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Speaking as someone on the client side of this issue, I wanted to mention a major difficulty that I think a lot of clients get embroiled in. I call it executive-centered design. Executive-centered design can kill a project or double its price in a matter of moments. This process is told from the perspective of the twentysomething kid-out-of-college who has been tasked with building a new web site for his company. Here (pasteurized and homogenized for general consumption) is how it works, and how to avoid it:
How it works:
1. An executive hires someone, often straight out of college, with "social media experience" to maintain their web site and get them on Facebook. They do this because they are afraid of social media, and afraid of web sites, and just want it handled. Also, their last web lacky just moved to California with his girlfriend--someone has to keep the old site updated.
2. After awhile, that executive asks this kid-out-of-college to "build them a new web site".
3. The kid-out-of-college gathers some basic requirements and then goes and finds a web design firm.
4. The web firm gets fairly far into requirements gathering, wireframes, and even possibly development work before the executive looks at the web site project again with any real interest. The executive hasn't been paying attention because he doesn't know how complicated web sites really are. He also hasn't been paying attention because he considers this kid-out-of-college to be a fairly unimportant member of his staff. It just hasn't been worth his time to check in on this project, or talk to the kid-out-of-college in general.
5. The executive hates the new web site. He hates it in part because his expectations have not been managed, but also because he has not been involved in any part of the design process and does not understand what he is looking at.
6. The executive says something like "I don't know what I want, I just know I don't want this". He then spitballs some radical design changes that alter the scope of the project hugely. That night, kid-out-of-college cries to his girlfriend.
7. When the changes get made, they hurt the final product because the executive had not thought carefully enough about what he wanted and how it really would affect the goals of his company. In the meantime, his web site is 6 months late and hugely over-budget.
The solution to executive-centered design lies first with the client, and in fact with the kid-out-of-college. For large web sites especially, I believe that careful requirements gathering, rough wireframes, and executive signoffs are necessary in-house before contracting out to a web design firm. This is especially the case if the client has big, rambling dreams about a totally re-imagined web presence, and/or, kid-out-of-college senses that they have some volatile executives to deal with.
Preliminary design and requirements gathering should happen in-house, so that radical scope change also happens in-house. Better there than at the design firm, where the project can be dead within minutes. If you cannot afford to plan your huge new web site in-house, and if your executives are unable to envision or sign off on the new web site that is wanted in-house, then the web site should probably not be built.
2 years, 9 months ago on 27 Complaints About Web Design Companies