How to be effectively involved in the development process – as a customer

In this blog post, we will look at five key points, where it’s important that the customer is involved in the project development. Communication is key, and this allows for all stakeholders to be on the same page and know exactly what the goal of the project is.

1. Requirements

The development of every project starts with specifying the customer requirements and development timeline. While a lot of customers think this is the developer’s job, it’s actually something everyone must be involved with.

From time to time, we all get a customer that simply wants something done, without giving it much thought or discussing the details with the developer. This very often leads to the situation, where the end product is not exactly what the customer wanted and they blame the developer.

The best solution is for both the customer and the developer to sit down at the start of the project and discuss everything in detail. Both parties should be aware of the project’s difficulty and any possible limitations. This will also help to clearly define the requirements, which are the basis for the development timeline and a way to easily determine the development cost.

2. Unforeseen changes are expensive

Piggybacking off the previous point, you should be aware that any unexpected changes (like new features in the middle of development) can lead to increased development time and costs. Even a small change can cause major restructuring of the framework.

As a customer, you should really think about the project before meeting the developer. Are you unsure about a certain feature? Discuss it! Even if you ultimately decide not to include the feature, let the developer know about it. They will at least try to design the framework to reduce the work required to implement the feature in the future.

3. “They haven’t done anything after two months!”

Don’t worry! If you started a project with a large web application or a web portal, quite a while will pass, before you’ll see something usable or even anything at all.

When the development starts, the development team will begin with the most important phase – planning the database structure and back-end, and choosing the platforms and frameworks to work with. During this phase, most of the functionality is defined and later implemented. The whole process can take a long time, since any small mistake can cause an issue in the future.

The designers will start with wireframes and mockups. Until the website has at least the basic functionality, this is all you’ll see. Some developers can work on front-end in the meantime, but this ultimately depends on the size of the development team.

4. Project launch is almost always problematic

So, you launched the project. Customers and users start stopping by. For some time, everything works, but soon you or someone else discovers that something is not working properly.

In the world of web development, every user can have a completely different environment (different devices and browsers). That’s why it’s impossible to test the website on every device.

With a simple website, this rarely happens, but with a large web application, this can be quite common. That’s why it’s important to run a limited beta test. Find some friends for instance, and let them use the website for a week or two. This way the most annoying issues can be solved early on.

5. Maintenance agreement

After the project launch, it’s customary to sign a maintenance agreement – a contract with the development team to continue maintaining the project.

Over time, many issues can appear. Is the server too slow to handle the large amount of users? Is the website not working in the new version of a web browser? The maintenance agreement ensures that developers solve this issues as soon as possible. Critical issues (like the website not working) are mostly free of charge.

Like with the requirements, it’s important that both parties collaborate when defining the maintenance agreement.

Conclusion

Hopefully this blog post successfully presented the main customer related issues we face during development, which many customers have no idea about.

The idea of this post isn’t to shed a negative light on customers, but to inform them how to be effectively involved in the development process.

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