Strategies for Timely Project Completion

Stephen Yagielowicz

Adult operators face a number of challenges related to development schedules and the ability to bring projects in on deadline. Issues such as cost, technology and timeliness all come into play; as does group think, where “How about if we add...” becomes a common stumbling block to timely project completion.

For example, you have a workable website, but team input such as “Wouldn’t this additional feature be awesome?”, “Maybe we should allow it to ...” and “Our competitor includes a ...” all start to work their way into the process. Then before you realize it, website development grinds to a halt — both on the coding front and the browser front, where the added processing overhead could bring the surfer’s computer to its knees.

What I’ve learned from catering to hundreds of adult site owners as a CMS provider is that successful development is far more about meeting your users’ needs than trying to anticipate them in advance. —Elevated-X CEO AJ Hall

XBIZ recently asked developers to share their secrets for knowing when to stop:

Cyntertainment sees the problem both internally and externally; having started work on its new site two years ago.

“By the time the new site’s content was sorted the design needed sprucing up to modern standards,” Cyntertainment explained. “Once that was done Joomla (the CMS it was using) got a major revision, so we did that, updated the whole template to take account of it and then decided to check out what was new.”

It was at this point that calls of “wouldn’t it be cool to add this…” began coming in, but as the development team sought to address those requests, the new site and its content became stale, languishing on the dev server.

“Then other parts of the business started coming online and people [wanted] a slice of the site for their project,” Cyntertainment noted. “So it got added, but when those projects stalled, they needed to be removed from the site.”

The best solution to this quagmire of complexity was to simply start all over again.

“It’s nearly done now and it’s only taken a month, although the last week of that is because I had to include others; so we are tweaking things while we wait for the new content to be written,” Cyntertainment continued. “I hope it doesn’t take so long the design needs sprucing and it all starts again!”

These issues are not peculiar to the company’s internal projects, however, but extend to some of its client sites as well.

“We have been sitting on paused projects (paused before they really started) because the client keeps changing the scope,” Cyntertainment notes. “They could have had a site that does something 12 months ago, but they keep changing their minds about what they want, what markets they want to be in, etc. Although parts of their business are making them money, the new venture could have been live and added to, as opposed to trying to get it right and all encompassing at launch.”

For an easy solution, Adult Voyeur recommends that project managers write out the function of the site as a roadmap to determining what features it needs to have.

“Design a site with those functions and no others,” Adult Voyeur advises. “Whenever someone on the project comes up with a ‘what if it ...,’ tell them to write it down and that after launching you will slowly add features so that you can keep updating [the site] and keep having reasons to issue press releases.”

“When they give you the lists of possible new features, burn them,” Adult Voyeur added, explaining, “The features lists, not the people who bring them...”

Walker from Lairds Computer Services has seen some extreme cases of confusion surrounding a project’s identity, laying the blame for scope creep and over analysis on “ideas people.”

“I used to work for a guy who would change the scope of a web project constantly, to the point that it was never going to go live,” Walker stated. “I very liberally interpreted his words ‘it doesn’t look bad’ one day, ripped down the old site and put up the new one at that point in development.”

The client had a conniption fit, but when Walker offered to restore the original site, the owner told him, “No, leave it.”

“The moral of the story,” Walker concludes, it to “set the initial scope in stone and get it live as soon as you reach it. Then evolve it from there.”

Saguaro Digital’s Whiteside told XBIZ that he uses hard metrics to determine where to draw the line in project development, when countless possibilities are available.

“One of the keys I have in order to decide which idea to actually work on is to keep a very high boundary for performance — in my case 100 ms for static content and 250 ms for dynamic content,” he explains. “As I start playing with new features, I measure them against that boundary. If they don’t meet it, then they stay on the shelf until they do.”

“But the boundary could be something else entirely, such as code size or some other metric,” Whiteside added. “The main point, for me, is to have an objectively measurable standard by which to judge whether new features make it in.”

As for feature creep in general, Whiteside says that it is really difficult for him not to let new ideas become development goals, but says limits on the process must be imposed.

“I generally try to give each feature a date, and if it’s not implemented by that date, it gets cut,” Whiteside concludes. “In that way the roadmap stays fluid, but the little stuff doesn’t overwhelm the important features.”

Elevated-X CEO AJ Hall notes that his company has dealt with the issue of feature creep in the past and believes that many “people get caught up with too many good ideas or make the mistake of assuming that because a competitor offers something you lack, you need to offer it too.”

“A lot of the time adding whatever ‘it’ is doesn’t give you a significant advantage or any advantage at all,” Hall stated. “What I’ve learned from catering to hundreds of adult site owners as a CMS provider is that successful development is far more about meeting your users’ needs than trying to anticipate them in advance.”

“I can’t even tell you the number of times we’ve seen a CMS customer hold up a site launch for as much as an entire year due to feature creep,” Hall continued. “It’s absurd.”

“The sad reality is that most of what they’re spending time working on appeases a boss or owner and will have zero impact on sales,” Hall concluded. “I think the best rule to follow is to always ask the question: Who is this feature more important to, me or my customers?”