I’ve talked before about those little things that prospective clients (and sometimes actual clients) do that should give you cause for concern. These are those things that should be red flags and make you reconsider taking them as a client, or not keeping them as a client. We recently took on a new client that had already burned through another Xojo developer before coming to us.
I’ll start off by saying that we have an entire stable of clients that came to us after they had tried out another developer. Roughly 75% of our long term clients have come to us this way. For some, the developer left the industry and recommend us to their client but for some the Xojo consultants had failed to deliver a working application even after quite a bit of time and money. The clients came to us and they’re happy that we have multiple developers and have a breadth of experience that is hard to find elsewhere. We’re also not going away anytime soon.
This client should have raised enough red flags for us to avoid from the start. But, honestly, that’s easy to say in retrospect. Sometimes you just won’t know until you work with them for weeks and sometimes months. Plus, it was a smallish project that was only a couple of weeks long. What could go wrong, right?
The clients first developer underbid us by a grand total of 10 hours but had significantly lower billing rate. A couple of months later the client parted ways due to lack of progress from the first developer and called us back. Red flag number one, in my opinion. Clients have every right to be price conscious but one warning sign is if they’re trying to get the project done ‘cheap’ and ‘quick’. While possible they also need to be flexible and this client was anything but.
The second issue with the client is that they kept using phrases “we want it exactly like this,” with ‘this’ being a VB6 application that looked like they coded it in 1995 and an HTML website that harkened back to the 90’s as well. Even if Xojo could create such an application (it can’t without significant work) I’m not sure I would simply because creating a 20 year old GUI isn’t something I strive for. We were going to create modern GUI (nothing crazy – just want Xojo gives us) with a database backend so the application could scale. But they demanded flat files and a UI that looked ‘exactly’ like their prototype (which was non-functional). Their reasoning? Because they understood it and ‘their generation’ understands that look. Hm…okay.
I guess my biggest issue with this client is they chose Xojo – not us. There was nothing in the project spec (a VB6 app, a simple HTML web site, and some phone meetings) that said it couldn’t be done in Xojo and when we heard ‘just like this’ we translated this to mean ‘as close to this in Xojo as possible’ and when we didn’t make it look like the 90’s website they were mad and cancelled the contract despite us redesigning the app twice in attempt to mollify them.
In retrospect, the client doesn’t really want a Xojo developer. They want an HTML and php developer that will do exactly what they want. No more. No less. The signs were there from the beginning – we just failed to see it.
In the long run it’s just another red flag example that I hope to learn from and I hope that you don’t have to go through either.