action items.
8. See your website as an ongoing piece of work
Due to rapid changes in technology all the time, you must view your website as an ongoing project. You will have to update elements of it from time to time and you might even want to expand on the functionality over time, e.g. you might start out with a simple “brochure site” and then expand it into a site that offers e-commerce. Your website will therefore be an ongoing business effort and expense. Make sure that you prepare for that when you put together your forecasts and budgets.
9. Don’t be scared of the detail
Make sure you understand what you’ll be getting for each of the sections of your site. If you don’t understand how a specific piece of technology is going to function, ask. It is your development team’s responsibility to explain it to you in terms that you can understand, either verbally or in the form of a specification. Do brainstorming sessions with the designers and really immerse yourself in the project. You will not be sorry if you are involved in the detail of the project.
10. Don’t get stuck
Sometimes we get so bogged down by focusing on one specific area of your project that you are risking the health of the whole project. You might be so intent on getting that homepage “just right”, or asking for more reworks of the design because you feel that the buttons’ colours just aren’t “fresh” enough. Remember that delays in one specific area, like finalising the look and feel of the homepage, affects other areas, like the look and feel of the rest of the site, and ultimately the development of the whole site. If you get stuck at one development stage, expect delays!
11. Finally, don’t be THAT client
Settle your invoices on time. Each development house has different payment terms, but typically there will be an upfront deposit, one or two progress payments and a final payment on completion. Familiarize yourself with the contractual terms and stick to it. If payments are not done on time, you risk a late start on your project or the development house might even make the call to take on another piece of work while awaiting payment, which could delay your project indefinitely.