Lessons Learned From Building 200+ Websites

By Matt Adams on April 28th, 2018

Over the years our team has built on a lot of sites, over 200 for sure. We don’t have a hard count because our earliest sites are hard to find. Some, are you sitting,  were built with FLASH. It gives me chills to think we started off making band sites with flash and grungy fonts, but that’s what all the cool kids did. To date we manage 150+ sites on our servers alone, and many more are still alive and well on clients servers. But here is the thing, this post is NOT about how great that all is, but where thongs can be better. We learned so much along the way.

Consistency is key.

Every time we hire a new developer, use a freelancer because of timing or skills, or just otherwise grow as developers, you can tell. It’s almost like looking at a cross section of the grand canyon. There are clear layers with a change in material. We try to be consistent, but things change. When I look at some of the cross sections, the bands are many and tight. This shows that we had a bit of growing and chaos. These projects are the hardest to maintain long term. The code is good, but could be better. The tricky part is that this code is often pretty specific to that project. This leads to gaps in our teams institutional knowledge. Conversations like “who built this, and why? ” or “Talk to Matt, he built this and is the only one who knows why its that way”.

In the end, being consistent has lead to large spans of projects that are clear, predictable and many people on our team can edit without a ton of guessing. Yes the sites are always unique and specific, but the method to the code is clear and logical.

Planning for a successful project is always hard.

Not every site comes in with a crystal clear plan. Most don’t have much clarity at all. Our clients count on us to lead them in what they want and need. I feel like I could be the host of a home buying and remodeling show, where I have to guide that prospective buyer through all their needs, budgets, and what is actually important. All while planning for surprises and managing a rainbow of personalities along the way. So that makes me feel like a hero and a villain, often in the same conversation.

Planning for success can never be skipped, and applies to all levels of projects from a $5,000 site to a $25,000 site, the devil is in the details. The biggest thing we have learned across all those sites is that good questions, communication, and clear expectations are key ingredients to winning.

Cutting corners is simply delayed pain.

We work hard to make everything as it should be. We want our work to be built right the first time. But in our earlier years, we had to deal with gaps in our skillsets, or tighter budgets while still delivering the moon. Sometimes we would use a tool we didn’t know well, or just grab a plugin to do the job. And good enough was good enough.

I can say every time we did that, I paid for it. We paid for it with support down the road. As time went on that quick fix would unravel, and because we stand behind everything we do, we’d dive in to fix it and make it right. This cost us more time to fix and get right than doing it right the first time.

Great employees lead the way.

The first sites I built by hand. It was a dark time with flash, static HTML, and tables. It was rough. I got better, the work got better, but I can say massive turning points for our organization was the right people. People smarter than me, more organized then me, and people who cared just as much as I do. It’s because of these people on our staff we have made so many amazing sites over the years, and they continue to get better. I reviewed a site we have launching next week, and I can say WOW, it’s some of the best work we have ever done. The design is award worthy, and the development is so on point it’s perfect. Oh and the client loves it too, can’t forget that part.

I look back to the first few sites we built, and its night and day different. I wish all the sites in our massive list were as amazing as the latest and greatest. And they could be, but its also fair to remind ourselves that we are always growing. If you can’t look back at past work and clearly see we have grown, maybe you aren’t moving in the right direction. I can say for us, we are for sure moving in the right direction, more so then ever.