The Diablog™

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We have seen a lot of projects over the years. We are involved in some projects from the very start. On other projects, we’re brought in to the project late - for implementation or even just the most technical aspects of implementation. We even get called in to fix projects that didn’t start out involving us at all.

My point is that we have seen a lot of things go right and a lot of things go wrong. Mom was on target when she told you to learn from your mistakes. So, let’s do some learning!

Mistake #1: There is no place to put this content.

This happens more than you might believe. The project is nearly complete, and someone asks, “Where does this content go?” (At this point, imagine nothing but the sound of crickets.) The designer usually takes the fall for this one. Why didn’t the designer see into the future and realize that the content owner would want their dog to have a dog blog? That’s unfair to the designer. A designer is not an information architect, just as much as a sculptor is not an aerospace engineer. You might get a cool-looking rocket, but it won’t get off the ground.

Solution #1: Follow the process. The solution to this one is easy, if you know and trust the process from the start of the project. Every project - large or small - should follow a step-by-step process. Here is ours: Discovery, Architecture, Creative, Implementation, and Ongoing Life. Do these steps, in order, without starting one segment before the prior segment is complete, and there will be few surprises.

Mistake #2: This is so complicated, no one knows how to use it.

Dynamic content makes it easy to use and re-use content everywhere, tag and filter content so that it can be found many different ways, include design flexibility so users can customize the interface, etc. This can make the user experience a dream or a nightmare - for the content consumer or the content editor.

Solution #2: Keep it simple. Remember the line from Jurassic Park, when Jeff Goldblum says, “[They] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”? Most content should be presented in the simplest possible way, reserving the cool stuff for only the important bits. Imagine how hard this article would be to read if I ended every sentence with an exclamation point or wrote every word in all caps. You wouldn’t know what was important or where to begin.

Mistake #3: No one has posted anything new since The Poseidon Adventure was in theaters.

Back to my solution to mistake #1, the final segment of every project is the effort it takes to support the Ongoing Life of the project. The common mistake is to build content areas like news items, blogs, etc. that sit empty. It looks bad. People will think the content owner is no longer in business or got arrested or something.

Solution #3: Don’t build something if there are no resources to maintain it. That may seem obvious; the difficult part of this solution is to remember this advice when it matters most, before you build. Ask this question as part of Discovery: who will be responsible for keeping this content current? If the content owner doesn’t have the resources to maintain it, they need to have a budget to contract with someone to do the updates. If they don’t have a budget to outsource it, then don’t build it.

Mistake #4: "We promised the content owner that we could do this, but there isn’t money in the budget to cover your estimate."

When a creative agency says this, one possible answer would be: “Not my problem.” Realistically, we are usually the recognized problem-solver on the project team. It is our problem. Nothing sucks the fun out of a project faster than this dilemma.

Solution #4: Don’t finalize a budget with the client until you have gotten estimates for all parts of the project. This includes the parts you will manage in-house as well as the tasks you need to outsource. The bigger the project, the longer it will take to develop a comprehensive budget. On one project I produced, I worked three months - full time - on the budget before actual project work began. Here are the steps to ensuring the budget covers everything that needs to be done:

  1. Get a commitment from the client to move ahead with the project with you. This may require presenting a rough estimate with a rough scope statement, but the client needs to understand that it’s not a final budget. The budget should not be why they hire you. They could hire any one of hundreds of firms if the simply want someone to agree to take their money. They should hire you because of who you are.
  2. Work with the client to define the project scope.
  3. Get all departments and contractors to estimate their parts.
  4. Assemble all partial estimates into a proposal to the client.
  5. If the proposal is above the client’s budget, work with the client to reduce the scope of the project, then repeat steps 3 and 4. If the client approves the proposal, start work on the project.

Reasonable and professional clients understand this process. You don’t want to work with prospects who don’t.

Dialogs Professional Services has been solving problems for creative agencies for a long time. Talk to us about how we can make your life easier. We understand how to feed your business.