I’ve performed postmortems on many, many web projects over the last couple of years, and over time I’ve seen certain patterns emerge; patterns that I now know push web projects towards success or failure. While there are many reasons that projects succeed or fail that are entirely internal to web agencies, I have noticed that the client themselves wields tremendous influence over the success or failure of a project.
Over time I have identified 5 factors that clients bring to the table, that directly affect the outcome of a web project. These factors can accumulate and ultimately swing the fate of a project from success to failure or vice-versa.
Here they are:
Don’t Be Overly Price Sensitive
Guess what? Agencies are expensive. If you want to build a website on the cheap, you probably don’t want to deal with an agency, you want to keep the project in-house as much as possible, and outsource the rest to individual contractors. Quality can suffer this way, because you are now the web project manager (and presumably you have something else to do), but it theoretically can be cheaper. Trying to pinch pennies with an agency can cause compromises in the quality or scope of your project that can be hard to predict.
Be Flexible on Features
Clients who want to control every last feature can lose sight of the main goal: getting a working web site that meets their business goals launched. In my experience, the best projects are ones with strict deadlines, but with some flexibility in scope. Over the course of production, hard decisions may need to be made about whether features should be included in the upcoming release. Generally speaking, being flexible on features, but sticking to the established release schedule, is the right decision almost every time.
Clients who are indecisive, or who have decision-by-committee issues, bring risk to web agency projects. The best projects are ones where there is a single project owner on the client’s side, who is empowered to make decisions and grant approvals about the web site. The ability to provide clear, timely feedback and direction to the web agency is essential. On the other hand, a client that waffles, takes forever to make approvals, or sends mixed signals to the agency just makes everything harder.
Trust and Defer
Trust the web agency, they know the web, that’s what you’re paying them for. If you don’t feel like you can trust them, then you shouldn’t hire them in the first place. In order for an agency to operate efficiently, it needs a certain amount of autonomy and independence from the client. Only then can it employ its internal best practices, and do the best job it can. Micromanaging an agency actually removes value for the client.
Understand the web. Understand your own business. Understand how web agencies work, if possible. The more sophisticated you are, the better the project will run. In the past I’ve known clients who have asked for web sites, who never actually use the Internet themselves. How could they make informed decisions about their own web site, if they spend no time on the web? By taking the time to educate yourself about the environment in which your project lives, you’ll be stacking the odds in your favor.
There it is – clients that get all of these items right are a pleasure to work with, and they tend to get fantastic results from the agencies they use. At the other end of the scale, clients that come down on the wrong side of all of these points can create situations that can be difficult or impossible for agencies to rescue. By mastering these factors as a client, you’ll be doing the most you can to ensure the success of your project.