It’s a tough spot to be in. Maybe you’ve been working with your developer for years. Maybe you know them personally from way back. Maybe they used to be great. Or maybe it’s still a new relationship, but it’s not looking good already. But however you got here, things just are not working out quite as you hoped. If you’ve got a feeling that it’s time to part ways from your developer, but you’re not quite sure how to handle the situation, read on. We’ll cover a few common scenarios, and a give you a few tactics to move forward.
#1 The Friendly Procrastinator
The friendly procrastinator is so good at meetings. They are always on time, bring coffee or snacks, have detailed agendas, crack jokes, ask about the family, and leave everyone feeling good about the future. But if you’ve had weeks and weeks of meetings with this developer without seeing any actual results, it’s time to switch something up. In this situation, you may not need to find a new developer—it might just take some tough communication. It is possible that work is being done, and you just haven’t seen it yet. Ask about their process, and ask to see a sample of what they are working on. Even at Rocket Jones, we do quite a bit of initial work before starting to write code, so don’t be too anxious to see software from the start. However, if it seems that nothing has been done, review your project contract: do you have leverage to withhold payment until milestones are reached? Can you ask for a discount if the software is finished way beyond the expected timeline? Now, we’re not saying be a jerk about it, but be clear and honest about your expectations and disappointment with the current situation. Most development companies want to make their customers happy, and most can shuffle priorities to make things happen when you need it, as long as you’re clear about your urgency.
#2 The Ambitious WordPress Developer
WordPress is amazing, and chances are high that your company website runs on WordPress. There are so many excellent WordPress developers out there, you’ve probably found one that has built and maintained your site incredibly well. However, if your business has grown recently and you need more extensive functionality than your website can provide, you might need to look beyond a WordPress expert. If your developer enthusiastically agreed to build it into your existing site, but 25 plugins and six months later your site is limping along with frequent crashes and glitches, it’s time to re-evaluate your software needs. You may need a completely different type of software: a web application instead of a website. (Read more about the difference here.) It has nothing to do with the competency of your developer—you’ve simply outgrown what WordPress and your developer can do. It’s time to look for a new developer to collaborate with your original one—someone who is an expert in web applications and custom software. Be respectful and grateful when breaking the news to your WordPress developer, and keep them involved where it makes sense. After all, they are good at what they do and can continue to maintain and update your website.
#3 The Vanisher
Ah, the vanisher. It started out so great, and then slowly they stopped replying to emails. Phone calls went to voicemail. Or maybe they send an email once a month to assure you things are moving along and not to worry. This is most often common with freelancers or overseas developers. With such a small team (of one or two), any distraction of personal health, vacation time, holidays, family needs, or a sudden uptick in work can cause a developer to vanish. This is a tricky one, especially if the developer is halfway through the project. Luckily, if you decide it’s a serious enough problem to justify making the split, it’s usually not a big issue to get access to the work that’s already been done and transfer it to a new developer. Kindly let the developer know that you simply need someone who has more availability and customer support, and ask for the work that has been completed thus far. Be sure you are prompt in paying for the portion of work that’s been completed, and be courteous in the transition. Also refrain from bad-mouthing the developer’s work around town. It’s unprofessional, and you may not know what caused the developer to vanish, so it’s better to quietly move on.
#4 The Overpromiser
In this situation, perhaps you had an awesome idea, and when you met with the developer, they enthusiastically agreed to every detail and even added a few cool features. The complexity of developing each feature wasn’t discussed, but the results were projected as being amazing and revolutionary. Now, a while into the project, you can tell that the team is struggling to produce what they promised. The app or web application might seem more basic than you intended. Or it could be that the developer has talked you into using some work-arounds. Or the app could feel slow and unresponsive in general. Additionally, timelines are being stretched farther and farther out as the team needs “just one more week to work out some bugs.” In this situation, it’s possible that the salesman who met with you initially didn’t completely understand the complexity of what you were asking for and also didn’t gauge that against the developers’ experience and abilities. Now you are both stuck hoping for something great to come out of a situation that was unlikely to succeed from the beginning. You have a few options in this case. You can dramatically scale back the scope of your project to something that the team can execute well. Or you can take what has already been done to a more experienced developer to finish up. In either case, you need to start with a tough and honest chat with the team about what they can reasonably accomplish.
#5 The Underbidder
In this tough scenario, it’s not the quality of work or the communication that’s causing a problem: it’s the cost. At the beginning, you were excited to get a bid that was so affordable for what you needed. But now you’re being nickled and dimed to death. Costs keep creeping up and up, and it feels like there’s no way to stop the cash flowing into this project. This particular problem originated with the first bid. It was way too low, either because the developer (or salesman) didn’t fully understand what you needed, or because they lowballed to get the work. In any case, your software is going to cost more than what you originally expected. Before spending any more money on it, meet with the developer and rebid the project if necessary. Get a more realistic idea of what it would cost to have them finish the project up to your expectations, and also ask what they could reasonably do with the remaining original project budget. If you think they are good enough at what they do to provide quality end results and honest enough to stick with the new bid, go ahead and stick it out. But if you’re worried about costs escalating again, it might be time to part ways. Ask for completed work, settle up any remaining payments or refunds, and find a new developer.
If these situations ring true to you, or if you’re stuck in one we didn’t cover, we’re happy to talk it through with you. Come in for a free consultation, and we can talk about your software needs and advise you on the next steps. We’ve been in the business for 16 years, and we’re happy to share our experiences and background. Just give us a call at 970-482-5790 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.