Y U No Tell me: They don’t know what they need

This is the third post in a series called Y U No Tell me; Lessons learned from building a WordPress development business. For a list of all posts in the series, please start here.

When I first started working at my previous job it was just me and my boss. The company would eventually grow to more than 500 people, but in those early days, it was just the two of us. He was a great salesman and could sell ANYTHING. But, when it came to the technical side, that would all land on my plate. He would come to me with a new project that needed to be built and he would explain what he wanted. I would then go off and build what he needed.

To be honest, I can attribute the bulk of my success at that company to my ability to listen to what he asked for, but instead, build the solution that I knew would accomplish his goals more effectively. Because just like with a lot of clients, his wants and needs were almost always two totally different things.

And yet, when we first started 9seeds, I somehow forgot all about that.

One of our earliest clients came to us with an extremely well documented project. Flow charts, wireframes, you name it. We thought, “Wow, she really has this well thought out.” So we picked up our common sense and chucked it right out the window. We then went off and built EXACTLY what she asked for. When she reviewed what we built and came back to us and said, “This isn't at all what I need”, it caught us totally off guard.

We hopped on a call and discussed the project in further detail. We ended up basically throwing out the original spec and rewriting it from scratch. All of which should have happened before we wrote a single line of code.

This could have all been avoided!

What came next was a month of rebuilding, arguing about cost (what was needed was vastly more complicated, of course) and a huge amount of frustration that could have easily been avoided had we not assumed the client knew what she needed.

After the project was finally launched, we looked back through the original documentation and found countless places where we should have thrown up red flags and offered suggestions where an alternate route made more sense. But in the end, the biggest mistake we made was that we didn't ask enough questions.

Come back tomorrow when the topic will be: Who needs contracts?