Our development team was working on a content management system for a corporate client. It was a big system that administered units produced in a variety of languages and applications and, as a result, required careful user interface design and a lot of backend code.
We were doing a show and tell with our partially working system for a couple of corporate VPs to get their feedback on the design. We took a lunch break, and when we got back, the two VPs said they had something they wanted to show us.
They proudly presented a series of PowerPoint slides that showed where they wanted the buttons and pick lists placed.
Client: There, see? This is the arrangement that makes the most sense to us. Can you do this?
Client: You know, I really don’t understand why it takes your team so long to design these interfaces. We knocked this out in about an hour.
The entire team sat stunned until the senior programmer—a man of very few words—pointed to a button on the PowerPoint screen.
PROGRAMMER: What does this button do?
Client: Well, clearly it administers the training and testing selected by the user.
PROGRAMMER: If I click it right now, it will do that?
Client: Well … no. Actually, it doesn’t do anything yet.
PROGRAMMER: That’s why it only took you an hour.
Once upon a time, we were designing one of the first websites to conduct online business transactions (almost 20 years ago - eons ago in the technology world), we threw together a demo that looked fantastic but was held up with fishing wire and scotch tape, and then somehow we were conned into making the entire system “work” and able to go live to support real customers in a super short amount of time.
I’m sure you’re shocked that it took well longer than the allotted time and a considerably larger amount of effort than the sales/marketing team had promised to the customer. But then, a lot of people seem to think that once you have a demo you must be almost done with the product, right?
After all, how much more complicated is putting together a functional application than putting some text into a powerpoint slide?