Is a web site ever done (and what does that mean for selling web services)?

Andrew Neitlich
Andrew Neitlich

I’m about to launch a new subscription-based web service (to be announced soon with special offer to Sitepoint readers to beta test it).

In creating this site, one thing has become abundantly clear: A site is NEVER, EVER done. Every time we fix a bug or make a functionality improvement, we see the opportunity to continue to improve. It’s like upgrading one room in a house, and then seeing how every other room suddenly needs upgrading, too.

This is true on complex and simple sites. Every Web design/development customer has constant need for updates and upgrades.

This presents an opportunity and a challenge for you:

The opportunity is clear enough: If you do a good job up front with a client, you should have a long stream of follow up work with that client.

The challenge is one that my vendors are facing: How do you define “done” when a web site is never done? What milestones can you set with a client so that you are both on the same page about when a deliverable is met.

For instance, my business partner and I have constant back and forth with our developers. They think something is done even if it is not ready for prime time. We think something is done when it is ready for prime time, by our standards. And neither of us is able to precisely define “done.” As a result, neither party is ever fully satisfied.

I don’t have an easy answer for this one. A fixed price contract is tricky for you without clearly defined deliverables. And a time and materials contract gets very annoying to your customer, who gets tired of paying for additional time to meet their “obvious” market-driven standards. I’ve tried a bonus arrangement, withholding portions until we are satisfied. That doesn’t work either.

So what I would do is focus on the opportunity, and look long term at the overall opportunity in the relationship.