Why web projects fail.

Before starting ooomf, most of our founding team worked as independent developers and designers. One of the things we learned early on was the importance of how to setup a project for success, so that it starts and ends smoothly.

The benefit of properly setting up a project is that the resulting product is often much better because the expectations of both client and maker are established clearly and early on, before any work is done.

Typically, a text document often called a Project Proposal (or Project Brief) is one of the core pieces of a successful project and having one from the start is probably the single-most important thing you can do to ensure your project runs smoothly.

It might take you a couple meetings or phone calls to get your Project Proposal right with the professional developer or designer you want to work with, but it will most likely save you time and money.

Why projects go wrong
There are typically two main reasons why projects go wrong:
1. The wrong person was hired for the job
2. The communication of expectations was never talked about before the work was started

We’re going to breakdown exactly what we’ve done in the past from when we were independent web professionals and from our time working with independent developers and designers at ooomf to help make your next project run like a dream.

Hire the right person
It can be very challenging to judge quality work of a developer, designer, or any profession for that matter when you don’t have a lot of experience in that field.

When we need to hire an independent professional on a project at ooomf, here’s an outline of our process of how we review a potential candidate:

1. We look for a personal website or past project examples. Because we often are hiring for web & mobile professionals, an online profile with samples of work is a requirement.

2. Have an experienced professional in the field review their work. For example, if we’re looking to work with a frontend web developer, we have our frontend developer review the code of their past project examples. If you don’t know anyone in the field of the professional you’re looking to work with, feel free to shoot me a message at mikael(at)ooomf.com and we’ll see how we can help.

3. Start off with a small piece of the overall project. Once we’ve found the professional we want to work with, we typically start them off with a piece of the overall project that lasts 1 week or 2 weeks to get feel for what it’s like working together.

This short project is paid by the hour and works well for both parties because if for some reason you end up not wanting to work together, you only lose a week or two and a small portion of your budget rather than potentially losing all your funds on one poor hiring decision.

Create the perfect Project Proposal
The right Project Proposal outlines things like work to be done, the budget, payment, and timeline. Most importantly, it makes it clear what the expectations are upfront from the project owner and independent professional.

Here’s an outline of what to include in a Project Proposal:

Project summary
Your project summary should be a short, specific 1-2 sentence summary of your project. For example, if you were going to build a mobile app, your project summary might be “Design and develop an iOS iPhone app”

Project description
Your project description should include:
– A 1-2 sentence pitch about what your app does
– Current project progress (i.e. if you have a prototype built, or any previous work done)
– An idea of how big or small the project is (i.e. how many pages of your website you need designed or developed)

Expected deliverables
Your expected deliverables should be a bullet point list of all the work that you’ll need to get done.

The deliverables are exactly what you want to receive at the end of the project.

For example, if you’re looking to have the homepage of your website designed and developed, your expected deliverable would most likely be an Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator file of the design and the source code.

Timeline
You should discuss the expected timeline for the project with the independent professional you’d like to hire. Coming up with a fair timeline for completed deliverables is a good collaborative process.

It’s important that your project timeline takes into account not just the time to design or develop your project but also time to test the work after it is completed. If this step is missed, it can lead to a ton of headaches, like your website looking like crap on a mobile device. So don’t forget to include this in when estimating your timeline.

Budget
Creating a quality website or mobile app is important for success. Development and design costs have been compared to buying a car, and the costs vary dependent upon how complex of a product you’re looking to have built.

Even apps or websites that seem basic can take 50-100 hours to make from scratch and quality designers/developers typically charge upwards of $60 an hour.

The best way to think about setting a budget for your website and app is to think about your project goal. For example, are you looking to create an app or website that:

– you want to become a full-time business
– doesn’t require day-to-day management
– is just for fun, not for profit

In the end, whether you want to build a full-time business with your project or it’s just something on the side, you have to decide if you want something built right from the start or if you want just something that works. But keep in mind, if you get something built on the cheap, it may be hard to improve on as your product adapts over time.

My opinion is it’s better to have something done right the first time than to have a first version built poorly because it was inexpensive and you have to re-write the code or redesign everything from scratch.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
– John Wooden

Payment
When handling payment, you can typically choose from one of three options:

1. Pay the full project budget upfront
This puts all the risk on your shoulders and is a less common way to pay, especially for large projects.

2. Pay by milestone
This is more common and can be fair for you and the professional. You define key milestones where payment will occur.

For instance, if your project was designing a mobile app, you could break payment into 3 chunks based on completed tasks:

Payment 1    Design of the app icon
Payment 2    Design of the main screen of the app
Payment 3    Design of all remaining app screens

Each payment should relatively reflect the amount of work done. In the example above, Payment 3 should be more than Payment 2 and Payment 1 because it is requires much more work.

3. Pay upon delivery
The pay upon delivery model puts more risk on the professional and for longer projects can be unfavorable.

We typically go with number 2, the “pay by milestone” option. We think it’s the most fair, and allows for everyone to get a feel for what it’s like working together without too much time or money at stake if something were to go wrong.

Legal
This part of the document can vary quite a bit based on where you’re located or what type of business you are in. The gist of the Legal portion of the Project Proposal is to make it clear how payment will work, what happens if things come up that are outside of the original description of the project or deadlines are missed, and who owns the the work that is created. See the sample project proposal below for more.

Free Sample Project Proposal

The most important thing to remember is to put together your Project Proposal before any work is done and use it as a guide throughout the project.

When you’re planning a project to build a website or mobile app, the best thing you can do to make sure your project goes well is to find the right person for the job and make sure that a clear Project Proposal is laid out on the table before any work is done.

What are your best tips for a successful project? Have you had any experiences working on projects with or without a brief? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments.