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shiny object syndrome

One issue that has gotten progressively worse throughout my years in this business are the amount of business owners that suffer from “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

This can be defined as an idea that captures your imagination in such a way that it distracts you from the bigger picture, sending your business and projects on a tangent, ultimately keeping you distracted from the larger goal(s).

I’ll frequently receive an email or phone call from a client, at varying points of a project, where something new has caught their eye. The client has found (insert new website/application/etc) somewhere and their website has to look the same. Or, they see something on their website that hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, and it now needs to be a top priority to fix that and push out the changes.

Two things happen that generally take away the client’s excitement:

  1. Their deadline just got pushed back another two weeks or more. It’s similar to building a house: If halfway through building a house you decide you want the living room and the kitchen to switch places, it can’t exactly be done in a weekend.
  2. The proposal will now likely go outside of the original scope and agreement, which means that we’ll need to get paid more (and the client gets an unexpected bill) to make the changes.

In the past, I didn’t push back at all on these kinds of changes.

I would happily make them, grateful for the extra work.

I now realize that these spontaneous changes bring about several problems.

First off, no one likes a delayed project. When we sit down and estimate 6 – 8 months, and then we have 6 – 8 months’ worth of delayed changes, we’re a year down the road when suddenly it’s realized that the application hasn’t gone live yet.

Worse, the client gets so distracted with other projects that they delay the web design or marketing project while they’re off chasing the latest and greatest shiny object that’s captured their attention. Then they restart the project several months later, but it’s hard to shake that initial deadline.

So how do you “shake” Shiny Object Syndrome? Ask yourself each time:

  1. Will this delay the main project? The most important part of any web development project (including web design) is getting it live and in front of active users as fast as possible. Version 1.0 rarely lasts long, and delaying the launch of version 1.0 is only going to hurt the project in the long run.
  2. Do my customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it? 90% of the last minute changes and revisions I’ve been given have been driven (100%) by the customer’s ego.
  3. Do I have too many other open projects (restricting your contracts, opening a new location, renovating an existing location) to add this one to my plate as well?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding more features, building a better mousetrap, and growing your business. The issues come about when you let Shiny Object Syndrome distract you from fully committing to a given project.