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MIAs: Stay Off the List!

MIAs: Stay Off the List!

by Jessica Jones

I’ve been working with Slamdot for over two years now. I’ve got a healthy list of open projects at any given time. New projects get started regularly, and sites get wrapped up and launched regularly. I go through many of the same steps with most projects, but each process is a little different depending on the individual client, their personality and their needs. Sometimes I have a client that I click with and enjoy collaborating with so much that I’m a little sad when their project is completed – but frequently those projects are the ones I’m most proud of when they’re done, because what enabled that enjoyable rapport was the person’s engagement in the process of building their site, and client engagement frequently results in an especially good product.

Don't hide from your web developer!
Don’t hide from your web developer!

And then there are my MIAs.

Some of my “Missing In Action” projects – projects that I haven’t made progress on in a significant period of time because I can’t get in touch with the client – are ones that have been assigned to me since they started. Some are projects that started before my time with Slamdot and were passed down to me from previous project managers. My oldest MIA has been an open project since 2010.

How can this be? How are they not pounding down our door demanding their websites? Well, see, it’s actually the opposite – I’m the one pounding down their doors. Or at least sending them frequent emails and leaving them voicemail messages reminding them that I’m here and more than willing to help them finish up their websites if they want to give me a call. You’d think I was a bill collector the way some folks avoid me. But no, I really just want to help them get what they’ve paid for.

How does this happen? No one starts off thinking “I’m going to spend money on a website package and then vanish off the face of the earth and refuse to answer my web developer’s calls so that the site is never completed – that’d be awesome!” The answer in most cases is pretty simple: people underestimate the amount of work that the project is going to require of them, and then they get busy. They get overwhelmed, time goes by, and eventually my follow-ups probably become part of the regular background noise of projects that they mean to get to someday but currently have on a backburner.

But That Wouldn’t Happen To You … Would It?

More importantly than “how does this happen” is the question “how do you prevent this from happening to you?” My answer, as is my answer for many things, is this: make a plan. Be realistic about the time that’s going to be involved in this project. Buying a website package isn’t like buying a car – you don’t write your check and immediately drive off with a finished product. There are decisions to be made, there is content to be generated – rather than buying a car, think of hiring a builder to build your new home. Your input is going to be required quite a bit throughout the process, so plan to have time to spend on it until it’s completed.

As I said earlier, the projects that I’m the most proud of are the ones where the client was thoroughly engaged and excited about the project and eager to collaborate with me to create the best possible website. The client is the one who knows their business, and while a web developer’s guidance on how to best present the information on a website and promote that information is an important part of the role that I play, the client’s input is just as important to that collaboration. A successful website is a collaborative effort, requiring both elements to reach its full potential.

I wrote an article not long ago with tips about communicating with your graphic designer or web developer that might help if the design element of the project has you floundering a bit. Some people are intimidated by the process of developing a site, which is understandable – it’s a big undertaking and one that will hopefully have a lot of visibility. If you hire a web developer – hopefully Slamdot! – to help you in this process, it’s because you’ve recognized that this isn’t a task that you’ve got the time and/or expertise to complete on your own. If you’ve hired us for your project, we’re here to help you! I want every one of my clients to be thoroughly happy with their website, and I do my best to give them whatever level of guidance they need to get through the process.

However, I can’t help a client that won’t answer my calls. If you’re in the middle of a website project and feeling overwhelmed, your web developer is an important resource, and one that you should take advantage of!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask “Dumb Questions”

When someone expresses that they have what is probably a “dumb question,” I frequently respond that I love dumb questions, because they’re easy to answer! It’s not just important to you that you understand the web development process, it’s also important to your developer. If there’s something that you don’t understand, at some point you’re likely to get stuck or hit a snag, and if your developer doesn’t realize what you’re stuck on, she doesn’t know how to help you through it. Asking questions when you need to is crucial.

My clients have run a wide range of technical experience, from fellow tech professionals who just don’t specialize in web design to folks who are barely comfortable opening a browser. Until a web developer gets to know you a little, she might not have a feel for where you fall in this spectrum, and may need you to help her gauge how much assistance you need.

Content is Hard. Good Content is Harder.

If this is your first time putting together a website you may be a little overwhelmed with the task of putting together the content needed. This is understandable – if you’re worried about making sure that your content is high quality, that’s a good thing – that shows that you’re taking the project seriously and recognize the importance of the impression that your content gives to users. Don’t let the difficulty get you stuck, though. If you find yourself starting to stall out, let your web developer know – chances are that she’ll have some suggestions for you; resources, ideas to inspire you or get you moving, answers to questions you may have.

Timing is Everything

Lack of time is probably the biggest factor in causing projects to be delayed for long periods of time. Life happens. People get busy. Intentions fall by the way and projects are put on the backburner. Some situations aren’t preventable, but a little forethought and time management before you start your project can get you a long way. The more thought and planning you can put into your website ahead of time the more prepared you’ll be to start it. If you don’t know where to dive in on your own, take a look at some of your competitor’s websites and get some ideas; try to put together lists of elements that you want to include in your website and of questions that you have. Any preparation that you do will be helpful when you sit down to talk with a web developer.

Try not to begin a website project right before a known busy season. If your business tends to get slammed at one particular time of year, don’t start up right before that’s about to hit – you may figure that you’ll jump right back into the project after the busy season, but taking even a few weeks off will make it harder than you may realize to come back to it.

If You’ve Already Gone MIA: What Now?

If you’ve already managed to get onto your web developer’s MIA list and you’re concerned that by now she thinks you’ve jumped a ship to Tasmania never to be seen again, where do you go from there? Easy enough: reach out to her. Get in contact and just be honest – life got away from you, but you’re ready to finish up. Ask your web developer if she can help you catch up on the project; go over what you’ve done, what’s needed, what you can do to get it going. Chances are she’ll be glad to hear from you and more than willing to help you get up to speed.

Here’s the tough part: once you’ve done this, stick with it! Chronic disappearers can be extremely frustrating: if every six months your web developer spends the time to catch you up on where you’re at with the project and what’s needed only for you to disappear again, it could result in her banging her head on her desk whenever you next turn up.

Everyone Likes Finished Products!

A cynic might think that web developers would like clients who pay for their projects and then disappear, and I’m not saying that there aren’t shady folks out there who approach it this way, but ethical web developers (like your friendly neighborhood Slamdot crew!) want to finish your website. We love launching sites; we want your site to be awesome and out there for the world to see.

If you’re stuck, we want to help. If you’re busy, we understand – but your website project is important, so there comes a time when carving some time out for it just has to happen. Let us help you through it (even if you’re showing up a little sheepishly after a long absence!) and launch a website that we’ll all be proud of!