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Why the Web Industry Needs XP

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While web development is still having some growing pains, it may need to take some lessons from its parent, software development. Find out how XP can lend some help with project estimating, customer relationships, and release planning.
This chapter is from the book

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
—Oscar Wilde

Web development is an adolescent, unique in its requirements and unparalleled in its potential. Like most adolescents it wants to be accepted as an adult as it tries to pull away from its parents. If it is going to reach its full potential, it must take a few lessons from the more seasoned world of software development.

In the bad old days, the Web industry was experiencing growing pains in its progress toward maturity. Technologies were changing under our feet, and we still hadn't developed best practices for completing projects. It seemed as though too many customers were paying for the industry to learn how to do things right. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of unhappy customers, and it is always the unhappy ones who seem to talk. As a result Web development was developing a bad reputation. What were we doing wrong? Quite a few things, it appears:

  • We tried to be all things to all customers with insufficient expertise.

  • We often failed to deliver on time or on budget.

  • We tended to develop adversarial customer relationships.

  • Our projects didn't always meet customer expectations.

Trying to Be All Things to All Customers

Most Web firms evolved from a software or an advertising background, tacking on Web development as an additional service to customers. We have found that the industry is made of both strong technical shops that lack a solid understanding of branding and marketing issues, and strong design firms that are weak in technology and user interface. A 2000 Forrester Research report1 on e-commerce integrators mirrors our findings, even in the largest Web development companies. It graded 150 Web developers and found that in the categories of marketing, strategy, design, technology, and business practices not one scored higher than 70 percent across the board and most scored much lower.

Figure 1 Figure 1 Wearing too many hats, trying to be all things to all customers, leads to bad projects.

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