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Thread: Client Wondering How To Proceed with Developer Who Is Very Late with Project

  1. #1
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    Client Wondering How To Proceed with Developer Who Is Very Late with Project

    Hi,

    I've posted on another thread about my concerns with my web developer, but I would very much appreciate advice from the community on how to handle a looming deadline with him.

    My site (which was handed over to him in its totality in mid-November, piecemeal five months earlier) was promised to be completed by the end of the year. Furthermore, he stated he'd return the second of three deposits (50% of the total) if it were not, with the understanding that I'd then dispense it back to him when the site was finished.

    Two days from the deadline I would estimate that 75% of the work remains, but he does provide me with daily updates on what he's done in the previous 24 hours. Much of this work is back end stuff that I can't possibly verify, but he has produced a comprehensive database covering 250 golf courses, each with a dozen or so fields, many of which are searchable. From my understanding on my other thread, this is no mean feat.

    So in two days, do I demand the deposit back (nicely, of course)? If he says no do I get nasty? Or should I thank my lucky stars that I've got a developer, who, however poor is estimating ability is, is at least working on my site regularly and not neglecting it now that he has 75% of the revenue in the bag?

    I'm sure many of you have experience with exactly the kind of situation I'm laying out here and your input will greatly inform my judgment of how to proceed.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Ronald Roe's Avatar
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    IMHO, he wrote a check his *** couldn't cash. That's bad on him. Is it because he isn't working as much on it as he should? Who knows? This is why I don't make promises like that. He painted himself into a corner.

    That said, and not knowing what your interaction with him was prior to the situation you posted in the other thread, it may do well for you to ask him why he's running behind. Roughly half the time I'm behind on a project is due to things that come up during interaction with the client, and what we call "feature creep". If you've added or changed requirements as the project has progressed, that will push things out. If that's not the case, he should probably just pony up the cash. That's his bad for making that promise and keeping you a little too "in the loop". Daily updates are a bit excessive.
    Ron Roe
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    "If every app were designed using the same design template, oh wait...Bootstrap."

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    Ronald,

    The concession he made were in response to dissatisfaction I'd expressed previously (in those three and a half months when he'd had elements of the site to work on but had done nothing with them, in spite of asking for that second deposit). So in light of what I saw as an unacceptable pace of development, six weeks ago he made that promise of a completion date, and agreed to my stipulation of daily updates (though I did allow for him to say "Dear Diary: Did nothing today", as long as the project marched on crisply.)

    As far as "feature creep" is concerned, no, nothing like that at all. I do, however, feel he did not make an effort to scope out the size of the project before being engulfed by it. Insofar as my communication was always very clear about my expectations and the volume of data he'd be working with, such lack of preparedness on his part really shouldn't amount to a good excuse of why he's so far behind.

    But thanks again for your valuable input. That's one vote for insisting on the return of the deposit.

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    Senior Member RDesignista's Avatar
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    This guy sounds like he has less-than-stellar project managing skills.

    "...he did not make an effort to scope out the size of the project before being engulfed by it."

    Sounds like inexperience with project management.

    Typically if you were to hire a firm, the guy would be a developer and someone else would be hawking over the developer. That guy would be the project manager (PM). PM would help set the scope, set progress points/milestones, communicate with you, and budget time accordingly. Now, when you have a freelancer, the PM and developer is one and the same, but development skills don't correlate with PM skills. Case in point -- daily communications. They don't matter in the grand scheme and seems like he's just trying to show you he is serious about working with you.

    With that said, I think you can consider going forward with this guy... but you'll have to take the place of project manager. That means you set goals for specific pieces of the project (break it down), set deadlines, mark your calendar, and hawk over him. I would recommend a project management software... like Google Spreadsheets or Trello. I use both to great success on projects requiring a lot of interaction, progress reports, and questions. Those 2 are also free, and I'm a cheapskate, so that's win-win.

    In terms of consideration for you, I think you could ask for something extra or a discount because of the extreme tardiness of this. I think your developer should happily oblige... after all, better than losing your business outright. And for you, staying with him may be useful, because it may take a lot of time for another develop to pick up where the old one left off.

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    Thank you for the very valuable suggestions. I think you're right about my assuming the role of the PM. I am also particularly attentive to your last comment. Trying not to let emotions get the better of me, but I do feel like I need to vent on him if he declines to return the second deposit. But your statement about finding another developer being difficult does give me pause. First of all, would a new developer even be able to pick up the project in mid-stream? Seems likely to me that the old one would pick up his toys and go home if we reach an impasse, with him not returning the deposit and me not taking this particularly nicely.

    So I suppose I'm now in the position of wondering whether it's best to suck it up and play nice if this promise is broken, so long as he continues to actively work on the site, no matter how glacial his pace is.

    On that last point, how long does it generally take with a concerted effort to create a website that has a lot of search within it, a database with 250 entities that have about a dozen fields attached to it which is displayed in directory form with a thumbnail photo, and a ton of pages that consist of one photo accompanied by one caption. Of course, it's a given that an attractive home page is where everything begins.

    I do understand that I'm asking for a narrow answer to a very broad question, but I suppose I'd like to know if anyone can provide an estimate, allowing for a 30% margin of error either on the fast or slow side.

    Thanks again everyone who is helping me through this. It's my first effort at creating a website and my business concept is entirely dependent on it coming to fruition. The advice I've gotten so far has been very helpful from both a practical and a therapeutic standpoint.

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    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    The size of the database and the number of entries is irrelevant unless 1) the number is so large that some more advanced techniques such as stored procedures would need to be implemented in order to filter/process the data and/or 2) the developer had to create/edit the entries himself.

    1) is obviously out because usually that requires hundreds of thousands of records, depending on the complexity of those records, at a bare minimum and you're talking 250 with a dozen fields, and 2) would have probably been done by you. If he had to enter in all the data himself and it wasn't in some other format like say a spreadsheet that he could import, then that's going to take him some time depending on what he has and what he needs to fill in the missing fields.

    As far as how to handle this, the question I have is "what exactly is he saying is being done?" There are ways to verify this...if nothing else, your developer should have the code up somewhere on a staging server, and ideally yours. You'd have access to the code, assuming he's like most developers and doing things in PHP with some sort of framework.

    If he declines to return the second deposit, hopefully you used a credit card. If you did, go to your issuing bank and explain the situation. Most banks will issue a refund within a few weeks, and I've even heard of 24 hour refunds in certain cases e.g. if you were dealing with Indian developers; I'm guessing this isn't the case since the communication has been regular, although I don't know for sure because I don't know exactly what has been said (as in verbatim, although I know that's none of my business). Let the developer know what you've done and see how quickly he moves.
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    Thank you for an invaluable response!

    As far as the database goes, I did, indeed, not present this to him as a spreadsheet. Just raw data. So I gave him a lot of latitude in inputting that and awaited patiently for it to be done without a peep. But that task has now been completed for eight days. Since that time, what I receive every day is this:

    Continuing coding for search / search listings.


    So that's the crux of the matter right now. Could this be taking more than a week to do?

    I made the payment of the second deposit with PayPal, which I know is also a way to recoup the money -- although it requires his having the funds on hand in order for it to be returned. Would he receive notification from PayPal about the action, which would allow him to empty his account before prospectively being ruled against? I'm assuming he would.

    On to your last point about examining his work. I have zero background in this, so I wouldn't be able to separate wheat from chaff, but if he's agreeable to my request to look at it, might I hire you for a fee to do this for me?

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    WDF Staff mlseim's Avatar
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    The actual golf course data .... Did you have to get all of this yourself, one by one, or did you find another database somewhere that has all of the data for each course?

    In my opinion, this is all about the database. Once the data has been entered, it can be searched and displayed in any type of manner.

    The database is important because you have to add or remove courses periodically, and the courses change. Tees are moved, greens are moved, traps are moved. There may be courses closed for construction during a period of time, things like that.

    I think he misjudged the database part. That database should have been totally separate from WordPress at the beginning. WP would be the GUI (graphic user interface) that people would use to search and display your information.

    So now, the database of everything you have is entwined with WordPress because it is forced into custom fields in a table someplace in the WP database.

    I feel as though that's where he is now stuck. How to search and put-together that data.

    If you put together all 250 golf courses, and all of their tee information into one database, all by yourself, by hand, then you have what I would consider a rather useful database. That's why I'm wondering if you gathered these or found these various things online.

    If this arrangement fails between you and him, and it would be unfortunate, but not deliberate on his part, then you should reset this project. Keep the WordPress site you have and set it aside. Hire a programmer to only do a MySQLi database of all your course data. Get that database complete, with a way to add, delete, edit, and update the database. Your existing WP site would then be used to access and display from that database.

    EDIT:
    If you do restart, pay him for the WP site he's done, since you'll be keeping that. Leave on good terms and find a programmer to do the MySQLi database. You'll still need WP programming done again later, but this time, it will be easier for a programmer to do, as he/she will have a complete working database to use.
    Last edited by mlseim; Dec 31st, 2014 at 10:19 AM.
    TheGAME1264 likes this.


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    Wow, thank you for some awesome advice!

    The data base is a combination of printed material (the course's scorecard), information found on-line or in published sources (architect, year opened, lodging) and finally my own insights. I have played each of these 250 courses during my lifetime, and with the help of on-line reports was able to refresh my memory on practically all of them. And so, I've added perceptions to the database, or mental snapshots, if you prefer. So there is a nice combination of facts and figures, along with an assortment of little "talking points" comprising the DB.

    Comprising the bulk of the site will be photos of holes, accompanied by mini-essays about them. Some will be straightforward, strategic tips on how to play the hole. Others will be more fanciful, with cultural allusions tossed in to make the reading more enjoyable. All the photos will have come from my camera. To date, I've examined about two dozen courses this way, and if the site takes off, will be adding more regularly.

    So, tomorrow is the big day. I'm left to wonder whether I should do the unthinkable and instead of insist on him returning my deposit, actually offer to pay him more. As distasteful as this sounds, if I were to hire someone to start the project over from scratch, I'm finding I'm going to have to shell out close to $10,000. His rate to get the whole thing done was a third of that.

    The big question is: Did I get a deal. Or did he get a steal.

    Very anxious, as you might imagine to try to figure this out.

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    Senior Member RDesignista's Avatar
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    Originally, I had mentioned that it's a pain to start allover -- mainly because you gotta find another guy, you gotta orient the 2nd guy, and you gotta hope the 2nd guy understands the method the 1st used. I've had several projects where I was had to pick up where a previous designer/developer couldn't finish. All times, it was an awful mess for me because they had poor coding practices and/or hacky methods, so I know to always factor that in if giving quotes.

    As for Paypal, if you as a buyer are seeking a refund for a service, their refund protocols typically favor you.

    Finally, I think you are the best person to gauge whether the price was right -- don't let market prices and other's opinion determine how you value something. It's the same reason I would pay 10x the rate for zip ties and the same reason I don't buy overpriced (IMO) Apple computers, even though other people in my industry are. But the best thing to do is shop around. Even that quote you got of $10k -- it's one person's quote and you should find several. Just do your due diligence and make sure the guy has project management skills and can work with you for estimated dates of completion... you probably don't want to wait another year to have this done.


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