Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?
Its too early too tell if any results was attributable to the redesign. But we noticed that :
1. URLS of pages and posts morphed into structures that weren't SEO friendly.
2. We discovered that certain plugins were installed which lacked necessary licenses and we don't have a schedule of those plugins to see which ones we should buy a license for. We're discovering them as we go along.
3. Load speeds are impacted although we were assured that once we launched live, load speeds would be fast. That was obviously a lie.
4. Image containers for future posts also were not properly configured. We contacted CreateApe and were very patient in awaiting a response to no avail.
Once they get your final payment, they hightail it out of there like a con man that has just swindled everyone in town. We were even supposed to get an instructional video on using their backend. That never happened.
How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?
The workflow was not particularly effective. Normally on a project the project manager liaises with everyone. Here, Al F. participated on every call and Leon Dore, the freelance front end developer participated as well.
I don't recall that kind of structure used in previous projects as the project manager typically is able to handle all aspects while the rest of the team continues its work. We held regular meetings and had numerous follow-ups regarding the same issues over and over again.
Somewhere in the middle of the project, it became apparent that CreateApe really doesn't know how to run a project properly. They don't have a qualified project manager. In fact, their "project manager" has no previous project management experience.
While her background is in IT, she has not worked in that industry after completing her IT education. Her past work primarily includes "Virtual Assistant" and that is precisely what she was. A virtual assistant is NOT a project manager.
If the entire team needs to be on just about every call, its not project management; its distrust that the virtual assistant cannot really handle the project and that is exactly what happened.
What did you find most impressive about this company?
I was completely impressed with how Al F. was able to relieve me of my money. He has that down to an art! First of all, he comes off as very easy going and gives the impression that he's knowledgeable and experienced with a solid team and can stay on track to deliver.
Shortly after getting the first payment, he gives barely any input at all. He has learned to deflect and try to convince you that he can do no wrong and you were wrong in your communication, instruction, etc.
Are there any areas for improvement?
His design knowledge is behind the curve and at a 4th year level despite boasting 15 years of experience. I say 4th year because someone with 15 years of experience would not waste so much time coming up with a header.
The project management with this company is non-existent. Let's face it: its not a company. Its one person with a "fake it 'til you make it" swagger that gets a VA out of the Philippines and makes her a "project manager", then he gets a freelance front end developer cheap out of the Dominican Republic to handle with the development end.
If there's a problem, he gets his buddy involved and calls him the "CTO" THERE IS NO PROJECT MANAGEMENT WITH THIS COMPANY. This is worth repeating. If you sign up, do not expect any meaningful project management to occur as a one month delay will not faze the 'designer'
While we were patient with constant reminders of loose ends and other deficiencies with their project, their true colors began to show when they failed to adhere to best practices in deploying the design to our staging environment.
First off, they failed to do an audit to see what is necessary to efficiently deploy. The canned response I can expect from the owner is something along the lines of "I'm sorry you feel this way." They never examined transfer limits, resources necessary to deploy and did a transfer via FTP instead of SSH.
Something that was supposed to be deployed to our staging environment in the morning did not fully transfer until late in the evening. Done properly, it likely would have taken 30-45 minutes.
While the owner had no response to address this issue, he offered me his "personal" cell number which is easily ascertainable by doing a routine Google search. This leads me to believe it was disingenuous, just a google voice number similar to the way his Pacific Palisades address is none other than a UPS Store mailbox and it was none other than a tactic to calm us down during this grossly inefficient process.
Next, you would think that we're in the clear once the design is deployed to the staging environment because now all we need to do is deploy live. One problem: we're not a start-up WIX site. We're an established site with over 1000 user records, active blog posts, etc. In order for us to properly deploy, we would need their documentation to see what parts specifically need to be handled.
Upon requesting documentation, Al F. tried to convince us that documenting development changes is not routine -- I don't understand that. If we have a project, there's documentation involved. How does an entire project go totally undocumented?
In a scrum system (which they don't use), a ticket is created for each and every facet of the project and there's a log for everything. We were happy to pore over the documentation to see how to precisely deploy the changes without adversely affecting our clients. The documentation doesn't exist which leads me to conclude that... PROJECT MANAGEMENT IS NON-EXISTENT.
I brought that up with Mr. F. who was sorry I felt this way; quite condescending to convert my honest conclusion based on existing evidence was suddenly written off as an emotional reaction. Very well, that's his tactic.
After raising the issue, Al F. scheduled a last minute meeting with our team and his "CTO" who was never mentioned on his website and its the first I'm hearing that he has a CTO -- Fake it 'til you make it. OK.... On the call they apparently tried to convince us that Google Cloud is a custom server and usually we just overwrite everything. Problem is if you overwrite everything, you risk losing valuable user records. Data loss in general is practically guaranteed.
After toiling away, we internally came up with a solution and hopefully everything went through alright. So, what did we learn from the call? Overwrite everything and Google Cloud is some mysterious custom server that is something we need to handle internally. After we deployed, we also realized that not only was project management non-existent but... QA IS NON-EXISTENT