Hints And Tips
These hints & tips are a collection of things that have worked particularly well or badly in the past. There are many more great ideas to have, and mistakes to make, but here are some of the easiest to do (or not do).
Before work starts
Begin with the end in mind
It's one of the "seven habits for highly effective people", and it's worth the effort.
Before you contract me, make sure you know what the finished project will look like/do, and make sure you've told me, preferably in writing. Anything you assume or gloss over will turn out to be wrong, and expensive to put right!
Be careful what you say
Be very careful around words that might be technical terms. I'm a programmer, and I'm used to precisely defined functions and language constraints. If you're an artist or ideas-kind-of-person, you're probably not - and we may use the same word and mean completely separate things. You may be clearer if you fudge - if you use phrases such as 'looks like' and 'sort of thing'.
During the project
Fixed price means fixed spec
I agree a fixed-price project on the basis that the amount of work is fixed. When you phone me to add something else to the list, I feel like you would if I'd phoned out of the blue to add something to the bill!
It's not very professional.
If you must change the spec, change the price - it's in the Terms And Conditions and can be as simple as saying "and bill me for it at your hourly rate". Most changes are quick, and cheap, so why demand I do it for free?
Pay your invoices
Ideally, you should pay each invoice as you receive it - it means you won't forget to pay each one and it keeps me sweet, which may help if you do miss one (and we all do, sooner or later). I currently issue a statement at the end of every month - this is your second chance to 'get up to date'.
Check your statement
I currently issue a statement at the end of every month - this is your second chance to pay your bill, and your first chance to check you've received all my invoices and that I've received all your payments. Remember that it can take a week for money to travel from your account to mine, so a last-minute payment might not show until the next statement.
After the project
Judge the site against the spec
A fixed-price contract is a two-way street - I offer a fixed price and you offer a fixed scope of work. When you're checking that the site is finished, make sure you're checking against what we agreed at the beginning, not what you've thought of since then. If the spec said payment-by-Paypal, and the site does payment-by-Paypal, then the site's finished - even if you now want NoChex, SecPay, and WorldPay too.
Make notes, take screenshots
I've already checked the site before I've given it to you, so any bugs you've found come from something non-obvious you've done, or something non-obvious that's happened after I've changed something else (or I've made a typo and somehow not noticed!). If you can't teach me how to reproduce that bug, I can't fix it.
Check your site
I have bills to pay, so as soon as I finish working on your site, I'm off to work on someone else's. That means I'm going to lose focus on, and interest in, your site pretty quickly. You'll get best use of my 'after sales service' if you check your site ASAP. Set time aside to play with it thoroughly - press every button and tick every option (one at a time, all together, and in funny combinations), type in every box (or see what happens if you don't). Play, try the unexpected, and see if you can break it! Bug-fixing is covered by our fixed-price contract, if we've got one, but once you've okay'ed the site that contract is finished.
Have someone else check your site
You know your way round the site, and you know what it's supposed to achieve. Your new users won't, so get one of them (e.g. a friend or colleague who's not heard you talk all about it) to test your site for you.