Tag Archives: developer

More and More Features: 4 Tips to Avoid Scope Creep in your Web Development Project

web development tips

Keeping my thoughts on a straight line has always been a personal problem when it comes to writing. I once set out to write a simple piece on the latest album from American rock band Deerhunter before it evolves into a mammoth 3,000-word opinion piece on how gratifying it is to see proper representation of the disenfranchised in popular culture thanks to the likes of Adam Rippon and Crazy Rich Asians. I tend to write whatever comes into my mind and since my mind tends to jump from one train of thought to another even with the flimsiest of connections, trying to keep my writing contained to a single topic has always been a problem me.

This scope creep isn’t just a problem in writing; this is also an especially common issue in software and web development. You start off with a single goal but while in the process of working towards that goal, you keep finding new things that you think could improve the overall project and this is never going to end because there’s never going to be any shortage on things that you could improve. Left unchecked, scope creep could lead to wasted time and a ballooning of cost and/or resource spent in any kind of project, which is definitely something you’d want to avoid.

Contending with the price of ambition

For those of you who are familiar with the video game industry, the name Star Citizen, the poster child for scope (or feature) creep, should definitely ring a bell. Star Citizen is the brainchild of Chris Roberts, the man who was also responsible for the Wing Commander series of video games. In the current state of video game industry, video games matching the production quality of a blockbuster films are dime a dozen. The likes of Uncharted, God of War and Red Dead Redemption constantly pushes the bar on the quality of a video game and we have Wing Commander to thank for that.

Wing Commander was the first video game I’ve ever played that blew me away, with looks and sounds and a sheer attention to detail that I’ve never seen in a video game before and Star Citizen was meant to pick up that baton. Star Citizen was first announced in 2012 as the crowdfunding campaign for the video game began in Kickstarter, which was done to ensure creative freedom compared to Wing Commander which was made under the auspices of Electronic Arts (EA). The game was supposed to be released in 2014 but even now in 2019 and with over US$200 million pumped into the game; it’s still far from seeing the light of day thanks to scope creep and Chris Roberts’ ambitious and perfectionist nature.

Star Citizen employs a modular form of development so parts of the game are actually playable as I’m typing this but that’s like being able to sit in a car and play around with the controls without the ability to actually drive the car. The problem of scope creep has far-reaching implications and while Star Citizen and Chris Roberts is lucky to have passionate, and dare I say slightly delusional, fans in his team, most of us don’t have that kind of luxury. To help combat scope creep in your web development project, here are 4 things you could try.

Get a manager to directly oversees the project

Most creative and engineer types usually scoff at having a ‘suit’ (code for a business executive in a bureaucratic position that usually has little-to-no knowledge of what he’s managing) at the top but their presence can actually be necessary. Here’s a tidbit that you should find interesting. During the time when Chris Roberts was still working under EA, 4 Wing Commander games were released in a six-year timespan from 1990 to 1996 compared to the last seven years during which Star Citizen is still being worked on. Creative freedom can be a boon but even I know that sometimes, it’s important to have someone to say enough is enough.

The simplest way of avoiding scope creep is to not allow them to happen. By having a manager that directly oversees the project, any additional features would have to be cleared first and if the manager decides that those features are beyond the scope of the project and/or would take too long to implement, the manager could just say no. It’s important to have this manager to be someone that is unbiased however, which is why getting someone with a strictly management background might be preferable.

Have the scope of the project detailed in writing

Sometimes, it is possible that scope creep happens because clients keep asking for new things to be added to the project. In cases like these, it is important to hash out the details of the project before it starts so that later on, when the clients asks for things that aren’t covered, you could simply point to the contract and refuse to do them without a renegotiation of sorts. By asking for an extension of the deadline or additional compensation, the extent of the scope creep can at least be properly managed.

Consider using project management software

If you’re looking for a better way to keep track of how the project is going and how your team is doing, use project management software that are widely available online. This is especially useful in projects of a larger scale as the software can help you manage individual members of your team by dividing the project in several smaller tasks. By keeping the tasks smaller and more specific, scope creeps can be avoided as there would be less wiggle room with the project.

Use stretch goals

An alternative way would be to make scope creeps actually baked into the project itself. First, define the base requirement of the project but also add additional features that you or the client would like to have but isn’t actually necessary, which will be referred to as stretch goals, similar to the one in Kickstarter. This way, when your team managed to finish their part of the project way before the deadline, they can refer to these stretch goals instead of setting their own tasks and goals.

Don’t Push the Buzzer: The Real Example of Buzz Marketing, the Benefits and the Drawbacks

buzz marketing examples and tips

Maybe you have seen this a lot on social media, celebrities posting paid-promotion content or celebrities giving paid reviews on products, but do you know what this strategy is called? Yes, this is called buzz marketing strategy. Simply put, buzz marketing is a viral marketing strategy that leverages fresh and creative content, interactive events, and community influencers to generate word-of-mouth marketing and anticipation for the product or service the brand is about to launch. This is a very effective marketing strategy that although it may cost so much, but you can get ROI for that. However, as a person who works at a creative agency that provides SEO services, web design and web development services as well as social media services, I know for a fact buzz marketing strategy has both benefits and drawbacks. I’m not going to list all the benefits and the drawbacks one by one, but I’m going to depict the real-life good and bad examples of buzz marketing so you can get a better understanding of it. Keep reading to find out!

Bud Light x Game of Thrones

Who doesn’t know Game of Thrones? GoT smashed HBO’s record for the 17.4 million the moment the last season was released. Even those who never watch it acknowledge its popularity. I may not one of GoT’s fans, but I know that fact. However, most people have been waiting for GoT’s last season for 20 months, and no matter how famous GoT is, they still need a little bit of PR and marketing strategy. And so they went and collaborated with Bud Light. Two months before the final season of Game of Thrones, Bud Light aired one of their Bud Knight advertisements during Super Bowl 53. However, half way through the commercial, audience immediately realised that this wasn’t just another hilariously witty Bud Knight ad. It was actually an intensely dramatic Game of Thrones ad. Since almost every Game of Thrones fan recommends the show to all their friends, which generates a lot of word-of-mouth marketing, the series doesn’t really need any influencers to promote it. However, that’s not the interesting part. What caught my eyes is the fact that Bud Light is so eager to share one of their most-watched ads of the year with HBO and kill off the Bud Knight, one of their most popular mascots, to endorse Game of Thrones and this tells me how much the Beer company truly loves the show. Even someone who hasn’t watched the show like me is starting to consider watching it someday. Well, from this, we can tell that this is the example of successful buzz marketing. Now let’s get to…

The backfire of the Fyre Festival

Just like almost everything in the world that is not perfect, buzz marketing also has its drawbacks if you are not doing it the right way. Let me tell you in the example from the Fyre Festival incident. In 2017, entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule organised a music festival called Fyre Festival in the Bahamas. In order to generate as much buzz as possible for the event, they paid some of the most notable social media influencers, like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski, to fly down to the Bahamas, act in their promo video, and post the video to their Instagram profiles. The event even promoted festival’s stellar acts, luxury villas, and gourmet meals, and soon after, the festival sold over 4,000 tickets.

Unfortunately for the attendees, when the festival took place, everything didn’t go as planned. Simply put, everything didn’t go as promised. The event was a total disaster. It was poorly managed and disorganised that it was considered as a complete scam a.k.a Fyre Fraud. Instead of providing luxury villas and gourmet meals paid for thousand dollars by the attendees, McFarland and Ja Rule gave them tents and cheese sandwiches. What’s even worse; there was no cell phone service, portable toilets, or even running water at the festival, so basically people were left stranded there. When the truth about what happened in the Fyre Festival started spreading on social media, all of the festival’s acts cancelled. Shortly after Fyre Festival’s epic failure, its parent company, Fyre Media, shut down and Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison and forced to repay $26 million to his company’s investors. From this experience, we see that this is the real life failed buzz marketing strategy.

From the examples above, we can learn that buzz marketing can work as long as you are doing it properly. When applying this strategy, make sure you:

  • Prepare everything as detailed as possible
  • Do not announce something before it’s fully ready
  • Know that it’s better to take long to prepare until it’s perfect than to rush things
  • Make everyone involved get comfortable with the project
  • Consider a few things that may hinder the project
  • Know your budget
  • Have a plan B, C, D until F

No matter how effective a strategy is; if you are not well-prepared and well-educated, you might fail if you are not willing to take time to learn and make many plans. The examples above can be your source to learn how to manage your own buzz marketing strategy. Learn both the good and bad parts so that you understand better. Communication and plans are the most important elements when it comes to buzz marketing strategy; therefore, you have to be patient when you are doing this strategy for your own events too.

Build the (Digital) Wall: What Businesses Need to Know about Web Security

digital tips

I had a bit of a scare once when a colleague asked me via text why my Steam account is showing me as playing Arkham Knight when he could clearly see that I’m still working on my desk just a couple of meters where he was sitting. I remember panicking a little bit before I remembered that my brother wasn’t working that day and he texted me that he was fooling around with my computer a little bit. I already have a couple hundred games on my Steam account by then so the thought of that account being hacked completely freaked me out.

It is an unavoidable fact that we’re now relying on digital transactions more than ever and that our personal data and financial information are stored online in the server of an e-commerce platform. It is also an unavoidable fact that data breaches are now more common than ever and that cybersecurity issues have taken on a much greater importance in the world of web development in the past few years. Cybersecurity is a complex and highly technical issue but businesses are required to have a basic understanding on this issue given how reliant we are on the internet to conduct our business.

Web security, simplified

To be perfectly honest with you, an in-depth technical breakdown of cybersecurity would typically require a 4-year education and a college degree and even that wouldn’t nearly be enough given how much cybersecurity changes on a daily basis. As cybersecurity experts close one security loophole, a team of hackers would simply another and this goes on and on for perpetuity as new types of hardware and software are introduced to the market. It is quite simply, a never-ending rat race and the pendulum constantly swing between one side and the other.

The gory technical details of web security aren’t meant to be public consumption, owing to their complexity, but for businesses that regularly handles online transaction and traffic on customers’ data, it’s important to ensure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The concept of web security can broadly be divided into two distinct categories, the security of transmitted data and the security of stored data. In the following section, we’re going to take a brief look on these two categories.

Encryption of transmitted data

In the 2014 film The Imitation Game, a dramatization of Alan Turing’s work during World War II, the highly respected mathematician worked with a number of colleagues in decrypting the Enigma machine that was used by the Nazis for wartime communication. In layman’s terms, the Enigma machine works by like an extremely advanced Morse code that encrypts a message so that even if the message was intercepted, the interceptors would have no idea how to read the message without another Enigma and the cipher, the algorithm that was used to encrypt the message.

This practice of encryption is what is now commonly used to encrypt sensitive data across the internet, such as credit card information, address, phone number, etc. Unlike the analog Enigma machine however, we now use Transport Layer Security (TLS) or its more commonly-known predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). As with the Enigma machine, TLS works by encrypting certain information so that even if bad actors managed to listen in to your communication, they wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of what the communication is about.

Even if your website doesn’t deal with financial transaction, as long as your business collects users’ and visitors’ information, you’re probably going to need a TLS/SSL certificate. Blogs that requires visitors to create an account to comment for example would still require a TLS/SSL certificate since personal data are being sent. The good thing about TLS/SSL certificates is that they’re as simple as buying them, usually on a yearly basis, from the plethora of certificate providers from around the world. The cost varies from couple hundred dollars/year to thousands depending on the level of security so you’re bound to find something that suits you perfectly.

Security of stored data

In popular culture, there are two kinds of bank jobs we regularly see. The first kind is the one you can see in the opening of the 1995 classic Heat. In that film, a group of criminals led by Robert De Niro steals millions of dollars in bonds from an armored car in transit. The second one is more in line with our imagination of a bank heist, such as the one portrayed in the 2006 film Inside Man, a personal favorite of mine, where a team led by Clive Owen performed a very elaborate heist to steal the contents of a safe deposit box inside a bank vault.

As an analogy, the former involves the security of transmitted data while the latter involves the security of stored data. In the past few years, whenever there’s a story on data breaches you see online, that story usually concerns the latter. It doesn’t matter if you spend enough money securing the transmission of data if your webserver lacks the proper security that allows hackers to get inside your server and steal the data stored inside that server. This is why you should take proper precaution when looking for a webhost provider as they’ll be instrumental in ensuring the security of your server.

On your side, you also have to ensure that the CMS you use to access your website is properly secured and configured and that the password you’re using for your administrator account is strong enough. If you want to be extra cautious, there are CMS that provides user with the option of two-factor authentication, which requires the use of a limited-time code during the sign-in process for an extra layer of security. Data breaches are more common because there are multiple vulnerable angles than can be taken advantage of and that you can never be too cautious when it comes to data storage.