Advantages for Clients
A fair question for potential clients to ask us would be, “What are the advantages to us of your particular methodologies, models, approaches, skills, tools, and modular services? That’s what we really care about.” This page answers that question. The advantages fall into two categories: clients’ contracts with providers of design and development services, and the actual design and development projects.
Contracts: The Usual Way
Regardless of whether all the people working on the project (designers of various kinds, programmers, et al.) are employees of the same or different companies (or free-lancers), contracts to design and develop websites and online-products/applications are almost always of the same form. Before any work at all is done, the client is required to sign a contract for the entire project, from beginning to completion (although that is rarely defined clearly).
Whether the charges are on a time-and-materials basis (with or without a ceiling) or on a fixed-bid basis (fairly unusual), the promised result is vague. Attempts to define the results in an enforceable fashion, regardless of how many providers are bidding, will be met with a stone wall. There are several reasons for this:
- Before the work begins, no one has more than a vague understanding of what the result will be, much less what it will take to produce it.
- Service providers cannot commit to a result they don’t yet understand. Until the result is adequately specified and agreed to, they have to keep it vague in the contract to give themselves an out.
- Service providers do not have sufficient confidence in their abilities to satisfy the client in a certain number of hours of work. They regularly take a bath on contracts that they have underestimated.
- Therefore, contracts with vaguely described results reveal the true degree of understanding of the client and service providers, and the degree of confidence of the service providers.
Being presented with this kind of contract—take it or leave it—puts clients in a very undesirable position. The problems the client is bound to face include the following:
- Client will have little control over the result, since there is no legal way to force providers to produce a vaguely specified result.
- When the inevitable disputes arise, due to unsatisfactory results, clients typically resort to threatening to withhold payment to try to force changes. But providers can also threaten to withhold the code. This usually results in a standoff and compromise that satisfies no one.
- Vaguely specified results also mean that the client can’t rely on time or cost promised in the contract, since the result being aimed at is sure to change as the design and programming work proceeds.
In sum, whether clients obtain a single bid or multiple bids, they end up being forced to sign contracts for a result that nobody understands and nobody will commit to, to be completed by a date nobody can realistically meet, and for a cost that nobody will guarantee—and that is almost sure to go up through a series of change orders. This will almost inevitably lead to a frustrating cycle of being presented with unsatisfactory results, disputes over what was promised, and conflicts over increased time and costs.
Contracts: Our Way
Because we offer our services in modular form, no contract or commitment is required for anything but one small, inexpensive, short step at a time: research, planning, concept creation, specifications, UI design, visual design, and the rest of the design. Each step specifies the exact result the client will receive, satisfaction guaranteed, with a fixed price guaranteed for that step. No change orders. No going over time or budget. No disputes. We hold the view that the customer is always right.
The client retains full control: after each step, client can decide to change the objectives, get a different design team, or even terminate the project. Decisions at the end of each step can be made with full, accurate information about business benefits and costs (ROI) to the client. Our network of partners contains plenty of the right kinds of technical expertise to produce proof-of-concepts for any areas of the design that need technical investigation.
Since we recommend the best programmers and give them an excellent design specification to code from, they are also willing to sign a contract promising to faithfully execute the design according to its precise specifications by a certain date for a fixed price. The client can legally hold the programming company to this promise, since the result is clearly specified.
Our completely spelled-out results and fixed prices for each step are the best possible proof of our confidence in our ability to satisfy the client with our results on time and within budget. Otherwise, we could not afford to make such commitments.
Projects: The Usual Way
Again, regardless of whether all the people working on the project (designers of various kinds, programmers, et al.) are employees of the same or different companies (or free-lancers), these kinds of projects almost always suffer from the following serious problems:
- Business benefits & costs, ROI, user aims & how to satisfy them not well researched
- High-Level Concept of the Website or Online-Product: not clear, not enough alternatives considered carefully, prematurely constrained by firm’s technology preferences
- Specification: inadequately detailed, unclear, poor quality
- UI design: often left to visual designers or programmers, no working prototypes
- Visual design: poorly guided by inadequate specifications
- Other design work: online marketing, web analytics, etc. often overlooked
- Result: design gives incomplete, unclear, inaccurate guidance to programmer
- Coding Problems
- Without clear, complete, accurate guidance from designers, programmers have to do a lot of trial and error, show partial results to clients, get requests for changes, rework, repeat process
- Slow, inefficient, expensive, frustrating for programmers, designers, & clients
- Collaboration between designers and programmers, whether in same or different firms
- Neither tend to be good at communication
- They usually don’t cooperate or collaborate well together
- Programmers blame designers for doing a poor job & providing inadequate specifications
- Designers blame programmers for not following their designs
- Many conflicts
- Slow, inefficient, expensive, frustrating for all
- Project management
- Good project management is rare in this field
- Partly due to lack of sound methodologies for software design & development
- Partly due to lack of well-trained project managers: they tend to be ex-designers, ex-programmers, or just low-level administrators
- So unlike other kinds of projects, in which communication and collaboration problems also arise, there are no skilled project managers to compensate for the lack of their team’s communication & collaboration skills
- Hence the problems continue without resolution
As a result of these chronic design, coding, collaboration, and project-management problems, it is almost impossible for most clients to obtain results that are better than mediocre in terms of satisfying the right aims of the right users, producing the business benefits that the whole project was for the sake of, in an efficient way, resulting in good ROI for the client’s business.
Projects: Our Way
Here is where the advantages to clients of our special methodologies, models, approaches, skills, tools, and modular services really pay off.
- Design Advantages
- Unparalleled quality of design: soundly researched, conceptualized, specified, with full participation of client staff and well-informed decisions at each step along the way
- Technology agnostic; concepts not constrained by any technology preferences
- UI design: top quality, supported by working prototypes for clients to try out and programmers to use for guidance
- Visual design & other design work: highest standards, fully guided by the previous design steps, in collaboration with other designers and technical experts
- Design Result: a high-quality design, accurate, complete, fully understood and agreed to by all team members and client—just what programmers dream of getting
- Coding Advantages
- No commitment for coding is required until the design is finished & client has tried it out and is fully satisfied with it
- The best programmers for the project will be selected
- Since programmers are given the best possible guidance from an excellent design specification, they can code it quickly, without trial and error, rework, and other inefficiencies
- Collaboration between designers and programmers
- Since our designs are so clear and complete, far fewer collaboration problems arise in the first place
- Our designers have excellent communication & collaboration skills
- The programmers we recommend also have more of these skills than most
- Our designers work well with the programmers we recommend
- Result: quick, efficient, inexpensive, satisfying for all
- Project management
- We manage the project, not the programming company. The designers oversee execution and make sure it is faithful to the design.
- We use the best methodology for managing software design & development projects
- We have highly skilled software-development project-managers, who know how to make a project run smoothly and produce good results
Because of our unique ways of doing these projects and the high degree of skills we bring to bear, we are able to produce high quality results for clients that satisfy the right aims of the right users, producing the business benefits that the whole project was for the sake of, in an efficient way, resulting in what is usually fantastic ROI for the client’s business. The differences between these results and those obtainable from other providers are nothing less than astounding, as many of our clients attest. In addition, the process clients go through on the way to these results is so much more satisfying and so much less frustrating than the norm as to be reason enough to try it our way.
There is one thing clients want that neither the usual approach nor our approach can satisfy. Clients want to know up front how long the project will take and what it will cost. However, nobody can tell them with any accuracy at all, because nobody knows what the project will entail before work has started on it. When a client accepts a fixed bid from a company to do the whole design and development project, it’s a fiction. There will inevitably be change orders, delays, cost overruns, and disputes, because nobody can promise to produce a result that hasn’t been completely specified. Hence, the contracts are full of loopholes. It’s like asking an architect for a price on a house that hasn’t yet been designed.
Although our modular approach cannot fully solve this problem, the time and cost of the project can be more and more accurately estimated as each modular service is completed. This increasingly accurate estimate is still far better than the complete guesswork offered by the usual approach, which never becomes reliable until the project is completely finished. For example, after completing the two initial research and decision analysis services, time and cost for the rest of the project (which is nearly all of it) can usually be known within 40%. By the time the design is finished and agreed to, the client will know exactly how long the rest of the project will take and exactly how much it will cost. In the meantime, clients are never required to commit to anything more than the next step in the process, so risk is drastically reduced throughout the project.
To our knowledge, no other firm in our field offers these kinds of contracts or services. In sum, the first advantage to clients is a contract they can rely on that specifies guaranteed results in a guaranteed time for a guaranteed cost, honored without disputes. The second advantage is a project that proceeds smoothly, with minimal frustration or conflict, producing an efficient, cost-effective, high quality result as promised, on time and within budget.
Please see List of Our Services and Workshops for the services we specialize in.