What do “Frozen”, “Beverly Hills Cop III” and your website have in common? Hell.

“Frozen” started life in 1943 as a biography of Hans Christian Anderson. Disney struggled and stopped until 2011, then stopped again for two years before filmmakers nailed a story loosely based on a fragment of the original concept.

This lengthy stop-and-go pace characterizes a state called development hell. It happens all the time in Hollywood. And it totally happens to websites.

How do you know if your site is in web development hell? It’s constantly rescheduled phone calls. It’s disappointment. It’s a series of unsatisfactory revisions and changes of heart. It’s making lots of progress one day, then scrapping all of it the next. But there is a way out.

Draw lines. Pass over some interesting opportunities. Don’t compromise, make agreements. Be honest. Maybe even find different talent. Everyone’s escape will look different.

But they all start with a sit-down meeting between you and your web developer.

Suggestions For Your Sit-Down

It’s never just the client who’s frustrated with the pace of development. Web designers and developers typically have strict schedules and project guides designed to balance their workload and cash flow. Slipping into hell is gonna disrupt that.

Schedule a one-hour meeting, in-person if possible, to plan your escape. Make sure there’s plenty of donuts and coffee.

This should be a meeting of the minds, but let your web designer set the agenda. They know best where the bottlenecks are. If you’ve been dying to ask “what’s taking so long?” don’t. You’ve effectively asked that by scheduling this meeting. Allow your web developer to answer by reviewing the project as a whole rather than asking them to isolate one issue.

Don’t take it personally when the bottleneck is you. Good websites are built with a content management systems (CMS) like WordPress designed to let non-programmers edit their own site. This allows web developers to manage your cost by depending on you to enter the text and images on your own. Have you done that? No? That’s what’s taking so long.

Even when you pay for copywriting services, some unique information about your business and industry can only come from you. Your writer can’t write quickly with quick responses.

While your designer leads the meeting (one of the services you pay them for), please feel free to interrupt. Ideally all your questions will be answered naturally in the course of the sit-down, but if there’s anything else, let it out. This is your time to get satisfaction, you’ve paid for it. Please don’t leave with unanswered questions.

As a web designer, I’m trusting you to be honest about your feelings. I won’t take it personally if there’s something wrong, but I can’t be responsible for it if you don’t tell me it’s an issue.

When talk of escape is all said and done, you’ll come out of that meeting with one of three results.

One outcome is a broken contract. It’s acceptable, even healthy, to agree that the relationship is over. Pay up or get a refund and make sure your web developer hands over access to everything you paid for. Of course, ending the project this way is never desirable. But try to agree and part on good terms.

You might also leave with an agreement to completely table the project for a while. That’s ok too. Many small business owners start a website project without understanding the true cost in effort and time. Or maybe you’re just too busy to participate in the process right now. Agree to put it on hold and schedule a phone call a month or two out to check-in.

Or, you could come away with a to-do list. This is the ideal outcome. Create specific tasks, with specific due dates. Everyone accepts responsibility for their part and completely understands who is doing what.

Tips For Finishing Your To-Do List

  • Keep it simple. No more than three specific things. Same for your web designer. Any more and you may need to craft a new agreement to pay for extra work.
  • Give each thing a deadline. Accepting a deadline indicates commitment.
  • Do your things today. When the meeting is over, go back to your office, home or Starbucks and get work done. If possible, your web designer should do the same. Agree to clear your schedule and make something great.

When we all work together, we all win together. I know it sounds like a cat poster, but it’s true. And it’s the only way to stop playing phone tag, losing money and living without your new web design.