I just mention this because for a thread this large, it is unusually good. (And yes, we're still going to solve this paging business and then there won't be any more of these annoying notices.)
Designers are exactly the same way. Just as technical fiddling is fun and interesting, making new designs from scratch is just as fun and interesting. And, just as fixing bugs is tedious and boring, tweaking designs is tedious and boring.
I've been on both sides for a lot of years, and I have to keep a sharp eye on myself to keep from spinning my wheels on distractions.
Even the Pope had to keep Michelangelo focused on the Sistine Chapel and not wander off to work on his tomb.
The sunk cost fallacy suggests that sometimes is better for you if you should just accept existing losses, accept you've already sunk those costs and won't get them back, and move on. I don't know what their contract looked like with the agency, but an 80% of a logo design sounds like a perfect deliverable that you can safely fire the existing team and take the 80% deliverable to a new designer, not start from scratch, and ask them to do a final polish step. I would have cut losses there, but of course it is much easier to armchair quarterback from hindsight and different perspectives than if you are in the middle of it fighting that gut feeling that you've already invested so much and can't "afford" to cut losses.
Keeps me honest. And will keep me from working with architecture astronauts don’t really deliver anything but hot air and build ultra-extensible structures that are actually impossible to extend beyond the fantasy world of their maker. Or the equivalent for designers.
The older I get, the more I come to understand that the problem with projects is people, not methodology. 30% of IT projects still fail, despite “agile” now being widespread.
The first value of the agile manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. Unfortunately, most implementations throw this one out first.
But you are 100% right about the problem being people. The problems I see with agile are always because people try to find escape hatches in the process. Designers want to prepare every single detail before developers start working and hate iterating because fear of the "original vision" being a mistake, product owners don't want partial stuff in the beta channel so everything has to be in its final state, product owners don't know or don't want to reduce scope so developers end up with impossible sprints, developers want a perfect definition finished before starting work, so zero chance to iterate...
I also agree with people throwing out individual/interactions and picking a heavy-handed process instead :(
That's a very optimistic statistic, unless "fail" is defined to be something other than "the opposite of success".
IOW, a fail is any project that goes over time, over budget or delivers under scope.
If you're defining success as "well, we delivered eventually, and we delivered 80% of the requirements, and it only went over budget by 20%", then, sure, only 30% of IT projects "fail".
Most clients know exactly what their goal is ("To increase market recognition", "to increase conversion rate", etc). The scope creep can only happen in a requirements phase. Once a client has signed off on exactly what will be delivered, and what the payments milestones are there's no wiggle room for the agency to continue experimenting.
If you're skipping the requirements phase because "agile", then the work will be over budget, over time and under the scope.
There's very few projects that actually require the exploratory-driven process that agile uses. If you have one of those projects then farming the management of it out to an agency is exactly the wrong thing to do.
 There may be multiple requirements phases. For example a large "need to revamp our website" project can be split into multiple serial projects, each with their own requirements phase.
 I.e. We'll figure out what is acceptable to the client with constant feedback.
It's a very abstract term. To put in simpler terms you will always have some outcome mismatch and generally your goal should be to reduce it. But if you do not have outcome mismatch, then you should push the line so that you can look ahead and understand future areas for improvement. Or you can just stay content if "market" is not chasing you.
Not only should we be asking if a project has achieved its original goals once it’s finished, we should be continually assessing progress against those goals throughout the life of the project - yet few projects I’ve worked on actually do this, even when I’ve explicitly requested it.
The thing is that as far as I can tell, “success” is measured post-hoc, so all sorts of shenanigans might have taken place in order to determine that a project was “successful”. Having worked with my fair share of corporate project leaders, I’m quite certain that the actual number of failed projects would be much higher if measured by the original criteria used to justify the project in the first place.
If we look at the original requirements every single project is a failure. If we look at the strategic goals and keep track of all trade offs maybe 30% is a fair guesstimate.
If you trust your developers (whether in-house or contractors) to do the job you can pretty much let them manage themselves with whatever kanban-ish system that works for them. If you don't, you have a ready methodology that gives you meetings upon meetings and two week deliverables and every little thing broken down to the smallest unit under the guise of "empowerment".
And you probably know that there's a BIG portion of developers who aren't as self-organized or disciplined. You mentioned the shiny things distractions, I think that was a factor in the original post. The other being mismanagement on the agency's side, where they allowed their designers to go out of scope. And I'm not even convinced it's mismanagement, because they turned a $7K project into a $46K project, a 6.5x increase in their revenue off of some small side project.
And it is actually more useful when things are flipped, and the team doesn't really trust the client/customer/manager. Which is often what happens more frequently.
But you're totally right that Scrum can get kinda heavy on the meetings side. Which tends to be the rule, not the exception. The only times I had this exception it was when we had a technical person working on the requirements, though. No designer or product owner making nebulous Jira tickets.
Agile is not a guarantee of deliverables you care about. There is a lot of useless stuff you can deliver.
They probably said the word "agile" a lot and then continued doing something else, that seems to be the usual pattern.
> Agile is not a guarantee of deliverables you care about. There is a lot of useless stuff you can deliver.
Which is why it's the product owner's responsibility to prioritise.
The company didn't seem to have issues prioritizing the authors tasks into no mans land. So they seem to have that part down great already. However I find the consistent two week deliveries early on a bit disturbing, in my experience two weeks is exactly one sprint and fixing deliverables to that time window means that you can't really do any agile planing with it, your team just has to accept that this work has to be done and can't give random work that seems to pop up every now and then the attention it deserves. To be really agile and allow your sprint planing to reflect that you shouldn't promise anything in time spans less than two months.
Probably not. Larger relatively successful design / marketing agencies are - based on my experience - poorly run, poorly managed, and poorly led. This gets exasperated by high turn-over (read: good people leave, dead weight stays behind).
Training, etc.? Not a priority. Revenue, it's all about revenue. They're "creatives", not business problem-solver types and presume mess and excessive friction are unavoidable.
Of course it would be much better if the agency were honest, but if for seven months the deliverables were only "promises", then it's definitely not agile...
That's pretty much untrue; had this project been a waterfall project then:
a) The devs would not have gotten paid until they hit particular milestones,
b) The deliverables would have been scoped upfront,
c) The agency would have eaten the cost of developing useless things, not the customer.
Because this was obviously an agile/Agile project:
a) The payment milestones were not specified upfront,
b) The devliverables remained unscoped until feedback was needed (which was well into the development phase),
c) The client eats the cost of developers time, whether or not milestones are hit.
Those lottery phone scams out of Jamaica which target the elderly in the US are almost the exact same scam as what was described here.
Promise something, get them to send money, don’t deliver, tell them you need more time/more money. Keep repeating until the mark walks away.
They started work on and subsequently billed for something that was explicitly out of scope.
My guess is that the founder of the agency knew early on that he could push this client around to extract $.
An analogy here would be forcing the agency designers to completely delete any speculative redesign work, without any backups, to force them to focus on the logo, and send a strong signal that I don't care about the redesign, and won't be paying that work.
I think you're attributing malice to what was more than likely routine mismanagement.
I wouldn't call it mismanagement. Many agencies thrive despite regularly delivering these types of experiences. It's a conscious choice they can easily rationalize because of the money.
This agency turned a one off $7k job into $46k by smooth talking and scope creeping an actual developer. I'm sure they're absolutely killing it doing the same to non-technical folks.
TinyPilot is clearly successful and growing. Any smart agency would nurture that relationship, deliver a great product, and secure an ongoing relationship.
By contrast, there's a huge amount of reputational risk in allowing things to spiral. They've walked away with more today but imagine for a moment the damage that would have been done were they named in this article. It doesn't take much for a brand to turn toxic and things to implode.
There’s a big legal risk involved in doing so and no upside that I can see.
I would hope he could get some satisfaction in knowing that he might be able to stop them from taking advantage of clients in the future.
Management threw it out to the floor and the floor ran with it like every other job. Feedback went to management but the people doing the work didn't really understand that this client was not like their other projects.
I've been on the other side of this where one bigger client changed the game and we didn't adapt as we were used to things at a different scale. We didn't clean up the mess we inherited fast enough. We didn't put enough resources on the projects and we failed to live up to expectations. We were used to smaller tasks with more limited scope.
The same thing if you are going to a concert and lost your tickets, do you want to pay $200 to go to the concert (not taking into account that you've already lost $100, you could have lost that $100 on whatever) eg. you are paying 200, not 200+100.
Sounds like that's exactly what he got, tbh.
They typically are employed by businesses who are looking for a very specific result: a good website that works well.
Their team wasn't setup to, and didn't know how to just deliver a simple logo.
The correct answer would have been for WebAgency's CEO to say, "We'd love to work with you, but we're not really setup for this type of project. If you'd like to have us take on your whole website, here's what that would look like. Otherwise, I don't think we're a good fit."
That said, clients can also be problematic; I recall one where the client paid a fixed amount per two-week sprint, but then really started to stretch out how much work was done within that sprint by basically not signing off on tasks and reporting new features to be added as bugs. It's another case I think of a party not being firm enough about scope.
My god, that explains why modern designs and user interfaces suck so much. That, and the fact that many designers work off their gut feelings and personal subjective preferences, rather than systematic and evidence-based study.
Also as a Windows->Mac switcher myself, I’m not sure breaking Windows UX is a bad thing.
You'd have options to go to when Microsoft makes choices you don't agree with.
I sure wish we were in that world.
Which is also the solution for "OS gorilla". Use Linux. You have a vibrant ecosystem of distros, they work (as much as any OS), and you are free to mix and match. No need to stick to OS that changes under your feet with no recourse.
They could take a LTS somewhere, pay another specialized company for additional expertise, but the would be no way to have an actual contract with the leading entity, and have any weight on the direction the OS will be developped (MS is also bigger than any single OEM, but they will still try to keep the majority of OEMs happy and not pull the rug under their feet. Ubuntu for instance doesn’t have such strong incentives)
Not only do we end up with https://xkcd.com/927/ (15 standards), but we end up with massive amounts of work being essentially trashed because it’s in one of the tiny tiny fragments that gets passed over.
Maybe I’ve just gotten old, but I’d even compromise by making the “power user” the most targeted demographic again. Power users want things to work well, they want the ability to use hardware and software on their terms and for all sorts of things the creators may have never intended, and they want to customize anything that they choose to.
Remember how XP’s theming engine was trying to win users back from all the replacement “shells” like litestep? Or how macs had wild extensions like one that could rotate the mouse cursor as it followed the point? Or mouse-based gesture applications? Or generative art screensavers? Or websites dedicated to showing of the beautiful artistry of user-created desktop UIs where each was entirely distinct from the other (even on Windows!)?
Not that it matters in this context but wasn't it the other way around? Didn't Donato Bramante try to sabotage Michelangelo by convincing Pope Julius II to give him the Sistine Chapel comission, assuming that Michelangelo would fail (due to his lack of experience in fresco painting) and ruin his reputation in the process?
So Donato Bramante was more a consultant recommending an overpaid design agency hoping to benefit from their failure.
Rex Harrison whacking Charlton Heston with a stick because he's slacking on the ceiling is how all project managers should handle both devs and creatives. I hear that's how Larry Ellison does it.
I'm guessing the money they lost in this endeavor didn't materially impact them.
Getting a redesign approved can be the difference between having a long project on your resume and people asking you why you job hopped so much.
The actual search for the problem, and sometimes even the implementation of the fix, can be really frustrating, but that is a vital part in the absolutely ecstatic feeling I get from having actually Fixed The Thing.
I get it though: my only experience has been with internal, full-time employees, and I see is given a fair amount of latitude to do exciting things and to experience small failures. It's a different mindset for external contractors, it seems.
Rather ironic, since that latter budget probably is sufficiently large not to eliminate management completely. (~$350 vs ~$2000 for mgmt)
For me, I'm the dev who says: "This codebase has a lot of technical debt. Let's get rid of all of the containers and VMs and kubernetes and artificial servicification, take it off the cloud, and refactor it into smaller programs which do the work efficiently and which can be built and run on basically any machine(s) and cooperate peacefully."
All the problems Kubernetes and the like solve they’d have to rediscover one by one
2. I guess I would add "slowly and carefully".
So like containers?
I learned to get the team focus by writing a brief (commonly used for Brand Managers in big companies) to keep focus on the deliverables. That helps to avoid these type of issues.
See also magpie developers. It's not that the new technologies are not great, it's just that in most cases it's not what a client needs, but what the developers want to do. They will have a solution and look for a problem to match.
I mean I'm not innocent of that, I'm looking left and right for problems where I could use Go to solve them with because I enjoy it. But I am aware of the risks.
Anyway the comparison is apt because it happens with developers; I've seen it happen firsthand at multiple projects, and in almost ALL of those, after the consultants left, the company moved back to their own technology, picked something off-the-shelf, or did yet another rebuild.
Also known as the "oh look, a shiny thing" development paradigm.
"Why do it in C when assembly language has been working so well for years?"
All the variations of the logo and design mocks are clearly overkill for a $15k project. The design team had time to fill and wanted to provide lots of options for you to pick from, as they typically would on a larger project. Those variations are an expectation for $100k clients, and you got the $100k customer treatment, but unfortunately not at a discount.
The reality is, small jobs like this are effectively make-work projects for an agency. They typically don't pay enough to be an effective use of time for the agency, but are a way to stay in the black between higher value projects. Small customers become "nuisance" customers as soon as a something better is landed. The team members being swapped out as they are needed elsewhere and newly joining team members then need to re-contextualize and regain momentum, all on your dime.
Your takeaway is correct, don't be a small fish for an agency. If they're busy they won't take your work, and if do show interest, they are desperate for work.
>All the variations of the logo and design mocks are clearly overkill for a $15k project. The design team had time to fill and wanted to provide lots of options for you to pick from, as they typically would on a larger project. Those variations are an expectation for $100k clients, and you got the $100k customer treatment, but unfortunately not at a discount.
I was thinking about this as I did the writeup. It didn't feel at the time that they were spending excessive time on the logo variations, but I went back to the notes I took on our first call and realized how out of line all that early work now feels relative to their 30-40 hour initial estimate of the rebrand.
They didn’t deliver what you actually contracted for until you put your foot down because that was the hook — they couldn’t keep taking your money if they gave you what you wanted.
For anyone else reading this the best move would be to shut it down as soon as a single minute has been billed for out of contract work: “Hey this is not what I contracted & I won't be paying for any out of scope work.”
Also, I was surprised by how much you let Isaac get away with. He admitted he badly mismanaged the project, and made decisions that lead to that mismanagement with out consulting you. He badly blew his estimates for you, and was pretty clear that it was his fault. I would have pushed him to eat much more of the losses than he did.
You can't really imagine anything being completed and deployed in that time.
It was a death trap to begin with. They're experience should have flagged this.
But both are equally at fault. This is what happens when clients have the lowest bidder mentality.
"the cheapest price is always the best option because it's the cheapest."
Your conclusion is completely at odds with this quote from the article:
> WebAgency quoted the highest rate of anyone I interviewed, but their portfolio best matched the style I wanted.
Of course, there was then snagging; it wasn't really a one-day job. The whole deal was pretty inexpensive. We used Drupal with a custom theme.
I don't know whether we made money on these projects, but we did end up with a string of long-term customers.
1) Did you pay everything up front or was it a 50% up front and 50% on delivery basis?
2) Did you manage any deliverables on a google sheet (dates, owner etc) or something similar?
Man. That 3rd paragraph resonates so well with me/my employer. We're an industrial automation company. Family owned. Started from the owner's shed and grew to what we are now. We were built on smalltime clients and our product quality got around through word of mouth and are now at the point where we have massive multi-million dollar clients.
We still support the little guys though. And we get more little guys under our umbrella every year. I think there's still a part of our company that recognizes we have roots in helping the farmers automated their cleaner processes. We also have the nearly identical issue that our OP is bitching about: we're married to these massive clients and we fill the gaps with the little projects. But when the timing is getting tight, the little guys are who loses out.
I'm starting to see the cracks. Clients who built our foundations are losing out on support and growth opportunities. We're more concerned with the next mining project or new facility build than we are selling small guys upgrades and ongoing modernization. It's fine as far as the pocketbook goes but I feel like we play a dangerous game allowing our work schedules to be dictated by the big guys. Eventually they all grow to realize the same thing: the controls part is crucial enough to the business that it needs to be brought in house. Once that happens our value falls off quickly. It's only bad because we're losing our core for the opportunity to play puppet to some truly massive clients.
I feel like I'm getting a bit lost in the weeds, but really my point is just how I haven't really thought clearly about what the perception of our business must be to the clients, both big and small. We play a critical service role among many industries but we also run the risk of alienating the business that's virtually guaranteed to be there in hopes of marrying ourselves to somebody who only needs us now, and probably not tomorrow.
It eventually got sold to a bigger more respectable company and those 300 hour quotes crept up north of 1000 hours and it was impossible to finish any job in under 10 hours but that's another story about internal red tape.
I think that creates a narrow operating area for almost all agencies - they need to operate in a narrow gap between "work that isn't valuable enough, so nobody pays for it" and "work that is so important for the business, that they bring it in house".
And you get to play outside this envelope only by finding clients so slow that it takes them years to realize they need an in house team. Now you have a different problem - working for a slow client doesn't push you to get much better.
Ultimately it's a management issue. Internally among the techs/engineers we've talked about it but management keeps pushing to satisfy the client and the temporary compromises we make at one moment start to become permanent mainstays of how we operate. I don't have any confidence that if we had a "B-Team" or "Sub-branch" that when a big enough project came along they wouldn't just poach the needed labour and destroy the separation between them.
You could almost say we operate with an "A-Team" and "B-Team" as we have techs split primarily between the Mining and Agricultural clients but they take our techs often from the Agricultural side to fill in on needs of the mining side. There's no shame.
Everything about this story rings true, and the author's conclusions are absolutely on point.
Now our agency is at a place where we can say no to work like this, both because we have a solid client base that supports us financially without projects like this, and because we've learned that no matter how good our intentions, neither we nor our clients are going to be happy with the end result.
All that said, my bigger question is: does the new website bring in more business than the old?
It's certainly better designed, but looking at the copy and IA, I'm not entirely sure that the new site is going to convert better than the old.
To me, the old version was distinctive and unique, while the new looks like basically every other SAAS site designed since the year 2020.
1) How would the old design perform during that time period
2) How would a hypothetical $7k design perform during that time period
#1 is of course why a/b-testing was invented, while #2 is even more speculative. But we don’t know how much of the 66% can be attributed to the new design.
A lot of the comments seem to take the view that this was some deliberate ploy to overcharge. In reality, it was just poorly managed.
> Small customers become "nuisance" customers as soon as a something better is landed.
My guess would be that when quoted, the project was expected to be completed by a certain date. Because the team failed to adapt, the project overran, new projects took over leaving this one to languish.
Unfortunately, my overall experience has been that hiring any “expert” in a field that I am not also an expert in has a 50% chance of working, and a 50% chance of blowing up in my face and creating more problems.
I recently attempted to get a new accountant to help me handle some business growth. It was a person from a well regarded local firm, initial meetings were good, and then they proceeded to deliver none of the agreed-upon work, take 2-3 weeks to respond to emails (multiple times, I had to call their office and schedule an in-person meeting just to get a response), and then de-prioritize my business relative to other clients so badly that I wasn’t able to submit my taxes until June.
If anyone can successfully build a service that lets me reliably pick professional-services providers with the same level of confidence that I pick an AirBnb (not 100%, but pretty good, with an expectation for reasonable mediation and fallback coverage if the offering is radically different than what’s described), I would happily pay a 20% premium on those services versus the existing “ask friends for referrals and cross your fingers” status quo.
We've connected clients with accountants previously with good results.
Our website is www.duedilio.com
I almost feel like you needed to ask for three separate things: A brand identity, a marketing strategy refresh, and then (finally) a website redesign. That all three were combined into one process likely caused this problem to drag on. The agency had its problems, but to be honest to me as someone who is familiar with this space, it sounds like they were combining a lot of disciplines into one project without considering that it would have been better to chew smaller bites.
There are times where you do need to bend the rules. At the beginning of the pandemic I sort of broke protocol to get a COVID-19 landing page on a client’s site online because I knew that it would take weeks done the normal way and possibly would have led us to charge the client for something that a skilled designer only needed a couple of hours to build in WordPress. While the landing page wasn’t perfect, it held up for nearly a year, and showed that we were taking things seriously at a time we needed to. A lot of agencies aren’t wired for doing right beyond billable hours, so be mindful of the risks.
Either way, I feel bad that you paid so much for a site that looks way better but doesn’t feel like $46k worth of work.
But yeah considering that revenues have only gone up, might as well just call it a cost of doing business. Learn from it and move on. (It sounds like this is exactly what he's doing.)
Things can be positive and cost-effective, too.
That said, margins on this kind of hardware product aren't great. The author has shared them before. https://mtlynch.io/solo-developer-year-3/
- Marketing team decides they want a new site.
- I tell them when/how we can schedule it.
- They decide they want to go outside so it can get done "quicker" by "professionals."
- It costs 5-10x what it would in house, the product is harder to work with, using some WordPress plugins no one has ever heard of, it's not responsive on mobile nor usable on our demographic's primary resolution.
- It takes 6-10 months of "clean up" to make the site usable.
- Web traffic, shockingly, has remained completely constant even after spending half of our annual marketing budget on a web site.
- My team is brought in when the agency becomes too slow because the entire team over there has turned over since the project inception.
- We eventually migrate everything over to squarespace or weebly or similar so that the marketing team can just edit things on their own.
- Every lesson above is forgotten in the ensuing 12-18 months.
We are an early stage startup. We've burned through almost 20% of the revenue we've ever brought in on this cycle. Thankfully, finally, we've grown enough to bring on a marketing manager who will I hope put an end to this madness.
Tangentially, I have to wonder to what extent misapplication of Agile, and similar, project management processes is to blame.
You'd think for most relatively simple sites, like we're talking about here, it ought to be planned once and built once, but something about the mindset that the goal posts can be moved during planning and development seems to drag everything out at length.
Two hilarious moments:
1. A big fuss was made of a launch of a new site, marketeers demanded that we had plenty of extra servers for the demand. On launch day I had the live stats of visitors and it occasionally flickered to above 0.
2. We finally needed to refactor and do some maintenance to the duct-taped code that had resulted in years of 'everything is urgent' 'one extra feature by tomorrow`. When I told the Head of Marketing they were doing this vital work, she couldn't understand that because no new graphics or UI were being produced that they were doing actual work - "But I can't see any new work"
It was not worth the small fortune in daily rates they were paying me
That's your problem right there. And the fact that their decision is the company's decision.
There are plenty of engineer founder types who have all sorts of opinions on how infrastructure spend should be divvied up...they're probably on average more well informed there than they might be on the value of good consistent branding and website. On the flip side, a sales-heavy type might have strong opinions on how much engineering is spending on keeping the ship afloat, but that doesn't necessarily make them right.
Of course it's possible to be conversant within multiple modalities, so I am just talking to the average here.
It's no different at massive corporate behemoths.
Your managers may not understand much, but they can understand (by which I mean get a thrill out of looking at) before-and-after screenshots on a powerpoint, which may matter when promotions are available.
That's at least as true in bigco as in startups and small companies.
The original project budget was 7k, and you ended up spending 46k, for something that didn't really deliver on what you asked for originally.
It is really hard to imagine that it would have been more expensive to start over. It seemed clear by the middle of the story, that web agency wasn't doing what you were paying them for, at which point you increased the amount you were paying them in hope that would somehow change things, and then were shocked when they behaved exactly the same as they had before.
There's times when starting over is more expensive, this seems like the polar opposite of that and a clear example of sunk cost fallacy.
His shortest section, left towards the bottom of the page, seems like an accidental example of rationalizing the sunk cost fallacy.
> Firing WebAgency and searching for a replacement would have burned 30-60 hours of management time. And there was no guarantee that I’d find someone better. For most of the project, I was sitting on a bunch of partially-complete tasks. The cost of reassigning half-done work and spinning up a new vendor would be almost as expensive as starting over from scratch.
I'm doubtful that the author learned the correct lesson even by the end. I suspect if a similar thing happened again the author would fall victim to it again.
These are the $4 devs. Look, a teen coder can hack up a storm. But I distinctly remember a brilliant friend of mine taking a gig in college and not understanding why the small business who contracted him was pissed he’d rebuilt their site in Silverlight. He wouldn’t make that mistake now. But he doesn’t charge what he billed then either.
- I think the first "mistake" was not having it as a fixed price. We spend a lot of time up-front defining the scope and get sign off before committing to the work. After that, we roll it through the relevant departments. We take the risk on for bugs/issues (that are within scope) and do the project as a fixed price. Anything out of scope is a different conversation but will always be priced additions.
- This agency got the best of both worlds, hourly rate and no risk on their side.
- I disagree with some of the comments on here about agencies not being your "friend", a "good" agency will treat you like a partner and be focused on helping you meet those goals, regardless of if there's more money to be made. Ultimately, our job is to make you look good and reach goals. If we don't do that, we don't need to exist.
- They should have said no at the beginning. We turn down clients and it's hard to do sometimes, but ultimately you're setting everyone up to fail. Honesty is key for all parts.
- The onus should be on the agency, not on you. If there's issues with the build, that's the agency's problem not yours. That's why the initial scoping is so important.
- A good agency IS better than a freelancer(or freelancers). You have a team of people conducting the work, pulling in the right people at the right time, expertise and experience of doing this day-in-day-out, what to avoid etc. On top of all that, ensuring it runs on time (it's in our interest to do so). A rolling freelancer is incentivised to keep the project running as long as possible, but on top of that you're limited to a knowledge of one.
- The CEO unfortunately took full advantage of the situation here. This is a short-term approach that may work for a few clients but after that, the word spreads. There's few things you can keep hold of these days, your name and reputation is one of them. I'd advise actually naming this agency as the anonymity will only promote them to keep doing it.
Sorry this happened to you and I admire your positive approach to the situation, sometimes what's done is done and you have to learn and move on.
With one exception of a blanket statement:
> - A good agency IS better than a freelancer
If there is a single freelancer:
- There is a single person responsible. If it gets diffused, it may easily end in an unending project, as no one is incentivized to finalize the project.
- The number of people working on the project is capped at one. You won't ever get charged for two people talking with each other.
- For a single freelancer, they may be some "sanity check" regarding the cost. For any well-known agency, it wouldn't raise one's eyebrows if you said [This Well Known Agency] charged you [any number] $. Logo design alone could have costed OP $50k.
* You’re totally dependent on a single point of failure. If they get ill, go on holiday or simply disappear, take on another project or go full time somewhere else, then you’re left in the lurch - particularly post-live when you may need additional support/amends/bug fixes.
* I’m yet to find a single freelancer that can project manage, UX, design, write copy and build to a high standard in all areas. You’ll probably need several freelancers.
* Lack of code review. Usually an agency will have several devs on their team, so there should be some form of code review whereas this is less likely with a single freelancer.
It really bugs me how people take a "protect the innocent" approach to these articles when in reality they should be saying loud and clear who the offender is.
In other words, he essentially wrote a really long, detailed review but never mentioned the actual product.
My question to you was simply how would you take it if someone named you in an article like this.
Obviously you never want that to happen to your own agency and would like to think any responsible CEO / owner wouldn’t allow these situations to happen (don’t get me wrong, I appreciate mistakes do occur - but this smells very different), so unless they suffer some consequence, they’ll do it to the next unsuspecting client and keep doing so.
I disagree. (1) There is evidence that his company may profit from the redesign, and (2) he risks being sued for even the slightest mischaracterization in his blog, which requires tens of thousands to defend (at least). I don't see the point in risking the family business over this. Both parties learned a lesson. Perhaps the WebAgency will decide never to have hourly clients again.
Or that it learnt anything more than "yes this really works for us to maximize revenue and we can get away with it".
(I do guess it's better to not name them though -- because naming them risks making actually well behaved agencies or freelancers nervous about working with the client in the future?)
I guess the title intro and conclusion should be changed as a review..
The agency didn't fail? They made lots of money and can do the same scammy thing again and again
More like a success story for them
> Honesty is key for all parts
I think it's not, not for agencies that want to maximize revenue
Seems you're a bit ideologically driven though, which is nice I think :-)
Of course the project ran long and we crunched so that we could ship the redesign exactly on Black Friday. I think we shipped the Tuesday before (because Thanksgiving) and everything seemed normal. Black Friday rolls around and we go into the office and they have our internal dashboard monitors set up with our Black Friday unit sales counts. Spoiler alert: it did not go well. We were something like 25% off of our goal and 10-15% off of our previous year's sales. Exec team is freaking out and they order us to revert the design change ASAP in the early afternoon. We do and sure enough, we see our sales start to increase.
Nobody considered that rearranging the layout and colors of the checkout buttons would have such an impact but they did.
Wonder if OP could A/B test the two designs?
Just to pick on one example: Android. Google absolutely loves changing the settings and UX on each major version. People use these controls so much they eventually get habituated... until they change and have to go hunting around and learn the new workflows to get back to par. Each one of these redesigns probably wastes millions of cumulative user hours.
The other day I had to cross a little tunnel and I couldn't put on the light on the phone until I rebooted it -_-'
Just when I get used to a layout, they pull out a new design, completely disorienting me.
Honestly, I feel like the only way of working around this is having multiple different interface options available.
For example, the new Reddit look is more app-like and certainly has improvements to the user profile pages and whatnot. Yet for certain types of browsing content, or wanting to do it without your browser slowing down as much, the old interface is still available:
Of course, not many out there want to deal with something like this on the development side, such as CRUD systems that would need to move fields around, add new business process steps etc. There, maintaining two separate versions would be a massive pain.
Many times a user not wanting to switch to a new UI isn't based completely in effort/adaptability but a history of experience with product life-cycles weighing more towards business objectives over time. e.g. Facebook calls users lazy for not trying out "improvements" and blame old soccer moms for being inflexible when they're just trying to extract more money. Not that businesses spending effort to get more money doesn't make sense, because it does, but businesses love to lie about this common user complaint.
Reddit is a glorified web forum. Period. Making comments hidden and difficult to browse basically negates 50% of it's function (the other being media + content discoverability).
Of course it's extremely badly aligned with their regular user's goals of reading comments, but that's solved by using the old.reddit urls if not the app, whilst the casual browser coming in from Google or a link gets the full on contempt for users' desire to actually read threads UX until they've bumped the user engagement metrics up by clicking on more stuff.
Whenever customers push back I tell them the story of Knight Capital . You pay extra for extra assurance that you won't loose a shit load of money in the future.
People hate changes to their workflow.
Warm greasy potatoes with a bit of crunch are always good.
In 30 minutes? Not good fries.
Consistently mediocre (3/5, thoroughly passable) is the value prop of fast food.
I even went to the current winner of ‘best fish and chips’ that year, in Whitby. Argh.
I mean, yes, but still, I want my potatoes crunchy, not soggy and oily.
Infact Thailand burgers are VERY salty...
Taiwan has burger king burgers with peanut butter on them...
The UI skin might change a bit from year to year, but the UX of Key components haven't changed much for 40 years.
Used to work at AppleCare special programs support in Ireland, and when we did change something like hide certain menues in the Server appbecasue we wanted to disincentive usage of parts that were going to be depricated, all hell brekas loose with the older sysadmins calling in furious over having to read change notes. Thing is Apple makes sure to communicate a lot of these changes in emails sent to users, in change notes, and in popups, and people just refuse to take notice.
Or when Final Cut Pro X changed it's library management. There were good reasons for these changes, but people at first hated them since it disturbed an otherwise uninterrupted workflow. But when these changes are made, it's usually for a very good reason based on user feedback.
This did however highlight a serious behavioural issue with the users. Some users rarely update, so they never get the incremental changes, and instead opt to jump 3-5 major release versions which breaks everything. This in turn makes the user wary of ANY updates as they now associate it with breaking everything and changing everything. Which is a problem that they would not have if they did follow best update practices.
I saw the exact same issue at HPE, Nikon, Salesforce, Microsoft, when I worked there.
I am not so sure, they are turning system preferences into an iPhone app on macOS.
The UI/UX design of the System Preferences hasn't really changed since Snow Leopard imho. Cant speak to much about before Snow Leopard as that predates my personal experience.
I'd love to get an example of what you mean?
I really liked windows 7, and was grumpy about first using Mac OS, but what won me over was that I didn't have to fight the OS in finding what I was looking for in settings.
Also the reason why I like Linux and BSD. there is a standard to where you find the setting files.
I hope this was two decades ago because people absolutely should know by now that doing this has the potential for a huge impact.
Anyone in the trenches could tell you that rolling out a huge change to a money-making project on a "round" date is suicidal. They just have no idea of what they are doing in the first place - just playing darts - and it usually works due to the ants killing themselves, to make it all happen. Because health insurance.
Should have put this in the beginning of the article.
As for all the issues mentioned in the article, trust me on this, it's always like this. I've been that "small client" hiring externals at all tiers: mechanical turk, freelancers, agencies.
You ask for A but get B. You agree on a timeline but none are respected. You can put your foot down but that does absolutely nothing, they don't need you. You're more like a hobby on the side.
“And the new design is WAY worse in every way!”
Honestly it’s hard to tell what it even is with the new design: SaaS product? Contract agency? Flight tracker?
I found the first design to be significantly clearer. I wonder how the author distinguished between revenue increase coming from natural growth vs. the redesign.
For those unaware, the blogger left a high-paying job at Google 4-years ago  to start his own business and over those last 4-years, unfortunately, hasn't really made any money/profit 
His blog is a treasure trove of insights and lessons learned along the way.
Highly recommend for others to read.
Yeah, I don't think the agency is blameless here, but I also don't think they're malicious or dishonest. I think they just overestimated their ability to scale down their workflows to a project smaller than their typical gig.
Everything else leaves me with a sore feeling, that it, while eventually not a scam, at least a careless, profiteering way to handle this, on the back of the customer. I hate this agency :-)