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  1. #1
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    Expectation too HIGH? How much to expect when I hire a web development firm?

    I recently hired a small web development firm to build a website for me. It's a site that contains fairly basic features like:
    - User Sign up
    - User Log in
    - Forum discussion
    - Post Comments

    The web dev firm did an OK job, but it took about 3 months to get this simple site built, longer than I expected. Since this is my first time hiring a web development firm and with no comparison, I don't know how to evaluate their job.

    The reason it took longer than expected is that we spent so much time back and forth on little issues like alignment, hyperlink coloring, navigation etc. Each time I ask the developer to change something, he would usually do a fine job, but very often something else that WAS working before would now have a bug. I would then locate the bug and ask the programmer to fix it. This happens over and over.

    I understand that all the codes are linked, and sometimes things that aren't intended to be affected are changed unintentionally.

    My question here is:
    Is this type of back-and-forth process normal as far as contracting a web development firm to build a website? Or should I be able to expect better from a professional web development firm?

    Any feedback regarding your experience, especially with hiring a web development firm, would be HUGEly appreciated.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Enthusiast Yogler's Avatar
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    An excellent web developer would have automated tests in place to attempt to prevent the same bug from occurring multiple times.

    If we're talking about design bugs, as opposed to functionality bugs, then it's harder to automatically test those. Still, three months sounds excessive for what you outlined.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    It's difficult to say what the problem was here, or if there was a problem at all. Ideally the development firm should have come up with a detailed document describing functionality and methodology which is approved before coding starts. Some degree of back & forth always takes place but this should be in a methodical process and involve as many items at once as can be evaluated (so there isn't a ton of conflicting comments). As bugs & issues are discovered they should be reviewed for impact on other tools and should rarely result in more bugs being discovered.

    However, a large part of the timing of any project relies on you (the client) having a crystal clear and fairly unchanging view of the project. Once the design is provided and the development deliverables are signed off on, any change is going to impact development and will often result in both timeslip and potential bugs. Formal QA & UAT at the end of the process should catch all of these bugs but that step is often skipped or sped up greatly when dealing with smaller projects.

    So the big question to ask yourself... how much did you change the project and how much did the project slip because of bugs caused by the programmer? If the majority of the slip was the later, did you and the programmer allow enough time adequately address them? Were you realistic with your original timeframe and did the programmer put together an accurate assessment at the start or did they just throw a finger up in the air?
    - Ted S

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast Darren_MoreNiche's Avatar
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    I agree with Ted, that you should have received a lot of documentation before hand which would detail out the pages and show concept of design before it actually went in to production.

    One of my companies is a web design / development company and if you went to an established company as opposed to ELANCE then I would say that 3 months is too long. This is from the experience of my company, but also 5 years of outsourcing myself. If your anything like me, you want the design completed ASAP so your business vision can be realized, 3 months is far too long for something as simplistic as you mentioned.

    Did you agree a timeline before?

    However your project seems to have been completed to an OK standard with a few headaches along the way. There are a lot worse companies out there, so be thankful for this I would suggest you try someone else next time, but is it better the devil you know than the one you dont?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerrysheldon View Post
    I understand that all the codes are linked, and sometimes things that aren't intended to be affected are changed unintentionally.

    My question here is:
    Is this type of back-and-forth process normal as far as contracting a web development firm to build a website? Or should I be able to expect better from a professional web development firm?

    Any feedback regarding your experience, especially with hiring a web development firm, would be HUGEly appreciated.
    back-of-forth is normal for very tiny details that can't be foreseen in the first place by both parties. What is less normal is the Regression Bugs which could be circumvented partly by some methodology lile Regression Testing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_testing). Unfortunately not many developpers know how to do it as it is a steep learning curve which can break their productivity when they're novice at this.

    Now 3 months is not so lengthy in development cycle ( I'm accustomed in corporate world with 2 years development ) especially if they didn't charge you a supplement: don't forget your time is pricy as well as theirs so don't be too harsh if the final quality of the product satisfies you.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast Darren_MoreNiche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webmastermemento View Post
    back-of-forth is normal for very tiny details that can't be foreseen in the first place by both parties. What is less normal is the Regression Bugs which could be circumvented partly by some methodology lile Regression Testing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regression_testing). Unfortunately not many developpers know how to do it as it is a steep learning curve which can break their productivity when they're novice at this.

    Now 3 months is not so lengthy in development cycle ( I'm accustomed in corporate world with 2 years development ) especially if they didn't charge you a supplement: don't forget your time is pricy as well as theirs so don't be too harsh if the final quality of the product satisfies you.
    3 months for something which appears so simple?

  7. #7
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    It would be very interesting to see what the response of the web developer would be if you were to ask them the same question. Have you asked?
    The notion that you will get a sub-standard service from a freelancer on elance is laughable.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darren_MoreNiche View Post
    3 months for something which appears so simple?
    "appears" that's the key. What's behind appearance ? Things always seem simple for novice users. Also when they tend to change their mind each day it doesn't astonish me it can last 3 months : I suppose he isn't their unique client and they have to dispatch their time between him and other clients.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Enthusiast Darren_MoreNiche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobyme View Post
    It would be very interesting to see what the response of the web developer would be if you were to ask them the same question. Have you asked?
    The notion that you will get a sub-standard service from a freelancer on elance is laughable.
    I have been using elance for 5 years and when you are looking for quality, effective communication and consistent good work then Elance is not the place. Like I said, I have 2 people I still freelance to, but thats from 5 years of using Elance and other similiar services (not that impressive).

    I created my own design team because of these problems... So I would say its not laughable, I would say its based on a lot of experience. I will say, that my demands and quality standards are high though
    MoreNiche.com - New Affiliate Network
    Soula.com - Would you like more sales from your design?
    Claritie.com - Does your support team add 30% more sales?
    ICQ me: 46335817 Email: darren at moreniche.com

  10. #10
    SitePoint Enthusiast Darren_MoreNiche's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webmastermemento View Post
    "appears" that's the key. What's behind appearance ? Things always seem simple for novice users. Also when they tend to change their mind each day it doesn't astonish me it can last 3 months : I suppose he isn't their unique client and they have to dispatch their time between him and other clients.
    Yeah agreed on that, I can only go on what he wrote though Timescales should always be put in from the start!
    MoreNiche.com - New Affiliate Network
    Soula.com - Would you like more sales from your design?
    Claritie.com - Does your support team add 30% more sales?
    ICQ me: 46335817 Email: darren at moreniche.com

  11. #11
    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobyme View Post
    The notion that you will get a sub-standard service from a freelancer on elance is laughable.
    There are lots of sub-standard freelancers on Elance so I'm not sure how you're making this statement.

    Take a look at your average request, it's filled up with a bunch of cut and paste responses applying for the job, you almost never see anyone even taking the time to read the requirements.

  12. #12
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Of course there are sub-standard freelancers on elance and many other freelance sites. Just like there are hundreds of so called web development companies that can't cut the mustard. That does not mean you have to be mug enough to use them. You have to set the same criteria for using a freelancer as you would if you were going to employ somebody in house. Check out the feedback, ask for references, take a look at their portfolios, talk to their previous clients, make sure that all payments are made against milestones and through escrow. The biggest failing of most freelance sites is they don't vet the buyers well enough. Take a look at the average freelance site and see how many buyers there are looking to get a clone of this or that site for a budget of a couple of hundred dollars. We deal with a pool of about thirty freelancers some of whom we found through elance and their work is nothing short of excellent. Pay a realistic rate; carry out due diligence and you will find some amazing people with incredible skills who choose to work freelance.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darren_MoreNiche View Post
    I agree with Ted, that you should have received a lot of documentation before hand which would detail out the pages and show concept of design before it actually went in to production.

    One of my companies is a web design / development company and if you went to an established company as opposed to ELANCE then I would say that 3 months is too long. This is from the experience of my company, but also 5 years of outsourcing myself. If your anything like me, you want the design completed ASAP so your business vision can be realized, 3 months is far too long for something as simplistic as you mentioned.

    Did you agree a timeline before?

    However your project seems to have been completed to an OK standard with a few headaches along the way. There are a lot worse companies out there, so be thankful for this I would suggest you try someone else next time, but is it better the devil you know than the one you dont?
    thanks for the feedback. We agreed to a 1 month delivery at first, but it wasn't a detailed timeline. Based on what I have heard, they are probably not the best developer out there, but acceptable.

    Question now is I expect to add many features one at a time to the site after it goes live, to keep improving the site. I don't know if I should continue with the same web development firm, or if I should hire someone else to do the updates. Timeliness will be MUCH much more crucial after the site goes live.

    This web developer is obviously familiar with the structure of the code. If I hire someone else, that person would have to familiarize him/herself to the code. Is it hard to familiarize oneself to codes that are written by someone else? (this is probably too general of a question, since it depends on how much documentation is in the code, and structure of the code etc., but curious to hear your feedbacks.) Thanks a bunch!

  14. #14
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    One thing that comes up to my mind, is will the developer release the code to you, or to another developer? Have you agreed on the ownership of the content? But normally, any developer should be able to read an extend the code of another one. Your site is fairly simple for now, so your decision will be crucial for the future. I suggest,a s a developer myself, to sit down with the guy, let him know you're serious about extending the site, and have him signed a kind of agreement where he will agree on a maximum timeframe for future developments. But then again, that's based on what the development will be.

  15. #15
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    Yeah, we agree on a 30% premium to release the code.
    But this may sound like a stupid question, since this is my first site.
    But when the code gets uploaded to the host, wouldn't I be able to view the code anyway regardless?

  16. #16
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    You would, if you have FTP access to the server. Normally this info will be with your webmaster.

  17. #17
    O Rly?? JakeJeck's Avatar
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    You should have went with something like Drupal. It could have been done in 1 week and would probably have more functionality than what you currently have.

  18. #18
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    I find that you often have to work with several developers before you find a good match, so don't give up hope. And the one you worked with this time may improve over time, so don't necessarily completely give up on them, but it might be good to look around and see what else is out there for you.


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