There is an irritation which I have encountered many different times while running my web design business.
It’s an unfortunate irritation, and I really look forward to the time where the exceptions to this outweigh the rules.
The irritation is this:
Of 6 clients (potential and paying) of a particular gender, all six have turned out to exceptionally difficult to deal with and manage.
They have been okay at the beginning, then we climb the tower of vague requirements, slip slowly down the mud-encrusted slide of ‘invoice, what invoice?’, followed by the spiral of ‘Why haven’t you delivered this when I wanted it?’ (answer: because you haven’t given me the content), and ending up on the trampoline of uncontrollable scope creep.
Some are just plain rude.
Take todays example of irritation.
We met last week and we chatted for a while with a TV on in the background. The TV should have been a warning. The chat revolved around the idea of what the system that was to be designed was to actually do. The conversation was pretty vague. I was pointed to two websites, one of which didn’t actually do anything anymore (but which I was told ‘back in the day’ was really good). The other was effectively a bulletin board on steroids.
The client kept asking how much it would cost. My reply was ‘ballpark, $X, but we’ll need to analyse exactly what is required. Because you haven’t given me anything concrete to go on, I can’t give you an exact price’.
To this end, there was an agreement that I would go away and construct some business requirements, which I did, by analysing the basic functionality of the overweight bulletin board and making some educated guesses about back-end functionality. At the end of this document, I put an outline of where things could go from that point. This included system design and GUI design, a coding and rollout phase. No money was discussed, because there wasn’t any way to estimate how long the system would take to code. Business requirements are written at a high level and in such a way as to be clear to the business people who don’t talk Geek. They’re then used to construct System requirements (by and for the geeks) at which time the clock starts ticking and money starts getting paid.
I was told today — after calling them up mind you — that they had decided to go with someone else who had thrown a number at them. $8000 is the sum of money that was quoted.
My irritation comes from this:
1. Vague requirements (also known as Garbage In, Garbage Out) — which I worked to clarify
2. No contact – I’m sorry, this is just rude
3. Being told that something that wasn’t on the table had happened despite discussions to the contrary
4. The clear indication that my circle of concern and circle of influence are out-of-whack again
This last one is my fault. The rest are the (now ex) client’s.
Interestingly though, clients of another gender are surprisingly easy to work with. Clear requirements, polite correspondence, when they want something more, they’re prepared to pay for it. Scope creep is fine when you’re getting reimbursed for your time.
Read into this gender difference what you wish. As I say, I’m looking forward to a time where irritation is not the rule when dealing with gender in question. I don’t like the feeling I’m being sexist.