Design Versus Development: The Suck Factor.

design vs. development

When I was young, not only did I have to walk 6 miles backwards in the snow to school, but I learned a valuable lesson that things simply look better on TV and that the end product doesn’t always come out the way you envisoned it.

I had asked Santa for the Six Million Dollar Man, Misson Control Center.  It looked so cool on TV.  True to his word, Santa delivered.  But when I opened the box and set everything up, it looked nothing at all like it did on TV.  My dad had to build a contraption with coat hangers just to get the dome to stay upright.  He had to build a custom wireframe to help support it.

Flash forward…2013…things still look better on TV, wireframes are no longer made from coat hangers and there’s still a divide between how things should look vs. how things are developed.  Enter the suck factor.

A client comes to you with some amazing visual concepts, they spent a lot of money on a designer to create something really unique… awesome.  The problem is, the designer didn’t consider the development aspect.  So now the client with their great design becomes confused when you tell them that the design might have to change a little bit to accommodate development.

The designer isn’t going to say anything. They, and rightfully so, want to get paid.  They don’t want to confuse the situation by telling the client about possible issues they may face with developing what they have just designed.

Developers know all too well about these issues, but they’re not the best at communicating with clients.  So, it typically falls on the shoulders of the project manager.

The project manager is now tasked with telling the client that their awesome design just can’t be developed the way they want it.  Enter the suck factor.

But you’ve already taken on the client, the check has been cashed, and you’re doing whatever you can to convince your developer to “try harder”. This typically means you have to pay them more money.  So what started out as a nice profit for you is slowly being sucked away because the client’s designer never took development into consideration.  Or they did, but they just didn’t care because they just cashed their check too.

So for the next project that comes in, make sure you either A) get your team to do both design and development B) if they already have the design, make sure you let the client up front the challenges that may lay ahead.  Because nothing is worse than over selling and under delivering.  I’m looking at you Steve Austin!

article: Design versus development and the challenges faced by project managers.