It is a fact: software projects fail at a higher rate than traditional projects. Sounds a little cynical, but it is true. According to the Chaos Report (1995), a survey completed by the Standish Group, 31.1% of projects will be canceled before they ever get completed. Over half will overrun their original cost estimates by well over 100%. Only 16.2% of software projects are completed on-time and on-budget. This trend continues with smaller companies.
A failure does not mean a design has to be totally scrapped. You and the customer decide the parameters of the product well before any efforts have begun. If the customer has a requirement which is not completely explained or understood, the product will be considered a failure even though it was presented on time. They may have asked for something in the design which is impossible to complete because of software limitations. Some fail because of the intricacies involved with completing them, and the dependencies that must be taken into consideration. For example: a website may rely on the accuracy of a database to be useful, or an array full of saved data. Depending on the complexity of the design, designers may face unique technology challenges.
Poor planning in the beginning of the process or rushing to completion are two keys reasons for unsuccessful designs. Since clients rely on the hardware, platforms, and websites to keep a competitive edge, they want to rush through development to quickly make it to the market. A colleague of mine described one of her clients as extremely hard to work with. They wanted a website designed within a very short amount of time, but were not clear on the exact requirements. Although her instincts were saying it was a bad decision, they accepted the contract. When it was delivered in the wrong format, the client was not satisfied and demanded a refund. It was a very bad experience for her, but she learned a lot about doing business and solidifying the exact requirements and, if necessary, advising the client what was possible in the amount of time specified. Following this simple guideline has saved her countless hours.
You establish your criteria for success and failure. Ultimately the client must be satisfied, but you can’t offer or promise them the impossible. By setting strict guidelines for you or your designers to follow, such as a standard time frame for completion for particular designs or elements contained within, you can save a lot of time in corrections on the back end.
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