Paying more does not mean better quality

Part of my freelancing work is under a White label agreement with a UK-based agency. I'm their go-to developer when there is a need for development, scopes or client liaising.

After recently finalising a development project for one of their clients we had a quick meeting with another department head responsible for their website. The lady had recently come into the position with a major project already signed off by their predecessor and wanted my opinion on what the developers had provided so far.

The project has been taking months and it was a straightforward Wordpress-based website, albeit a multi-site but that's nothing major.

What I found I still find hard to comprehend - it was the worst piece of work I have ever seen in my life. I know a new developer is likely not to like certain things another developer has done as everyone has their own ways of doing things but I'll list a few things:

  • WordPress based but all the images are in a separate folder so cannot be changed by the users

  • I would estimate about 5% of the content is editable, the rest is in include files inaccessible to the users

  • PHP code that won't run unless PHP is reverted to PHP 7 and all error reporting is turned off due to (amongst other things) string variables used without quotes confusing PHP into thinking they are constants

I then learned that the costs involved (and paid upfront I should add) were in the high five figures to the low six figures (USD).

Crazy. I still cannot comprehend how they could think that the end-result is worthy of both the time and costs involved. I wouldn't couldn't contemplate charging what they have charged for something so bad. Even if it was a well-built product, I'd still not want to charge even half what they have charged - it's so obviously a cash grab.

Down the Rabbit hole...

During my investigation into the project, I worked out that the "very large US agency" the work has been given to had farmed the work out to a small Indian company which in turn had given it to some of their recently joined junior interns. I have no issues with working with Indian companies or anyone, anywhere else in the world, but to give this sort of project to an intern is incomprehensible.

It's OK, we'll fix it.

So armed with all this information, the agency stated that they have spent far too much money on it already and my client would have to spend not far off the same amount of money again to "fix it".

What?! So they can either go down the same route again (and pay again) or start again with another party and get it done properly.

So I now have the job of re-scoping the project to build something that will be fit for purpose - I can tell you something straight away before finalising the scope. It's not going to cost them anywhere near what they have been charged.

So what have we learned?

Even if a business has a big name, is well known or is the go-to place for the service you need - never pay upfront! Speak to their customers and get an idea of how they work.

Make sure you have direct contact with those individuals responsible for working on the project. The more middle managers, the more costs involved, and the more likely the message will be diluted requiring more and more changes.

Get a scope made before any work is started so you know what you will be getting and they know what they need to do. This is your checklist which you can use to make sure things have been done to your satisfaction.

Back to it...