The joys of a quality web developer

Two days ago, we pulled the plug on the hapless guy who was on our project.  Not that he is a bad resource, but the project we handed him was beyod his scope, and it was flailing.

We consulted another group in my company as to who they would recommend (and, most importantly who know our “system” if you catch).  We got turned on to a group in Pennsylvania.  Quick call, I forward on my original design document, and mockups, and the next morning we got a proposal.

The price was very fair, and they were going to put extra people on it to allow us to launch on 11/27. At 10:00AM yesterday (MST) we gave the go ahead.  By 2:00 PM, we had artwork.  It looked awesome.  They captured what I was envisioning (and put in my mockups) perfectly. Today they have another two interfaces prototyped, and after a quick review are busy coding.

I am beginning to think I might be able to start testing this next week.

Of course, they were ecstatic about the fact that I had a document that described the workflow, the use cases, some typical user stories, and detailed mockups.  Apparently that is all stuff they have to tease out and build themselves.  I guess being a product manager has some positive attributes.

Fingers crossed, but so far I am really happy.

Why I am glad I am not a Web developer

I am working with my Marketing team to get a user community site built.  It is a pretty straightforward project that will allow our worldwide user base to connect, share tips, scripts and other related items in the use of our product.

To spec this I did a lot of up-front work. Mockups. Detailed workflow analyses. User stories and the like.  

Of course, the project has turned south.

Our marketing person used a local source for the work.  We had used him before, but for nothing this complex (that allows people to register and to share documents).  

Of course the local resource uses his trusty CMS, Joomla! for this project.  I was a bit skeptical.  It is a bit heavy weight for this project, but it is not a bad back end.  (for the record, I use Joomla! for both my personal site and for a non-profit that I volunteer as webmaster at.  So I do know enough to be dangerous).

We are 4 days from the initial roll out, and key functionality is not there.  Apparently the plugin he is using is not cooperating.  And the author is being non-responsive. And I am getting very very nervous.

Several things that went wrong:

  1. My marketing manager, a dear friend, is old school.  So to get this scoped, she “helpfully” took my mockups, and my flow chart of the workflow and converted it into a plain text description. “This is how we always do web projects. They do it better this way…”  Sigh.
  2. The Marketing manager was the primary interface for the first month of this project.  She was the broker between me and the developer.  What I didn’t know was that she was translating all my carefully visually described changes into bullets in an email. Much of the context I was trying to convey got stripped out.
  3. Choosing poor plugins for the desired functionality.  I have used several plugins to extend Joomla! It is a jungle out there, and until you “join” a club for the plugin, you really get no support or documentation.  So you have to gamble your $35 or $45 to see if it works for your purpose.  It appears that our web developer has chosen poorly, and even after the purchase of support, the plugin author is impossible to reach.
  4. When I finally got to talk to the developer directly (I am the ultimate “customer” after all) I was able to clear up a lot of the little issues immediately.  But then I got chastised by my marketing manager for “nit picking”. It isn’t nit picking if your customer thinks it is important. I am ultimately paying for this project, I have a vision that I spent a lot of time articulating, and we are now 9 days late on the working prototype.  

The project still limps along, I have an internal launch in 4 days, and about 80% of the functionality is still not working. 

I am not a satisfied customer. I am glad I am not taking the verbal abuse of the marketing manager (the developer is), but I can feel his pain.