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10 Common Problems Web Developers Encounter

September 9th, 2018

After spending a few years developing websites both big and small, certain patterns seem to have revealed themselves. Over time, you adapt to these issues and forget about them, but the reality is other people will encounter these problems in due course. For that reason, I thought a quick treatise of these common problems was called for.

Considering the same challenges crop up again and again for everyone in web development, it’s interesting to note that different people come up with different solutions to the same issue. The context often defines what an appropriate solution is, so what works for one business may not work for another. Obviously, I can only talk about strategies I myself have used, or ones suggested to me by my peers (nb. there may be other solutions I haven’t considered).

Without further delay, let’s have a look at some challenges, and more importantly, some solutions:

1. Content issues – this happens when a customer either takes too long to supply their content, or what they do supply is amateurish or lacklustre. The most common way I deal with this is to use some place-holder text, with the intent of having the client say “hey, that’s not my text”; this can prompt them to put in their correct content. Another trick is to use a questionnaire to illicit responses from the client. This can be used as the basis for writing rudimentary content (e.g. “what does your company do?”, “who are your customers?” etc). A technique I have used in the past is to turn off pages which are empty (e.g. client: “where’s my press releases page?”, developer: “the page hides itself if there is no text on it”). I recall reading an article some time back which suggested getting a copywriter involved from the start of the project. Having someone work closely with the client at an early stage is a good method for ensuring copy is ready prior to launch.

2. Delays in obtaining the company logo or graphics files – it’s pretty hard to start on a website when you don’t have the client’s logo. Often this is just a case of getting the client to contact their graphic designer to get you the files you need. This isn’t a major issue, but it can cause a small delay which is unnecessary. All you have to do is give the client forewarning that this material is required. This is why one of the questions I have on my Needs Analysis form is “is your logo & branding material ready?”

3. Vague feedback and indecisiveness – this is a situation which can result in not only delays, but rework which isn’t billed for. This really boils down to ineffective communication. A classic example of vague feedback is “I don’t like the design” (a more helpful version would be something like “the design doesn’t communicate the fun and relaxed nature of our company”). The evil brother of vague feedback is indecisiveness, or when a client is unwilling to make a firm decision on how something should be. With vague feedback, patients is the remedy. Some would say it’s a matter of ‘educating the client’, I find that term to be somewhat condescending. If I get feedback like “I don’t like the design”, I would respond with “what in particular don’t you like?” or “can you be a bit more specific, I need more detail in order to get your design right” (the response depends on the client’s personality, understanding the DISC model helps). In the case of indecisiveness, if it’s related to a feature, I will make it an option in the admin module (e.g. an option to show a group of company logos horizontally or vertically). With this approach, the client can set it whichever way they want.

4. Scope creep – the bane of a developer’s existence. This topic alone could span many pages, however I will try keep it simple. Scope creep occurs when a client asks for features which weren’t originally agreed upon. This can be problematic as it can cause delivery dates to shift and displace other work, it can introduce new bugs in established features, and impact on momentum. Some people take a hard line on this matter, suggesting that you should just say ‘No’ to the client. I have a personal philosophy which goes like this “there is no such thing as no, it’s yes – and this is how much it’s going to cost”. At the end of the day, it’s about business, if a client is willing to pay for the work, it’s simply a matter of project management and version control. One technique I use when developing large web applications is to group features together into a ‘mini-spec’. These features would be added to the system after launch and thus constitute a point upgrade (i.e. v1 ;rarr; v1.1). A good suggestion I have also seen is to create a cost-to-benefit spreadsheet in consultation with the client, that way they can prioritize and understand added costs.

5. Undescriptive bug reports – client: “the system crashed” or “the system is buggy”, developer (thinking to himself): “gee, thanks for all the information”. Explaining to a person that a bug can’t be fixed unless they give more detail usually solves this problem. When logging a bug, it’s essential that the person says where the bug occurred, and gives step-by-step instructions on what they did when the bug appeared. If a client knows how to take screenshots and annotate them, even better.

6. Deposits, pricing and payment problems – not taking a deposit when working with a new client is unprofessional and exposes you to unnecessary risk. However, deposits aren’t as much of an issue when dealing with long standing clients. Having a good pricing structure for small projects is also important (e.g. projects under $5,000). A good general structure is 20% deposit, 70% milestone payment when most of the work is done, and the final 10% when the client signs off. The 10% final payment is very helpful in situations where a project stalls for whatever reason. There is also the issue of clients saying “but another developer said they could do it cheaper”. In such a situation, you need to demonstrate the value you bring to the table above and beyond your competitors (e.g. quicker development time, face-to-face meetings as often as required, etc). Another major problem is clients that don’t pay their bills on time. The majority of clients are reasonable business people and will respond positively to a courteous reminder, for example: “hi Tom, just a friendly reminder, have you had a chance to pay the last invoice I sent? It was due one week ago. I would appreciate if you could pay this invoice as soon as possible. Let me know if you need to discuss it. Thank you” – will there still be people that attempt to take advantage of you? Of course, but you’d be surprised how far good manners will get you in the business world.

7. Project malaise and uncommitted stake-holders – this can bring a project to a grinding holt, quite literally. It occurs when a client loses interest in their own project or decides to focus their energies elsewhere (usually on more pressing areas of their business). There may be times when this is understandable, for instance if a client is about to launch a new product or needs to spend time on ‘disaster recovery’. I don’t have a sure-fire solution for this problem, other then being proactive (e.g. get on the phone, communicate). If you have the time and inclination, you can take onboard tasks which were originally assigned to the client (e.g. communicating with the graphic designer directly to get graphics files). That said, you have to be careful not to pressure the client too much, this can actually cause something of a backlash. At the end of the day, it’s up to the client if they want to stall their project. If you have a good payment structure in place, you won’t be unfairly penalized for the delay in project progress.

8. Dealing with third parties or vendors – adding a third party to the project introduces risk because your power to influence outcomes diminishes. Not only has an additional communication channel been added, but so have potential bottlenecks. Take for example a fully-fledged ecommerce enabled website. Here we have three additional third parties which need to be dealt with during the course of the project:
1) the client’s bank has to be consulted with to setup an Internet Merchant Account,
2) a SSL provider has to be contacted to setup a certificate to allow for secure shopping, and
3) a credit card gateway provider has to be involved to provide credit card clearing facilities.

There’s a lot of potential for hold-ups there. The best answer for dealing with third parties is to get in early; arrange things which you have less control over towards the start of the project, before they are needed.

9. Best practice advice being ignored – for some people no amount of logic or statistics will satisfy them, they just want it their way (e.g. “there doesn’t need to be a home page” or “i want scrolling red text at the top of my page”). In situations where the request flies in the face of best practice standards, I say the following and then get on with the work: “my professional recommendation is… but it’s up to you how you would like it”. I am a firm believer that the customer is always right. That includes them having the right to make choices which diminish the effectiveness of their product. Some developers have a hard time ‘doing the wrong thing’ on a client’s project, but if it isn’t immoral or unethical – get over it.

10. “I want something like Facebook, how much?” – this is an all too common request, any developer worth his salt will have the warning bells go off early when they hear something like this. It may not be Facebook or Amazon which they want cloned, it can be any leading website with majority market share. The other tell-tale sign is a ridiculously low budget. Many developers will outright turn down these kinds of projects as they see it as a waste of their time (nb. the client may be ‘fishing’ for free system analysis consultation). Answering the ‘how much’ question can be dealt with by providing a ball-park estimate with a wide variance, for example: “the project could cost between $10,000 and $20,000, I can only provide you with a fixed price once a specification is written”. This brings us to another important strategy to weed out the time wasters. Have the client pay for the creation of a functional specification before agreeing on the final cost of the project.

I would have liked to cover some of these points in more detail, but this article is really meant as a brief treatment of commonly encountered problems. There have also been many other important items left off the list, so don’t be surprised if you see a sequel to this article in future.

Special thanks goes to the people of Stack Overflow forum for their valuable input.

Things You Should Consider While Buying Domain for Web Development

September 8th, 2018

Web World is growing day by day. Today you can easily find an uncountable number of websites like e-commerce, shopping, blogs, etc. present on various platforms. The growing number of websites has also resulted in growing competition around this web world. People are today becoming more selective when they want to buy any product or services present online. In this growing competition world it is must for you to stand stiff and maintain your recognition. It is also very important for you to keep yourself and your business updated so as to get profit and success through your online business.

Domain name is a vital need for every online business. There are many of the advantages of using your own domain name. if you are not using your domain name your business most probably may be suffering and you can change the things much by just updating your online business to your own domain. Today there are many of the online registrars which sell the domain names. They have different rates and different plans. Some of them offer the domain name for just one year and some for 2 to 5 years. It is therefore profitable to do the research before proceeding towards any one of the registrar. You should also take care and focus on some of the important points that can help you in buying a profitable domain for your web development.

Most of the domain registrar companies present online are genuine but there are many others who prove to be scam and can make you suffer in long run. You should be particular in choosing a reputed registrar which can offer best services at affordable prices. Here are 3 most common tips that will help you in buying the right domain from right place for your right online business.

1- Choose the most reputed and genuine- While choosing a domain for your website development you should consider buying it with most reputed registrar. Choosing reputed and genuine domain registrar may cost you bit extra but will give you assurance about their ethically with their clients. They can give you best services that work best for you.

2- Always register your domain yourself- While you are going for hiring the professional firm for your web development task for your website, you should manage buying domain from yourself. Many of the companies offer you to take care of the domain name. But you should not allow them to do that. This will protect your business and privacy and you could manage the disputes if any with the registrars in future.

3- Don’t compromise on prices- You should not compromise on prices for buying a good domain for your business websites. Getting a cheap domain may save you one time investment but can make you and your online business suffer afterwards. Of course this does not hold true to all the registrars and you should always research your own ways to get better services at better prices. Also you should go for.COM domain name and keep that at priority. This will prove to be very advantageous for you.

Tips For Outsourcing Web Development

September 6th, 2018

This article will discuss some of the basics of hiring a professional to help you out with your web business. There are two reasons you may want to do this: 1) you do not have the skills yourself or 2) your site(s) are growing so quickly that you need to hire someone to help out. This may be a marketer/SEO guru, writer, web developer, or something else.

Tips for Outsourcing

There is absolutely a right and a wrong way to hire help. I know this from experience. This section will give you a few pointers to keep in mind when looking to hire someone to preform any type of work for your web business.

Do

  • Shop Around. Spend some time upfront finding the absolute best provider that you can. This way, you won’t get stuck with a dud and waste valuable time and energy.
  • Ask for a portfolio. If they are even somewhat respectable, they will have a large portfolio full of quality work from satisfied clients. make sure you see this first.
  • Hold on tightly to the stars. When you find an awesome writer that can produce work on time for reasonable prices, do whatever you can to keep them around forever!

Don’t

  • Pay upfront. I hate to admit it, but I have broken this rule and gotten burned. You give the provider the full payment before they start and never hear from them again. It happens.
  • Expect the freelancer to solve your problems or tell you what to do. Make sure you have a VERY clear outline of exactly what their role is and what you expect. Communicate this to them.
  • Be afraid to give direction. To often, we will see some work that is just ‘okay’ and tell the freelancer that it is ‘Awesome!’. But we really don’t like it and the quality of our project suffers. Tell them if it looks terrible.