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How to approach a short-lived project

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Back in the early days of Imaginary, we were occasionally asked by clients to spin up a website or feature, "down-and-dirty."  The ad hoc site or project, they assures us, will have an exceptionally short shelf life. And, of course, it needs to be done quickly and with limited funds.  "So, can we fast-track this?  It's only going to be live for three months."

We're an accommodating bunch and the client is always right (right?), so sure, we can spin something up direct to live, without hardening a server, no maintenance needed.  And we did.  And it worked for three months, longer even.

Fast forward three years and the site is still up, despite our protestations.  Our original point of contact is long gone.  So is her manager.  In fact a new boss was just hired and is reviewing their portfolio.  Then they stumble upon the site and all hell breaks loose.

"Who is responsible for this steaming pile of a website," they ask. They might use different words that sound nicer, but this is the underlying sentiment. Which, by the way, we totally agree with.

"We are, but..." starts a monologue about how the site was supposed to only last three months, and we were specifically asked to do it this way by Betty ("Who's Betty?"), and we did it within an absurd budget, and it's amazing the site lasted this long, and...and...

However, all they heard was, "We are." And faster than the original site was supposed to last, we are issued our walking papers.   

We learned a lot from those early mistakes.  Principally, we learned to treat every project as though it will outlast the sun going nova.  Best practices are named that for a reason and there's a reason we follow them to a tee.  There are plenty of contractors on Upwork that would gladly build your one-off website without any of those pesky "best" things to get in the way.  And, like Betty, they too will be long gone before anyone notices the poor workmanship.

So, no matter the size or the projected lifespan, we now use the same proven process.  If we get pushback, which we do from time-to-time, we gladly make a referral.  Because, at the end of the day, week or three years, it's our workmanship and our reputation.  No longer can we be cajoled to sully those things for a down-and-dirty project.  

It's named down-and-dirty for a reason.


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