What Went Wrong – Digital Oil PM Pt 3

If you’re just tuning in to my first postmordem, I’m going back and taking a look at my design company’s first project, Digital Oil.

So far we’ve looked at what the site is and really the one thing that I did right about it.

Today we’re going to check out all the things I have GOT to do better as I continue to go forward with other projects.

Trust me kids:
Learn from my mistakes.

If You Have Tools Use Them
If you don’t recall from yesterday – The one thing that I said I did right was getting someone else to do what I don’t do well. In my case that’s designing. Using a artist to do the design and layout really freed me up to focus on “more important” things like the client and programming and saved me a bunch of time in doing something that I just can’t do fast. Unfortunately because of my lack of forethought, I released my designer before 25% of the graphics were done. How could I do that you ask? Because I simply didn’t think enough in advance to realize I needed little things outside of the basic design of the page. Stuff like rollovers, a GUI for when the users upload their photos, etc. And because I didn’t get my artist to design them, guess who was stuck with the job? That’s right. Soul Brother #1. Time = Wasted.

Clients Gone Wild
Another horrible faux pas on my part was letting the client run amuck. That’s right, similar to the Animaniacs. Trust me, I will not make this mistake again. The biggest problem on this front stemmed from not locking down “on paper” what the clients wanted. So what ended up happening was the client on Day 1 saying, “I want a site about widgets with pages named A, B, and C.” And then a couple days later they came back saying, “Can we add D and E and change A to F?” And then a couple days after that they came back saying, “I know the site is centered around widgets, but lets go ahead and sprockets too. And can you come up with the copy for all the pages?” But you know what?

I can’t blame the client. Because it was my fault for not locking them into concrete details from jump street. I mean look, clients go to businesses wide eyed and bushy tailed wanting it all. It’s the job of the business to somehow convey, “Look – We’re going to make the site spectacular, but we can’t change everything every 5 days.” Well if you don’t have that “everything” on paper before hand, things can get hairy in a jif. Going forward I’m going to get copy, pages, and solid sitemaps SIGNED by the clients before designing the site. Bingo bango.

Details, Details, Details.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the conclusion of this tale is the devil was in the details. In my excitement to get the site rolling and finished quickly, I overlooked a TON of things that caused me a lot of pain when I was in the middle of it. Of course the biggest problem was not having the client locked into particular details about the site before I started. A solid and complete sitemap, treatments for every page, and text all signed off on by the client. That’s what I needed and that’s what I plan to get going forward from now on. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson on this one, ’cause I can’t afford to make these mistakes again.

What Went Right – Digital Oil PM Pt 2

A long time ago in a post far away, I told you that I had finished the first portfolio piece for my design company, Bethesda Web Design.

And that was about it.

Now I’m going to tell you a little bit more about the site and look back and see what I did right, and what I should’ve done a lot better. Hopefully these lessons will help those of you out there who are trying to do the same thing as I and may save you some time and money in the process.

Digital Oil – The Short of It
As I was really just getting started in the web design game, I didn’t have any projects that I was currently working on, that is until a friend of a friend called me up about a website that he needed to get done. The concept was simple enough : A website that promoted a company that took digital pictures and turned them into oil paintings. And in addition to promoting that product, it would have to be able to accept pictures from users, allow them some basic editing features, and then process the order.

The First Project!
For me, even though I wasn’t going to get paid to do the site, it seemed like a great one to start my business with. I’d be able to work with a pretty amiable client and I’d have a pretty good test bed to see what kind of procedures worked and didn’t, but also if this would be the kind of thing that I could end up doing as a real business and consequently, exit to the rat race. PLUS, I’d have something to start my company’s portfolio so I could hopefully attract future clients.

What Went Right
It’s funny. The more I think about this project, the more I’m thankful that it was my first project and one that I was essentially doing free for a friend. Why? Because I’m not sure that much went right about it. Ha ha. At least in the grand scheme of things anyway. Don’t get me wrong, my friend was great throughout the whole thing, communication was decent, and a decent deliverable was delivered at the end of it all. But those things don’t really count, they’re more results of actions more than “what went right” actions themselves.

To re-iterate what I was saying, I think I only have one thing that I did really right about this project and that was knowing my strengths and limitations. In a nutshell : I’m a programmer. I’m not a graphic designer. In the past, I’ve wasted A LOT of my time trying to come up with designs for sites. This time around, I paired up with an old co-worker of mine who had thrown some side business my way and got him to design the site. Needless to say, he did in two hours what would have taken me the better part of a week. Now if this was a project where I was billing a client by the hours, it would be a win win situation, (instead of me trying to figure out how to tell a client it took me 40 hours to come up with something that looked like utter crap).

And in you can’t really relate to this little lesson don’t worry, that probably means you’re smarter than I. That’s to say it has been only recently that I’ve started to use my strengths and not waste time puttering about with my weaknesses. And furthermore – I think from a business point of view this “eureka” moment was a big step for me. I figure if I can keep getting more talented people to do the work I’m terrible at, things will continue to go quite well.

But enough about the one thing that went right. (#):) Stay tuned to see the many (many) things that went wrong!

Postmordem – Digital Oil

I have finally “finished” the first portfolio piece for my design company, Bethesda Web Design!

Now even though the site isn’t for a “real client” but instead a friend, it was still a great experience taking this on and I’m really glad I did so.

In the past when creating sites, they have largely been for myself so I haven’t had to deal with a ton of stuff that you inevitably will when you first start to get your feet wet.

So What and Where’s the Site?
That little piece of information will be (hopefully) revealed tomorrow as I get into the meat of this postmordem. Yes that’s right. I’m going to do a postmordem of the site and share with you all of things that went well, and all of the things that went terribly unwell in this whole process. The thought there is that when you guys out there embark on the same kind of thing, you won’t make the same mistakes that I made. Plus, it’ll serve as a reminder for myself to not do things like that in the future and maybe you guys will be nice enough to lend some tips as always too. (#):)