What were the results of the project?
The only part of the project I thought went well was working with his content person. We had a phone conversation, and then she wrote all the content. She did really well on the first draft, and I sent her back revisions to tailor it more to our tone we want wanted to portray to clients. She was very good, and I have nothing negative to say about her work. I thought she did a good job with the content.
On the SEO side, it was OK. There was very little communication. I initially talked to the SEO person, and he sent me some stuff to look at. I was made aware in the beginning that there would be about a 10-day timeframe when they wouldn't be available, so we rushed and got a bunch of stuff done in the beginning. When they came back to us, the SEO guy was no longer available. I couldn't communicate with him. He wasn't responding to my emails. They didn't ask for my input, they chose the keywords, and she just started writing content from that. We did have to review a few things there.
The project manager refused to send me the proposed meta-descriptions. I've done quite a few sites, I have several companies, and I've been working with SEO vendors for 15 years, so I have more than the average level of understanding in this area. On all of the other SEO projects, there's been a lot of communication, and I was always given the meta-descriptions to review and approve. That didn't happen this time. I think ESPRESSO Digital is better off working with people who have no idea what goes into a website or how it needs to be done, putting 100 percent faith in them and not questioning them.
Where it really started to fall apart was when we got the designing of the site itself. I realize everyone has their own methods of doing projects. I've never experienced this kind of method. Before they presented me with a design of any sort, they said, "You need to send us all your approved images, and that's what we're going to use." I can't send images if I have no idea of what the site is going to look like. I have no idea what images would go where, how many images. So, there was a bit of a battle with Gregor [Schmidt, managing partner of ESPRESSO Digital], the person I dealt with on that.
They didn't provide me any wireframes or any type of design mockups. They promised to produce a usable site the first go-around without working through wireframes. I personally think it's time wasted because we need to at least get an idea of the design. I also sent him a very detailed email with my design requirements, links to other websites, clearly stating things I liked and being very specific.
I got the first round of the design, and I had a conversation with him, and I said, "Did your design team even read my email? There's nothing in this design that even comes close to anything in the email I sent over as far as the look and feel of the site." He was very aggressive in saying, "Well, we don't do edits by phone. You need to put in written form." I said, "That's fine, but I'm not going to send you any edits because there's absolutely nothing in this entire site that I like."
One thing that was really strange is that I had no communication with anyone from the design team. I'm used to having a team phone call, where we would review things that I sent over that I liked. Then, he started having some personal issues, or he was off in a conference. He sent me the second round of edits. It took another week after the initial round.
One thing that was very frustrating is that they kind of piecemealed things together. He sent me an email and said, "Okay, these are the things we've done." So, I looked at those things and started making notes. I waited five days to speak with him about going through the revisions, then he said, "Oh, I only have 10 minutes to talk to you. I have other clients waiting for me, other engagements." So, he didn't make any plan to verbally review the changes I needed made. I think that's needed sometimes, so there's no misunderstanding and you don't waste time.
When I got back the revisions, they started changing things that I didn't even specify in my email. So, it took even longer. We were a month past the initial projected launch date. Every time we did revisions, they would change things that I hadn't even mentioned in my emails.
Right about that time is when they were using a theme, and customizing the theme. There was no mention of them using a theme, which is why I hired them in the first place. I understand that any customized site is very expensive, and if you start from scratch, you waste a lot of time doing programming and whatnot. However, he never mentioned that. In his contract, it says, "We're going to build you a 20-page custom WordPress site." When I brought it up, he goes, "Oh no, this is not custom. That would cost $25,000." I asked why it said it's a custom website, and he said, "Oh, we're customizing a theme for you." I said, "Well, then you should have shown me the theme, and told me you were going to customize it."
I wanted some specific information visually for the contact forms or estimate forms, for our footer. We got into a big battle as it was going to require custom programming to make the changes to the form that I was requesting, and to the footer, and he wasn't going to do it unless I paid him. So, we got into a battle on that.
Quite a few of the things that I specified in my email, like adding code for our Web-to-lead forms, he was very upset with me and said, "We don't support third party this and that." I said, "Look, this was in my site requirements, that I need you to install this jQuery web to lead form. It's super simple, and they even provide a WordPress-friendly code." He said, "If we do that, we're not going to provide you any support on the form if it doesn't work." I ended up just saying, "don't even bother, I'll deal with it."
They kept pushing WordPress Engine on us, and I didn't want it. I had a hosting service that has a lot of great stuff, and it's very personalized support. They said, "Send us the files, we'll install it, and they can go in and have the admin level access and tweak everything." Well, Gregor thought that was fine, but then when it came time to actually install the site, he absolutely threw a fit and said that, if I'm going to have my guys install it, they will not provide any support for the site once they turn over the files.
To boot, they used this updraft plus backup migrator thing, which seems like a great product, but they wanted to me to pay $30 so I could unzip the files that they were providing to me, which I thought was kind of silly. I asked, "Why do I have to pay you to give me my files in a certain way?" There was a big verbal battle on that with him. I asked, "Can't you give me some kind of access so that we can use your tool to unzip the files?" Apparently, it was related to their Amazon account, or something or other, and he was screaming at me, telling me that, for security reasons, they wouldn't do it.
So, I called my hosting company, and I said, "Look, I really need you guys to give FTP [file transfer protocol] access to them so they can install it and make sure the site is functioning." They agreed, we gave the FTP access to his team, and next thing I know I'm getting a text that says, "Your server has old Apache software on it, and if you don't go with WordPress Engine or upgrade your Apache, we cannot guarantee any functionality of the site, and the support will stop immediately once we give you the site files."
I asked my hosting company, and they said, "We don't even use Apache. We use NGINS. Apache isn't even on our server." I told Gregor that, and he insisted, and he would not turn the site files over to me or install them until I sent him an email that said I won't hold him accountable for the website files, and for the functionality of the site, or compatibility of any plug-ins because of the hold Apache stuff.
So, I sent him the email, they installed the site files, and that's pretty much the last I heard of them. They were supposed to give me 30 days of support to ensure the functionality of the site. The forms weren't working. They installed the old version of the footer initially. There was a popup from their demo site requesting a login and password, and I ended up having to pay my Web team, who handles WordPress as well, to remove that. I've already paid them 10 hours' worth of stuff to fix things that were wrong with the site, which is about $400.
They still didn't fix the issues I told them to fix. They were supposed to provide me two hours of training on how to use the site because I only know how to use Drupal, and I wanted training included in the contract, so that I knew how to administer content and do general things on the site. They didn't do that either. ESPRESSO Digital has not responded when I said I needed them to provide the support and training per our contract. I'm actually paying somebody about $400 to give us some training specifically on our WordPress site.
Do you have any statistics or metrics on the project?
No. I don't have stats because we just launched the site.