How collaborative development saves you time, money, and sanity

In our decades of collective experience making websites, we’ve seen a recurring pattern in the web development process that frustrates us and our clients, drags projects out beyond their launch date, and pushes budgets up. Our solution is something we call “Collaborative Development.”

Planning is great. But it can only do so much.

Like any good web design shop, we love planning. We spend lots of time researching, asking questions, mocking up ideas, incorporating everyone’s feedback, refining our concepts, and ultimately designing and building a website based on these plans.

But no matter how thoroughly we plan, the same thing always seems to happen: once our client sees a working site, and tries it out, and puts their content in, they often realize they need some other page or tool or feature that somehow, everyone had overlooked. Or, seeing the site in action prompts a brilliant idea that nobody had thought of before.

What’s a web design firm to do?

So it’s late in the project, the launch date is quickly approaching, and suddenly all these new ideas and feature requests come to light. Now what?

We’ve asked our buddies in the business and it’s not just us—this scenario happens to every shop we know on a regular basis. The "traditional" response is to charge you, the client, more money at the end of the project to handle the change requests, because they weren't budgeted for. And it's frustrating for everyone, because it pushes the project over budget and beyond its launch date. Believe me, we don’t like it any more than you do!

The light bulb

Then one day it dawned on us: it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s an inherent limitation of planning. Think about it. You probably plan, for example, your vacations. But you probably also know that things rarely go according to your plan, or if they do, chances are somebody wasn’t perfectly happy with it. Traveling well means making some plans, but being prepared to rearrange things on the fly to account for unknowns: the good (free concert tickets), the bad (freak snowstorms), and the ugly (lost luggage).

So we changed our whole approach. Now, we know that no matter how thoroughly we all plan, that's going to get us about 80% of the way to the site you actually want and need. Collaborative development is how we get the remaining 20%.

How does it work?

In collaborative development, we implement these late-stage changes at the same time as traditional beta testing. And we do them both efficiently, by scheduling blocks of time when our team and yours agree to work on the site at the same time. On your end, you’re testing out the tools, revising your copy, and generally getting your site ready to launch. Let's say the original plan calls for your site to be able to sell tickets to your events. So during collaborative development, you're posting an event, and you realize that it has limited capacity. Uh-oh. The site needs some way to track the number of tickets sold to tell people when it’s sold out.

No problem. We’re there at the ready to talk it over and come up with some possible solutions for you. We agree on a plan, then get to work making it happen. When we’re done, we run it by you so you can confirm that we got it right. If not, we discuss what changes are needed and keep going.

The beta-testing aspect of the process, of course, works the same way. If you find a problem, you post it to our project management system. We're working on your site right then, and we'll be able to get it fixed (or ask for more details, if we need them) right away.

So you see, Collaborative Development is more than just fixing bugs—we do what it takes to get you the site you want, after you have the benefit of trying out a working prototype. We have no need to nickel and dime you, or bombard you with change orders, because the time and money are already budgeted in.

The efficiency bonus

As if all this weren’t awesome enough, we’ve found collaborative development to be much faster and more efficient than the typical beta testing process. I once met a contractor who always made his employees work in pairs. He noticed that, for example, two guys sanding one table top went disproportionately faster than two guys each working on their own. That’s a big part of what makes collaborative development successful—by having everyone online at the same time, working on their end of the website, we achieve a certain momentum that just isn’t there if we have to play phone tag or wait for each other’s schedules to free up.

So if this sounds good to you, or if you have questions about how Collaborative Development can save you time, money, and sanity on your next web project, just let us know! We’d be happy to talk more.

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