Beyond the buzz

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Are methodologies scalable?

Requirements gathering is one of those steps in any project that can’t be missed. Whether it’s conducted vigorously and methodically, haphazardly and unconscious, it’s done. It doesn’t matter whether you’re ordering a hamburger at Harveys or a web site build: the person taking your order needs to gather your requirements.

When you go to Harveys, you don’t just say you want a hamburger; the person taking your order will want to know if you want a classic or whatever, the person making your burger will want to know what kind of toppings you want. You could be remiss and say “just give me the toppings most people get”; not a problem, unless you really detest ketchup, which is what most people get on their burger.

Recently, I was discussing with a colleague the issue of requirements gathering methologies. In our experience, SMB’s and micro-businesses, in particular, tend to work within very short temporal cycles. They can also have pretty short fuses and regard methodical questioning and any information probing to be, at best, extemporizing tactics and, at worst, unresponsiveness. How often have you been challenged with, “Why do you need to know so much? Why are you asking all these questions? I just want a ballpark, an estimate. I’m just a small business and don’t have the time to be talking about this. I just need to get it done.”

So we came to the tentative conclusion that enterprise-level business methologies don’t necessarily scale down to the micro-business and even SMB (small to medium businesses) level. Is this really true? Do we need to develop a completely different style of requirements gathering for different classes of clients?

Filed under: Random, Web Development

How much does it cost to build a web site?

This question is asked so often and by so many, there should be a Wikipedia entry for it. And it should be tagged as an “Existential Question,” along with other questions of similar ilk: How long is a piece of string? How much does a car cost? How much does it cost to build a house?

You get the drift, I hope.

The fact is, the only way to truly capture and contain your web development cost is to quantify your project accurately by determining its business requirements. This is the most important phase of your project – a fact that most people fail to realize.

The implication of an incomplete scope definition goes right to the bottom line: project costs that spiral out of control, paying too much for features and functionalities that serve no business purpose, allocating inadequate funds to properly build a functional site, etc.

Caveat emptor: if a web firm blazes in with a cost estimate that doesn’t include a scoping phase, RUN. How could they possibly provide realistic pricing for a project about which they know next to nothing?

Filed under: Web Development

Web development 101

If you’re thinking about building a web site or making a change to your current site, this post’s for you.

Please, please don’t be tempted to start your project with pretty pictures and a snow storm of words. Unless your site consists of 3 pages of text and images that don’t link to one another, please take the time to think about how the site should work before you fantasize about how it should look. Along the way, you’ll be tempted: stay the course, don’t fall off the wagon.

Let’s get started. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Web Development

Not just a pretty face

Can a web site look really great but be confusing to its visitors? Can an unattractive web site be a joy to navigate?

The answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Usability

The customer is always right after all

In an ideal world, building a web site requires a different process than developing any other piece of marketing material.

The simple fact is that a web site, by definition, offers a non-linear experience – in stark contrast to every other medium available. With a web site, the expectation from the audience is that they reserve the right to consume the product in any way and in any order they please. As the creator, you can try to lead them down a specific path, but if you don’t allow your audience to explore in alternate ways, you run a serious risk that your visitors will simply walk away. Dictators do not survive long online, if they do at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Usability

Where angels fear to tread

My agency recently lost out on a bid for a web development project. Nothing unusual in that – happens to everyone. What really burns is the fact that we lost because the key message of our pitch was for the client to slow down…slow down long enough for both sides to have a proper discovery meeting. We lost because we refused to do spec work: it’s bad enough when static creative is done on spec, but it’s so much worse when asked to produce entire web site designs on spec.

Before I pontificate any further, I shall go and lick my wounds in private….

Filed under: Random