Building a professional website takes a lot of hard work and planning. In a perfect world, everything would always go according to plan. Yet, this isn’t always the reality of things, especially when building a website. While there are more than several reasons why a website launch may get delayed, we’ve compiled 10 of the most common, from the perspective of a Project Manager, so you can watch out for these common pitfalls.
1. Client’s Timeliness Regarding Feedback Periods
Just as every human being is different, every client is different. Some clients will be prompt in their feedback once provided with something to review—whether it is a design mockup or the overall website. Some clients just work through the review process at a slower pace than others. Often times it is challenging to know what type of client you will be dealing with when creating a timeline at the beginning of the project. This often does not result in an angry client, just an antsy team ready to keep forward momentum going on a project to reach the launch date.
2. The Company’s Overall Workload Amount
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many employees available at a time, thus there are certain times when a company will find themselves at maximum capacity. The wise option would be to turn down or delay the starting dates of incoming projects, but sometimes it is often too late to realize that your team is at max capacity. This then calls into question the need for prioritization: the higher paying clients, the clients with very specific deadlines, etc. become the priority and some of the smaller project’s deadlines may get impacted in the process.
This is not a bad problem to have (except that it can result in some very tired employees), but during this time it is important to communicate to clients what is happening and make sure that they are okay in moving back a website launch date for the sake of the quality of the final product.
3. Clients Getting Hung up on Insignificant Details
There are very specific phases of a website project, and in each phase, there are certain priorities to focus on. For example: in the design phase, content and exact images that will be used on the final site do not need to be set in stone for a design mockup to be approved and moved into the development phase. Yet, sometimes clients do not fully understand this. They see what their site is going to look like, and they want it to look exactly how they want it to look in its final stages without realizing that these hang ups are slowing down the overall project.
It is important to communicate (sometimes multiple times) to a client of what is important to focus on in each phase. You may need to explain that a design mockup is for figuring out the layout of a page and other details on the page will be figured out later in the project’s overall timeline.
4. Client M.I.A
This doesn’t mean that a client is just slow in responding, this is when a client just straight up disappears—almost to the point where you may feel like a search and rescue party is needed. They do not respond to emails, calls and voicemails go unreturned, there is absolutely no communication from the client at all. When this happens, it is obviously going to impact the timeline and launch date. If you have done all that you can do in order to try and get in communication with the client (minus showing up at their house) then at this point all there is to do is move them to the bottom of the priority list and wait for them to come back around…they usually do. 🙂
5. Excessive Rounds of Feedback
When creating a project timeline, a Project Manager generally factors in an initial round of feedback, a second round of feedback and then the official final review and then sign off. Yet, as in life, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes a client can be seemingly never-ending in their rounds of feedback, racking up 4, 5, 6, to 15 rounds of different feedback—often times contradicting previous updates with new ones.
It is at this time when a good Project Manager needs to take the reins. In this case, an established timeline is a good holding card that can be used to one’s advantage instead of something to fight against. Kindly remind the client of the agreed-upon website launch date and explain how these actions are hindering you both from accomplishing your goal of getting their new site launched. It is also helpful to remind clients that websites are not set it stone once they go live, and there can still be some changes made after it is launched–holding up the launch date is not helping anyone achieve success.
They may push back, but there always has to be a limit to the number of rounds of feedback that a client may provide within a project (which may just mean that they have to compile 5 rounds into 1 round instead), but establishing this number upfront via the timeline is a helpful tool to fall back on during this situation.
6. Improper Direction from Client
Sometimes people say one thing and mean another, this is often called sarcasm or lying, but in the example of a client, sometimes it is just confusion and uncertainty. Sometimes a client will give you clear instructions and then go back on those instructions claiming that they want or always wanted something different. This is why it is always important to get things in writing, especially with official sign offs like on a design or a finalized site. Just like in the real world—no one can fight against fact and having a client’s “facts” in their own writing is the best argument against this situation and the best way to help keep a project on track to meet its launch date.
7. Client is Busy With Their Own Business
Our business is the business of getting websites made, but often times we forget that the companies which we are building these websites for are busy running their own businesses. It is not a deliberate or conscious slowness on their part regarding their feedback times (or a MIA situation), it’s just that the client literally does not have the proper time to follow along on the same timeline that was originally established. They probably agreed to the timeline at the beginning of the project, but life always happens. In these types of situations, it is important to help keep the client and project on track, while also remaining compassionate and empathetic that they have their own companies to run and lives to deal with. Honest communication usually helps solve this issue, and then together you can work to make a timeline and figure out a site launch date that works for both parties.
8. Unforeseen Technical Issues
Sometimes when a project scope is created at the beginning of a project, there are hidden issues within that plan that can be unforeseen and overlooked by even the best developers. Sometimes the issues come from third-party integrations, obtaining proper domain registrar and hosting information, third-party platforms that were intended to fulfill a functionality don’t actually work as intended…The list could go on and on. There are always going to be issues in the unknown and even more so in the technical world of website development.
These issues are usually able to be addressed, but unfortunately take more time than intended, which ultimately impacts the timeline of the project and pushes back the website launch date. The best solution is clear and honest communication with the client, explain to them the issues, what you are doing to solve it and present an approximate new projected launch date that will be confirmed once the issue is fully addressed. They may not fully understand the technical components of the conversation, but they will appreciate the open communication and be less likely to get upset if kept in the loop.
9. Various Developer Issues
Developers are not Gods, they are not omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent, they are just human beings and sometimes humans make mistakes. There may be issues with communication between the developer and Project Manager, disagreements over or misunderstanding of a client’s request, personal life issues that get in the way of a developer’s work schedule, or a developer may even straight up quit. All of these issues, plus more, have the ability to impact a project’s timeline and launch date. The solution to these problems are all subjective depending on the specific issue, but it is important for project managers to always remember in the back of their minds that developers are humans and with human beings, comes human error.
Keep a mental log of all of the developers that you work with, learn their strengths and weaknesses and then you may be able to predict an issue that may be brewing before it becomes a larger issue that could impact a project and its launch date. It is all about dealing with issues as they arise and getting ahead of issues that you have dealt with already before they happen again, all for the sake of keeping a project properly on track.
10. The Scope of a Project Changes
One of the first things created at the beginning of a project is a project scope, yet clients are usually prone to want to add onto this scope as the project unfolds–we call this “scope creep.” They may remember that they need to add an extra form, want to add an extra page, think that adding a portal for clients to log into will solve an occurring issue they have, etc. Some of these additions are simple and can be completed without issue, whereas some of them can severely impact the overall project (both the timeline and the cost). It is important to get the project scope written up and have both parties review it together and sign it before the project kicks off, that way when scope creeping occurs, you have an official document to fall back on as reference.
If a client continues to push for changes, you will need to let them know that they will essentially may be beginning the project from scratch (based on the requested scope changes), so a new scope document will need to be created, a new quote created for additional effort hours, and a possible new addendum added to the original agreement to detail these changes. Some clients will move forward with all the additional work, where some may decide to move forward with the project as is and implement a “Phase 2” of the project where they can add in any new functionality requests and such under a separate agreement.
Other issues may arise especially when clients want to request design changes during the development period or add larger changes to the overall site. This is one of the reasons why it is very important to get a client’s official sign off on all major phases of the project. If you get a client’s official sign off on the design of the site and then they are requesting large page layout edits before the site launches, this is when you can pull up the email or documents where you have the client’s official sign off on the design and explain to them that any major changes to this design will result in additional effort hours, additional fees based on those hours and also impact the launch date of the site. At this point, most clients will opt to keep the current design as opposed to pay more and the project will continue forward on track after that small bump in the road.
There are many reasons why a website launch date can get delayed, but the aspects of what makes a good Project Manager is the ability to work through these various problems and issues, find solutions and always communicate with the client about what is going on with the project and how it may impact the launch date.