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Razorfish Sued For "Shoddy Web Site" 219

GusherJizmac writes "I know it's not totally on subject, but Razorfish is currently being sued over the website they did for IAM. IAM claims that "Razorfish breached the Agreement with by delivering wholly inadequate deliverables and services." Could this set a precendent for the quality required for custom built software?" I dunno, maybe it's because of the time I spent working at a web design place, but this just seems funny to me. Update by RM 5:32 p.m. EST: link and typo corrected
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Razorfish Sued for "Shoddy Website"

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  • for that crappy locked in "feature" (read: bug). Hit the back button fast enough you can get out though.

    --- Never hold a dustbuster and a cat at the same time ---

  • I guess CK Interactive [] is out of business then. Look at the S*** they did for ETS, Inc. [] and []

    I hate popups! And talk about loadtimes. You'd better have Cable or DSL to view one of their sites baby!

    Matthew Miller, []
  • I just took a look at the Razorfish homepage [] using Opera (with scripting and java enabled) and got a blank page. No error messages. No nothing.
  • This one pulls me both ways. On the one hand, people who put out seriously bad crap, don't meet the terms of their contract, cause serious harm to the client and don't make good that harm, should be sued and should lose. I even love the notion of contract provisions demanding that certain segments of the browsing public be able to use the site (AOL is a lot of eyeballs, Netscape is a lot of eyeballs, Linux is low percentage, but still millions of eyeballs). If these people really did abuse the client and then fail to make good, then sue the bastards. Web development is a business like any other (believe it or don't). On the other hand, this kind of suit (essentially a software contract) has, historically, a very low likelihood of success. Software suits just tend to lose as judges figure that, in a contract between businesses -sophisticated party to sophisticated party- the client should understand that software is different from cars. Too bad, really. Frivolous lawsuits suck, but so does lack of accountability.
  • I clicked on a link on the front page and got a new window. Then I clicked on another one. New window. I kept going. Four clicks, four new windows. Two of which had the menu, buttons and status bar removed. If I were IAM, I'd be pissed too. JohnnyB
  • Yahoo isn't *just* a search engine --- It's also a news, webmail, directory, map, and general-thing site.
  • Moderate this guy up! *This* is the kind of thing ACs are for!
  • Not to mention they got some of the CSS wrong.
  • Its all well and good for them to ask for a REFUND on the basis that the website designed for them does not FUNCTION as it was supposed to, but if they are SUING because they dont like how it LOOKS, then they're gonna need the dream team on this one...

    "I'm not gonna say anything inspirational, I'm just gonna fucking swear a lot"
  • In other words we will never be able to sue e.g. Microsoft for selling us a buggy OS, because their license has terms which specifically lift any responsibility from Microsoft if their product causes someone any problems.
    Also, you are paying for a finished product, not a service. It's the consumer's responsibility to do reasonable research into the product's suitability before laying down money for it. That's quite a bit different from paying someone a fixed sum of money with the expectation of receiving some defined (contractd) service at some point in the future.

  • Contract work is probably familiar territory for many O S developers, as is the idea of requirements; but many amateur hackers are not that well informed.

    I've been involved in some large projects where specification of requirements, deliverables, functionality and schedule are at least as significant to the project as the coding itself.

    If there was a mutually agreed-upon contract, and it stipulated certain requirements such as UI standards, performance, stability (MTBF for example), failsafes, and adherence to specified constraints - and if the delivered product does not live up to the contract - and the contractee loses bussiness, customers or any other resource as a result, than the contractor is liable. They have breached the contract.

    Imagine being a company with something to sell. You get some funding, and you take out start-up loans. You hire a bunch of coders to develop your online presence, and you advertise it's expected availability. Your business plan calls for the site to start generating revenue the day it goes live, and your product can support this plan. But, on openning day, your site is useless due to being poorly developed, and the bank is expecting you to start paying off that loan... What would YOU do to the contractor, if you are facing huge fines, and the site is a piece of junk?

    I certainly hope that this will set a precedent. This sort of accountability has always been there in mission-critical, safety-critical and heavy-financial systems. Now that B2B and eCommerce and all that other buzz is a major economic force, I certainly hope that the expectations placed on developers of such systems will rise to a 'professional' standard.

    At this point in time, a high-school drop-out with marginal VB skills can get a well paying job and end up costing a great deal of money while doing a great deal of damage. This needs to change.
  • by Pont ( 33956 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @01:55PM (#932216)
    Actual quote from the CEO of a company I used to work for ...

    "Enterprise software is sold 100% on how well the Powerpoint presentation looks. ...and *NEVER* mention that it's written in perl. If they ask what it's written in, just say, 'The next version will be written in Java.'"

    They also played nice little games like "Sales people are not allowed to say 'no' in response to 'Do you support X'" and "If they've given us a single penny, even if they bought a soda out of our vending machine while they were watching a demo, then they're a customer so we can use their icon on our website."
  • Then you guys are a bunch of hacks.

    In theory you are correct. My point is that what goes on in reality is often very different that what should be practiced in theory. You might find that "hacks" are people closer to you than you might think.

    For some reason you seem to think Design folks are artsy fartsy and don't care at all about methodolody. If you've ever dealt with serious graphic designers, you would know that that is bullshit. The problem is that "web" shops hire cut-rate programmers because anyone worth their salt is either doing back end work for web apps, programming commercial apps, or is just doing it for the fun.

  • This sounds reasonable to me. IAM is claiming that Razorfish failed to fulfill the terms of its contract with IAM. This is just like any other agreement - fail to deliver what was promised, and you are in breach of contract. Of course, I don't know whether Razorfish is actually guilty, but the suit itself is nothing out of the ordinary.

    There is one thing in the suit that bothers me, though. I work for a company that develops web sites (note: we do not compete with Razorfish), and so I can attest to how difficult it can be to get a client to sign off on a deliverable. This can be really bad for deadlines, because often you must stop development until the client has responded. If your project has deadlines, as most do, you have to get the client to respond, or they start complaining that you're missing deadlines, even though it's their fault. I think Razorfish is perfectly within its rights to demand (as long as it's in the contract) that their client signs off within a certain time, and five days (assuming they mean business days, this is a week) is certainly time enough to review most deliverables before signing off (or rejecting). Not to mention that IAM knew this requirement was in the contract when they signed it. As for the argument that there can be latent bugs that do not show up in that time, face it, there is no amount of time that would guarantee you would find all the latent bugs. Besides, the sign off is necessary more for terms of UI/design than functionality. Obviously, Razorfish should still be responsible for fixing any (hidden) bugs that turn up after sign-off.
  • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @02:00PM (#932219) Homepage
    I work for a competitor of Razorfish, so you're welcome to take this with a grain of salt. These comments are made in a personal capacity, not as part of my work, and do not have my employer's blessing.

    I looked at the code for the front page of the site, and I personally would never deliver such poor quality code to a client. I would be ashamed to put my name on it. At a quick glance, I saw errors in syntax, fundamental logic errors, and appallingly bad formatting of code. It doesn't work with browsers with Javascript turned off, it doesn't fail gracefully (it just dies without presenting a courteous message explaining the problem) and it doesn't work for a text-only browser (which means it could cause problems for the blind).

    I know from experience that it's perfectly possible to make a modern, interactive web page with attractive DHTML features and still have it be compatible with Lynx and usable with a screen reader and deliver polite error messages to users with incompatible browsers. It's not even difficult.

    If the site that I saw is the one they're suing over, I'm not surprised they're suing.

  • Is there a reason Rob's email is wrong in the link below, that is in the news post?

    Update by RM [mailto] ...or is that intentional?
  • The Arkansas Gazette is the source.
  • I checked out, and yes, it sucks bad. Browser bus errors. Scrolling implemented by broken Java applets that don't "require" a mouse click to start scrolling and lag 1-2 seconds behind on my 600Mhz machine. The differences between models and marines ("Marines think war is hell, models think war is hailing a cab" and worse). Also for models, cheap ways to stay in shape: (1) Walk. (2) Run around. ("the same as #1, but a little faster") Under the "how to..." button on the musicians page, a glossary of insider music terms such as "GRAMMY AWARDS" and "RADIO DJ". Javascript buttons that do nothing except change the content on not-currently-visible windows. Searching is only available with free registration, and the registration form is gratuitously rude.

    I highly recommend visiting this site; I laughed out loud several times at its utter awfulness.

  • That's very nice... did they sniff the browser to ensure that the code would only run on browsers it's compatible with, and provide an alternative for others?
  • K, so after skimming the article, IAM got a website dropped on their doorstep, late, which they say has major funtional problems. Man, I don't know... I'm curious about this. At what point did they realize the work that was delivered to them sucked? When it went up live?

    If that's the case, not sure if I really have any sympathy. When you set up something as important as your web presence, seems like you should be involved a little more early on in QC.

    According to the filing, Razorfish's contract requires the customer to accept or reject deliverables within five days

    Gotta read the fine print in those contracts _before_ you make a down-payment. This is BS. I would think if this thing is of any significant size, you would insist on a period of _weeks_ for acceptance test. Chalk this up to inexperience on the part of the customer, I guess?

  • As has been noted in postings above, this really isn't setting any sort of precedent. Many (I would think most) consulting companies have some sort of clause in the contract about how disputes will be settled and often explicitly mention mediation before lawsuits. At least that's the way most of the contracts are in the company I work for. Since you are apparently in the web design industry and are likely on some sort of contracted project, take a gander at the contract.

    The reason these clauses are in the contracts in the first place is to protect the consulting company from getting sued in case of a fallout (for whatever reason), a tacit acknowledgement that it can, has, and will happen. Obviously this is only the first step in covering all of the bases. Setting quantitative and measurable goals for deliverables and documenting the various decisions throughout the project can go a long way towards preventing the second problem that you raise (the client choosing the wrong direction, despite your recommendations to the contrary). As long as the discussions with the client of the trade-offs and risk implications of these key decisions are documented it won't be very likely the client will sue if they don't like the finished work. And even less likely they would win.
  • For what it's worth even having a client surf the web and give you examples of what they want isn't always that helpfull. We recently had a client who did just this and kept giving examples that just plain could not be appiled to his situation. He was selling home decorating goods and he was surfing only on-line flower delivery services.

    He liked the way many of the flower sites used flowers throughout the site as visual elements. And asked if we could do the same with his products. But when he saw it he realized what we tried to tell him at the start, his products just don't look as good displayed that way.

    Even worse was one client who requested a single page site to advertise his private medical practice, and wanted it to look like CNBC. Trying to explain that most of the design on CNBC is links to content and that he had no content to link to didn't help. We did come up with a design that was visually similar and just used his text in place of the links, but he still wanted the link boxes to have links....but didn't have any content he wanted links to or any sites he wanted links to. From what we could tell he just wanted links that didn't really go anywhere or do anything?!

    The bigger problem is clients who know what they want but don't know how to communicate what they want to the designer...and who want to fit square pegs into round holes and make them look like triangles while doing it.

    I still say if you hire an artist you should expect to get something similar to what that artist has done in the past. No one is going to hire a band to play at their wedding without any knowledge of what the band sounds like or what kind of music they play, yet companies are falling all over themselves to hire designers without ever having seen any examples of the designers work.

    Of course all this is way OT since frankly this sounds like razorfish did not meet the terms of their own contract. But may be slightly OT since a brief look at razorfishes own site convinced me that I woulden't hire them to do anything. Makes me wonder if IAM even looked at RF's site before hiring them or if they just went on a recomendation from a "friend".

  • "How'd you like the website that you designed dissected into its component quarks by a planetful of generally-grumpy computer pros?"

    Sounds like open source to me ...

  • Sometimes (not too often) it is necessary to create an image with just text if placement is crucial. The ability (a good one) for the user to change the base font size within their browser can make correct layout generation impossible in these cases.

    Then you'd be sued because some yahoo has his base font size set to "Largest" and he can't read it all in his browser.

    Now 100k may be excessive. Most text only images can be around 5-10k.

  • Uh.. Couldnt they have figured this out to begin with by just looking at theRazorFish [] site? I know some people like them, but those seventies color schemes just don't do it for me..

    (yeah, yeah, I know my site looks like a fast food reject.. Thats the point! don't you get it? Its Iron-o-riffic!(TM)..Whatever...)
  • ...of course only with adequate alt= tags to make it useable with lynx.

  • HTML is a file format. Why would robotics designers need to know it? Its not prgramming or anything. If I were a roboics comapny I'd want my engineers making robos not wasting expensive time fiddling with the company website.
  • I run my home connection through a proxy server, and I strip all of that information on the way out, so a great many site won't let me at their content AT ALL, because it says I have an insufficient browser (I'm running Netscape 4.73).

    So they guessed right, eh? ;)

  • If your front page gets a huge amount of hits that is disproportional to the number of hits pages below it are getting, the perception is that the front page is not compelling enough to get people to delve deeper. This wouldn't be a good thing for the developer.

  • The whole development period, including refinements, that is - I've been working there about five months.


  • How about "Americans against excessive redirects"? We could have the FBI filter out all websites that aren't satisfied with the "index.html" but have to send you to "home.html".

    I think I'm probably not the only one who protests and tries to double-click my way back to the previous page.


  • Ok, can anyone tell me why an Industrial Automation company was sought for their opinions on a Talent Agencies( [] ) website?

    am I the only confused one?

  • Anyone who puts in a redirector so that you can't get away from their page via the back button ought to be sued for every penny that they own!
  • I must smile with bemusement at the quote "Could this set a precedent for the quality required for custom built software?" Such quality measurements certainly exist for software engineers today. However, the project described here straddles the boundaries of engineering and creative. The HTML was probably first done by a designer, was it reviewed by a properly qualified engineer? What qualifies an engineer to review the code? Despite how easy it is to build a site, the more factors that are involved in any project, the higher the risk of failure (that something will be left out). Further, the web lacks, for the most part, a formal methodology and language; the likelihood that every member of the project will share a proper subset of the project's goals and procedures is virtually nil. Thus, a complicated site is unlikely to be easy to build; it's a hard project that needs smart and skilled individuals. Industry groups and standards organizations exist to deal with these common issues in every major industry on earth. What's my point? Web design is just a little behind other industries in the area of project definition, control and management and this article is a symptom. IAM was started by sales people who were in turn sold by sales people at Razorfish. It is obvious that no one from IAM defined project standards or properly monitored progress and equally obvious that Razorfish took advantage of that. IMHO, this looks like a frivolous suit to appease investors who are about to get news that they've lost lots of capital as IAM goes down.
  • I liked the cookie "hasyoubrowsagotskillz"...

    Shame I accepted all the cookies it sent and it still pointed all the links at a "sorry, you have cookies disabled" page. With links to help on enabling cookies for Internet Explorer, but not for any other browsers. Cretins.
    Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off Glaswegian.

  • we can figure out how to sue all of those horrible web sites out there.

    Let's start with this one []!

  • Look, dumbass: Because we live in a capitalist society, we are constantly "taking" the fruits of other people's labor without justly compensating them. Usually, it's something quite tangible, like the Nikes on one's feet that someone in Indonesia got paid basically nothing to make (under conditions that are killing that someone, so they're actually making negative money). In the case of music, we're stealing the ever-so-precious ideas of people who don't usually have a day job. The guilt is killing me.
  • i believe those were my exact thoughts, "This is shitty for a razorfish site, I'd sue them too"
  • Found some cases that make interesting reading.

    lawsuit over implementation []

    cross examination. Note how subjective it gets. []

    more lawsuits []

    btw, I didn't work for any of the companies mentioned in any of my posts, just in case there are lawyers reading this. My main point is re. the legal fine points that determine whether a work of software is "shoddy" or done according to "expectations". Anybody who has used any software can probably sense the gaping loopholes which can result from describing how software performs, what was expected, etc. It just takes skilled lawyers to determine this in legal terms. Geeks tend to think of technical details when they talk about expections and good results. Lawyers think of law. The former is irrelevant in lawsuits...
  • Browser dependency issues? Like this one?

    JavaScript Error: html,
    line 643:

    syntax error.

    if (swi === 1) clickon (1);

    What browser is that supposed to work on?

  • Oracle is cutting back on contracting and wants to be a scalable company.

    Consultants do not scale..

    Teach a customer to fish (over, using Oracle rods, and you have revenue for life.

  • by Open Source Guy ( 208887 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:35AM (#932246) Homepage
    It's [], not [].

    ( \

  • Whoa...I need to check your sarcasm filter, I guess. Are you suggesting that your three bullet points are not valid lawsuits? Now I'm the first to agree when you say there are too many frivious lawsuits in the world, so I'll dismiss your first example. If a mechanic does a shitty job, you don't sue, you go to a different mechanic.

    But, if I have my spleen removed because I was misdiagnosed and actually only needed a good foot massage to be cured, then I assure you that I'm gonna lay the wrath of Johnny Cochran on that worthless quack.

    Further, the building contractor that I just put myself in debt for to build my dream house is going to either fix those cracks or face my team of legal eagles.

    Or am I missing something? Anyway, it all comes down to the verbiage of the contract. I severely doubt that the web designers signed a contract that stated the client had to be happy with the work done. In my book, they get the mechanic treatment. Take your web design work to someone else.
  • That clients can't sue website's for constantly changing designs. Have you ever tried to link to something on the M$ site? It seems like they change the location of pages almost daily.
  • I don't want to start anything here, but, if the site goes down, to due to the /. effect, could VA not be charged with a DoS attack? I mean, they knowingly (the story has been up for hours), created a link, in an inflammatory story, that is causing this poor website to get it's ass kicked.
    A little more responsibility would be nice guys...

    "Don't try to confuse the issue with half truths and gorilla dust."
    Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman)
  • AOL actually exists in Europe too (Germany [] among others).. Which sounds kinda funny sonsidering the "A"... : ) .. It's just not that popular yet... (Thank God!)

    Thank you.
    "No se rinde el gallo rojo, sólo cuando ya está muerto."

  • Actually the liklihood of being successfully sued for malpractice is rather small in the US. While they would have you believe that malprac insurance is this huge onerous burden that spikes the cost of healthcare it is in fact roughly 7% of the avg. practictioners' revenue. Ans that does not include practitioners who are employees of HMOs and therefore pay no direct malprac insurance premium at all, unless it's imputed into their benefits deduction. And the liklihood of successfully suing at all is small to none since the first step of the process is peer review. Peers as in other doctors who aren't any more likely to rat out each other than cops. Then if you're lucky you get in front of a judge who will grant an immediate continuance pending a conference to pressure you into a settlement. If that doesn't work then you go to trial and watch you money fly out the window as the process grinds on for a few months or years.
  • Of course, a consumer that has purchased a mass-market software product could never hope to sue to software publisher for shoddiness (at least according to the sage authors of UCITA).

    End-User-License-Agreements governing the use of mass-market software usually contain this type of clause (this one is from MS's Internet Explorer):


    In other words, MS isn't responsible for any faults associated with IE -- you are. Specifically, MS (and software publishers that use similarly worded EULAS) is not responsible for:
    1. Ensuring that IE is not infected by viruses,
    2. Selling a product that corresponds to description (i.e. a web browser that really is a web browser),
    3. Selling a product that functions as it is supposed to (i.e. a web browser that really functions as a web browser),
    4. Ensuring that MS products are of sufficient quality and fit to be sold (covered by the all-important implied warranty of merchantability

    Also, notice that MS attempts to disclaim all Express Warranties. An express warranty is created when a vendor makes a factual assertion or promise about a product to a consumer. The express warranty guarantees that such assertions are reflected in the product. For instance, if a software publisher representative (at a trade show)stood on a table and proclaimed "My product can accomplish X!", an express warranty would be created that the product must be able to accomplish X.

    Corporations can sue other corporations over breach of implied/express warranties and shoddy workmanship. Consumers, on the other hand (esp. after the proliferation of industry-sponsored laws like UCITA) do not have the same luxury.

    ph33r UCITA.


  • by paulschreiber ( 113681 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @03:13PM (#932253) Homepage
    They aren't that l33t; let me reduce the code by 60%:

    function checkCookie () {
    writeCookie ('mstrChck', 'hasyobrowsagotskillz');
    return( readCookie ('mstrChck') == 'hasyobrowsagotskillz' );


  • Bagh.

    Everyone needs to realize that they have no need for a fancy schmancy graphical website. Give me some text that I can view on Lynx on my line printer and we're all set.

    Back in my day, websites were all text. GOPHER was high tech. Nobody ever sued nobody over some fancy useless website!

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:37AM (#932257) Homepage Journal
    I don't know the particulars of this case, I used to do work as a graphic artist. I remember customers demanding outrageous concessions as a condition of giving us the work. From people who walk in with a shoebox full of slides that needed scanning and expected to pick them back up in two hours to people who wanted custom 10 minute 3D animation sequences done(from concpetualization to final rendering) over a weekend.

    If Razorfish met the conditions of the contract, they should be able to counter sue. People need to know that content designers will give you WHAT YOU ASK FOR and not necessarily what you want.

  • by jonfromspace ( 179394 ) <> on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:38AM (#932259)
    You know, they may have a point... that is a pretty shitty website. Totally disorganized, and ugly gfx.

    I own a small Dev. hut, and if we pumped out shit like that, we would be out of business.
  • Why would such a company buy a site from a 3rd party anyway? It seems that all that that company does is operate that site. It's kind of like operating a search engine and buying all of the data from another search engine.

    If all that they do is operate that site, how do they expect to be competitive? How are they going to keep current, and add features, if they have not got the ability to do so in house?

    Another point, why would you enter into such an agreement. "Here kid, write me a website that I will operate and make money off of. I will pay you a one time flat rate for your services, and I will make all of the real money that is to be made from this site." Again, it doesn't make sense. If someone said, "I have a great idea for a site, want to write it for me but not get the money for it." The words "screw you, buddy," would probably be the first to come to my mind.

    They have no room to complain that the site is not everything that they expected. In software engineering, it is discussed that specifications need to be excellent in order to determine that the programmer's vision is the same as the client's vision. If you didn't specify something in these documents, and it isn't as you magically guessed that they would appear in the final product, you really don't have much room to complain. This is a good part of the process of software engineering, that's why we have "validation." Verification and Validation. Is it working right? and Is it doing the right thing?

    In short, if your only product is your web site, you should at least write the daggon web site.

  • This is a classic case of "Company contracts work, then gets upset/suprised when it's not as good as they hoped!" Gee, y'think companies are ever going to learn? This isn't just a website problem - it happens all the time.

    Personally, though, I rather like the website they have - uncluttered and to the point. What's wrong with it?

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:53AM (#932263)
    According to the filing, Razorfish's contract requires the customer to accept or reject deliverables within five days. IAM claims that this provision is "unconscionable," and that latent defects and late delivery prevented it from learning about all of the site's alleged problems within the five-day period.

    I'm not exactly sobbing into my beer because these bozos signed a contract containing provisions that they now have a problem with. Reading the contract (and I mean going through every bloody line) is essential in a business deal. I remember working for a company which was negotiating a deal with a client. We went back and forth with a contract, adding and deleting each time. We thought we were done and went to their city to sign it. They provided us with a cleaned-up 'final' copy and wanted it signed right then. We declined and took it back to our hotel room and went through it line by line, comparing it to our working copy. We discovered that the devious bastards had snuck in a provision for us to provide them free training. Moral: read the damned contract!
  • by exploder ( 196936 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:53AM (#932266) Homepage
    I think IAS ought to sue Hemos for causing their innocent-bystander website to be slashdotted.
  • Really this is only half a story without a copy of their contract on hand.

    Having said that, from my experience, disatisfaction with sites done by consulting companies is usually the result of one of the following:

    1. Poor specifications and too little direction from the project manager within the employing company. Which result in too many decisions being made on the part of the consulting company.
    2. Design by committee. Too much direction from too many members of the employing company, each trying to enact small, often insignificant changes to the site, driving up the effort level of developing the site.
    3. Poor costing on the part of the consulting company on a fixed rate project. The consulting company pulls out once it reaches a certain cost threshold *oops, we're not making as much money as we anticipated*.

    The only real question is did they meet the terms of their contract? If not, they should be given the opportunity to do so, or have their fees pro-rated.

    The site they put together looked pretty good to me, albeit, I had to turn javascript on in order to use it.

  • What makes this lawsuit different is the fact that the judgement aganist their website is a subjective one, instead of a solid, defined metric. When your car breaks, you know to blame the mechanic. When your family member gets awful sick, you can blame the doctor. When your wall cracks, you blame the contractor. When your new website or piece of software isn't what you had in mind, who is there to blame? No one but yourself. The programmer might have been completely happy with his work - overjoyed, in fact. How many artists do you see estatic about their work, except when you look at it you see smeared colors that aren't even complementary? If the software/website works, and you didn't take pains to define things beyond, then the programmer is not to blame.

    Read the article with this in mind - the only solid, grounded complaint I could discern was that it "couldn't be accessed" with AOL 4.0. Of course, by the time that "couldn't be accessed" makes it through a few levels of lawyers and executives it probably means that there was something as simple as a misdirected refresh, or perhaps one that's automatic on other platforms. The "buy-side tool" being "unusable"? Unusable is a completely subjective term. It might be something as simple as a UI paradigm difference between programmer and user. That happens all the time.

    This is not a new issue for programmers. Companies have long since had a problem digesting the usually vague and uncertain requirements of their customers. The solution these days seems to be formal requirements specifications - a huge, unwiedly document that details the layout of every page, and the behavior of every icon, button and widget that exists. If you're creating software, any other type of contract is too vague to be of use.

    Don't get me wrong, I think there should be more accountability in the software world. I'm a huge fan of a standard software engineer registry board - something similar to the other engineering disciplines. But the industry isn't quite ready for that just yet. Soon, though.
  • I'm not affiliated with Razorfish whatsoever, but I used to casually know one of the executives there, and I think your estimate of $40k-100k for the website is awfully low. It _is_ a crime how much some of these firms are charging, but the guy I knew at Razorfish led me to believe their average fee is closer to $1 million, and it's very hard to do much of anything with them for less than $400-600k. YMMV, though.
  • I believe this may be the first penis bird ever to be moderated up.

    I'd also like to say that the title of this article is misleading by using the word "shoddy". Since 85% of Slashdotters only read the title and then post immediately, many will comment, "How can you be sued just because your web page sucks?? Isn't that subjective??"

    In fact, this web design company offered to provide certain services and failed. It's probably a really simple breach-of-contract matter that happens all the time.
  • Since I work in the same industry, it's a scary precedent.

    Is this lawsuit over design principles, as in did they just not like the graphical design? Or is it because they feel Razorfish did a half-ass job and are they prepared to show demonstrations of negligence?

    I agree that the client should be able to complain when they feel they've gotten piss-poor service, however, being that I have to meet with clients and that nomatter how much I try to push them in the right direction, they often stick to the wrong direction. Who's fault is it then? Do we go "I told you so" and then have them sue us for not convincing them enough?

    While I think this could be a good lawsuit for our market (it'll make us fess-up), at the same time, there is a lot of consulting, subjective decision-making, and guesswork involved in bringing companies into the internet market.
  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @12:03PM (#932302) Homepage
    IAM's suit hinges on their position that five days to accept or regect deliverables, as specified in their agreement with Razorfish is 'unconscionable'. They go on to say that Razorfish missed nearly every deliverable deadline.

    I'll admit I know nothing about the internal workings of this particular engagement, but I do know four things:
    • You shouldn't sign an agreement with another company if you find unconscionable clauses in it.
    • Five days is plenty of time to find problems with a home page.
    • More often than not, delivery schedules slip because of client changes, or because they need an extraordinary amount of time to accept or regect comps and templates.
    • Clients often have a problem understanding that production work is held up intul a design approval comes through.

    I just wonder who they'll be able to get for their next site redesign when they sue their previous agency for standard practices.

    PS: An 'AOL 4.0 browser' is actually one of over 9 different browsers depending on platform, OS, and AOL whim.

    Kevin Fox
  • by Jason W ( 65940 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @11:00AM (#932310)
    Whoever designed must be an ultra l33t hax0r.

    function checkCookie () {
    var chek;
    writeCookie ('mstrChck', 'hasyobrowsagotskillz');
    chek = readCookie ('mstrChck');

    if (chek != 'hasyobrowsagotskillz') return false;
    else return true;

    Looks like someone would rather have been hacking.


  • This is the whole reason for the software analysis, design,implementation process. This just strengthens the fact that companies need to work hard of getting the requirements from the customers, keeping close contact with them and making sure you fully understand what it is they want. This process is meant to help the the software company to understand the ideas of the company and for the company to really clarify what it is they are looking for. This is the point you can tell them whether what they are asking for is feasible or not and what limitations they may be restricted to and for you mutually decided on features and come to a comprimise if their expectations are too high.

    This way you are conditioning them as to what they are going to get, if they don't like it after the requirements gathering then they will go somewhere else but if they stay then they will get what they are expecting. There's no garantee's but you will have a much better chance.

    I know some of the can be tedious but this is an example of what can happen if it's not done sufficiently,... there should be no suprises if it's done right.

    This said though, you are always going to get some customers that are just plain awkward and a pain in the butt, but at least you have something clear to fall back on.
  • by rlowe69 ( 74867 ) <ryanlowe_AThotmailDOTcom> on Friday July 14, 2000 @11:08AM (#932313) Homepage
    People need to know that content designers will give you WHAT YOU ASK FOR and not necessarily what you want.

    I think this is a very large problem: A lot of companies don't know what they want. Are they supposed to bring someone in (a liason, of sorts) so that the company's web site contractees don't fuck up? Maybe they should.

    Of course, as any company contracting out their web site should know, web sites aren't easy to make. Creativity has to be bought as an intangible asset. And sometimes one person's vision of good is another person's vision of shit.

    Of course, navigation is either good, bad or ugly(bad times 10). Same with a shopping cart system. These things are implemented so regularly, it's a wonder people still fuck them up.

    I think a good rule of thumb before going to a company to 'buy' a web site, is to SURF THE NET. Tell the designers: "I want this thing, but in blue" or "we want the whole site to be made of triangles". Restrict their creative movement, and you shall get what you want AND what you ask for.

  • From the article:

    The filing also alleges that " is informed that virtually every aspect of the site developed by Razorfish fails to meet's needs, or basic levels of workmanship in the (W)eb development industry."

    And later:

    Razorfish is known as one of the leading firms in the Web design industry. It has created pages and sites for AOL, NBC, Warner Music Group, PBS, Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Fox Kids.

    So this web design company, apparently well known with many satisfied clients, suddenly decided to suck for IAM? Now, I'm no expert, but except for the over-usage of pop-up windows, IAM didn't look all that bad. I would certainly think that their site meets "basic levels of workmanship in the (W)eb development industry."

    But then again, IANAL.

  • I believe part of the paperwork the client fills out to start the job should include the client's concise answer to "what is the site meant to accomplish" - and the client should be held to that throughout the product cycle. If the purpose of the site is to sell products, or talk about an issue, or advertise the client's existence, great. If the purpose of the site is to be a dotcom vanity plate, it should be clearly stated and I'll happily build it. If the entire purpose of the site is to look good on the CEO's 23-inch flat panel in the boardroom, state it. But never should a site enter development unless the customer has signed off on a clear sentence stating the purpose of the project; if the client doesn't know what they want, chances are they don't even know WHY they want it, they certainly don't need it, they will be slow to respond with materials (content, graphics, or answers to questions), and they will NEVER be happy with the result.
  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @12:09PM (#932321) Homepage
    I get a blank page. *ALL* of the content is inside an HTML comment.

    You can't even get to the *FIRST PAGE* unless your browser has full JavaScript support.

    That's pretty shoddy.

    The table inside the comment just makes it more obvious that it's shoddy work; no one gave any thought to the structure of the page.
  • Alright, I'm a bit late inta this one, but as I know a few people at RasorFish, USWeb/CKS, and the rest, lemme take a few stabs at providing background.

    1) COST. Someone said "they probably paid 50-100K for this." Er, last I checked USWeb/CKS's lowest billing rate is $300/hr (compare to $395/hr. for a junior partner at a local law firm such as HEWM). Looking over IAM and a RFP from USWeb, I'd guess that USWeb would have bid over $1 million on this site, and RazorFish probably put in $600-800K. (Assuming prices haven't changed in 6 months).

    2) DELIVERABLES. USWeb, according to reputation, bids high and gets the work done more or less within budget; RazorFish, and many others, tend to bid low to get the contract and then pile on additional costs as "unforseen" events arize. Usually this stuff is retainer work anyway...

    3) WHAT THEY COMPLAINING ABOUT??? The site is, really, pretty typical and average for what web design companies produce: nothing that 20 bright college kids couldn't do by looking at any firms' clients' pages and replicating... they asked for what a web design firm produces, they got what a web design firm produces. Caveat Emptor.

    4) THE WEB DESIGN INDUSTRY IS LUDICROUS. OK, I know USWeb the best, and they run an incredibly tight shop that... well, works (slowly but surely) by strict adherance to formulas, guidelines and regulations. (Don't even mention perl if you want to be hired by them!). But billing at $300/hr and up for this crap? The work because Marketing is Big, CKS is a Real Ad Firm, and their clients Don't Know A Fuck about what is going on.

    Should the law intervene? How? Should RazorFish be regulated -- or fools like IAM?
    (or: was PT Barnum right when he said "never call a man a fool -- take his money!")

    Lemme offer a counterpoint: Business Week recently offered up tidbits from the fiasco -- like the founders' weekly trips on the Concorde. Something about the Valley and Technology seems to inspire a total lack of financial oversight... and that money, after all, comes from somewhere...
  • I am constantly surprised at how willing people are to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on products that myself and a few others could probably build to suit in a week, and on conferences for information I've know for six months.

    My respect for a company is inversely proportional to the number of buzzwords it uses in its presentations and glossyware.
  • GodDAMN their page sucks, here's how it looks the way I browse, in Lynx:
    razorfish manages digital change

    In order to visit this site, you need to enable javascript.

    | || ||| || r a z o r f i s h, inc.

    Fat load of good that does me if I don't have access to or want to use Javascript...

    Oh wait, you mean like a page they made for somebody else? My god, people actually pay for this kind of crap?


    (Heh. Actually I interviewed with them and would have been perfectly happy to ignore the atrocity of their home site if it meant I could have lived in London for a few months, but it didn't work out and now I have no reason to stick up for their site. And that's too bad too, because they actually have some smart people working there. Not doing their own site apparently, but they are on the payroll... :)

  • They did do something that's been pissing me off more and more lately. They check what version of browser you're using, and THEY determine if you have the right browser for the job.

    I run my home connection through a proxy server, and I strip all of that information on the way out, so a great many site won't let me at their content AT ALL, because it says I have an insufficient browser (I'm running Netscape 4.73).

    It's simple, I just refuse to visit a site that does this...and does this (not that I'd visit anyways).

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @12:34PM (#932333)
    How'd you like the website that you designed dissected into its component quarks by a planetful of generally-grumpy computer pros? The thought sends chills down my spine.
  • You think *this* is bad? Company I worked for got a $100'000 deal wrapped up ($100'000US being just the tip of the iceberg). After the contract had been revised, re-revised and finally approved, the ownders son (read: Dumb Ass) went to sign it. They said "we made a couple of small changes". He signed.

    New changes -

    - Signing away rights to this new (read: revolutionary) system to them.
    - Signing a "we don't have to pay until we are happy" clause.
    - Signing away the rights to... you get the picture.

    The result? Months of work, unpaid. Numerous modifications, unpaid. Numerous workers, unpaid.

    The company is now well over the edge of bankrupcy.

    Moral : It's worth investing in legal advice, it's worth triple-checking, it's worth you EFFORT.


    * ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • Razorfish bills themselves out (and is generally accepted to be) one of the top web design firms in the world. Their portfolio is AMAZING.
    If the web site shown for this company is the one Razorfish built, then they SHOULD be sued.

    I mean, what are you supposed to do if the work you paid for is complete crap?
  • More things we should sue for:
    • Tacky Flash where Flash just isn't necesessary (read: damn near everywhere)
    • Blinking text
    • Backgrounds on which text must be 36pt. bold to be legible
    • "Mystery Meat Navigation," one of my favorites
    • peepul who kant spel gud, or p3op13 wh0 wr1+3 3nt1rely 1n 5cr1p+-k1ddi3z-3s3
    • Pages created by someone who doesn't seem to understand the concept of pages, and thus has 500k of text and images on one loooooong page

    *braces for incoming karma hit*
  • I would have to see the terms of the contract to be certain, but it looks like this is a case of a customer not knowing what he wants, and getting a confused mess as a result.

    If you have to put work on a contract on hold for five days while the customer decides if they like the product, that five days can seem awfully long. I just saw at least three posts that say "That certainly is a shitty site". If it's that obviously garbage, why did it take AIM more than five days to figure it out? The answer is that they probably had no clue what they wanted or needed, and this was reflected in the requirements that they submitted to Razorfish.

    Unlike medical or construction services, there is no clear cut "good" or "bad" for web design. There are a few serious faux pas', and some major no-no's, but nowhere in a web design is there a statement like "Rule 12: Don't make it ugly!". On the other hand, there could be a few minimum standards for usability. Things like "can you get to a full description of any product in four clicks or less?"

    The user interface on the maintenance software is another issue entirely. Having been required to do specs that describe a user interface right down to the usability of the selected colors I have to suggest that, again, if they didn't get what they wanted at the end then they didn't know what they wanted at the beginning. The only way to do business with people that want to squander your time with indecision is to make them pay for you time or stop doing business with them. Guess which one Razorfish picked...

    In the case listed in this article, you have to ask the question "does it do what the customer asked for in the contract." and "Could the contractor (Razorfish, in this case) logically have deduced the demands on the table from the requests on the contract". Another question that I would LOVE to toss into this is "how much interference did the customer present to providing the demanded capabilities."

    Mythological Beast
  • This is small time stuff. The Big 6 (I think it's big 5 now) consulting companies do this all the time, and don't pay a dime, because they have lawyers, not programmers, detailing the deal.

    Once in a while, big companies like IBM, Anderson consulting or Price waterhouse get sued, but generally, they don't. Also, the failure rate for large scale projects of the scale undertaken by the big 5 is something over 50%. Ask anyone who has worked (as a programmer, not a manager) on these custom turn-key contract projects, and they'll tell you that in most cases, these companies do a really slick job of presentations/slides/drawing rectangles and flow-charts and generally throwing around industry buzzwords. These are invariably targeted at the VP and above level, and technical details are considered an afterthought. In a project I worked on, the partner of the software firm (a big 6 company) who presented and finalized a 20 million $ software deal was a lawyer.

    Predicting whether the project was successfully done, and whether the company was held liable if it wasn't, is left as an exercise to the readers.

    PS - I'm sure this isn't a rarity. Please post your experiences in cases like this. It's generally pretty hilarious. :)
  • by pen ( 7191 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:39AM (#932350)
    In other news today, these absolutely ridiculous events happened:
    • A mechanic was sued for the poor job he did on a client's car.
    • A doctor was sued for the poor and unprofessional diagnosis he gave a patient.
    • A building contractor was sued over the fact that the walls in the house he built just six months ago started cracking.
    I don't really see any reason to sue here, but I do think that good work should be expected of web designers. Usually, where I work, the client is shown what is going on in the process, and things they don't like are changed, provided that their requests are reasonable.


  • by wishus ( 174405 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:40AM (#932354) Journal
    sounds like IAM is whining to me. If they were unhappy with the service, they should have said so during their "evaluation period" of five days. As far as razorfish submitting late work.. who knows? both sides probably share the blame. But IAM had five days - under the razorfish contract - to refuse the site, and they didn't.. they paid for it anyway, and later changed their minds.. so now their sueing..

    is it me, or does it seem like companies sue each other for the press these days..

  • Also, the failure rate for large scale projects of the scale undertaken by the big 5 is something over 50%. Ask anyone who has worked (as a programmer, not a manager) on these custom turn-key contract projects, and they'll tell you that in most cases, these companies do a really slick job of presentations/slides/drawing rectangles and flow-charts and generally throwing around industry buzzwords.

    Yup. I could see that. Oracle invaded with a dozen developers and fancy titles, burned through money for two years and left.

    With no product.

    I left before Oracle gave up - but I had fought tooth and nail against them only because there was a product in place that was working fine with FAR fewer bells and whistles that Oracle wanted to slap on. It was written in Foxpro/TeleMagic, and *did* need to be replaced, but really had rather simple requirements.

    Of course, it's not only the big guys that can screw the pooch hard on projects. The next guy in charge hired a VB developer to design the whole thing. The developer started coding, and then started popping up with questions like "what does this company do again?". That's when I knew IT there was screwed.

    Guess what? They are still using the FoxPro/TeleMagic app. And it's working... just okay.


  • Bravo, bravo, bravo!

    I'd like to suggest that everyone who is a web author, and certainly everyone who makes any claim to be a web designer, should read Steve McConnell's "Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules" and "Software Development Survival Guide." They are recognized as authorative, leading texts on Best Practices in software design.

    Web design is similar to software design, and you will learn how to do your work faster, better and with fewer mistakes. You will learn the importance of emphasizing up-front design (it's a minimum twenty times cheaper to catch your errors early than later) and how to control risks, client change demands and schedules.

    You can visit Steve's site [here] [], where you'll find some outtakes from his books, his columns on software development best practices, and other good stuff.

  • Let me tell you a story that happened to me and I'll let you judge again IAM's decision to sue:

    It was around July of last year. My company was embarking upon an ambitious project to revamp and dramatically extend our website. Being a pure Internet company, our website is our lifeblood. At the time I was away on other business, and did not take part in the RFPs and other negotiations, but suffice it to say that when I got back, we had hired a very large Web development company that is a direct competitor of Razorfish's, and about the same size.
    They assured us that they could deliver on time (by October) and within budget on the detailed requirements that we had provided them. I was skeptical, because in my view they weren't anywhere near technical enough. Anyway, I let it ride because I wasn't in charge of the project at the time.
    What did we get from them? NOTHING.
    Oh yes, we did get some stuff, mostly garbage and absolutely NO ACCEPTABLE DELIVERABLE whatsoever. By the time we fired them, we had ourselves created a site map, flow and UI designs. In fact, for the site map they took ours and reposted it as a deliverable without even removing the initials of our person who wrote it!
    They showed us a design for the home page one day. I asked how they'd actually code it. "What do you mean?" "Well, it's a cute Photoshop picture, now I want to see it in HTML." "No problem." "Trust me, your design is crap, there's no way you can turn that into usable HTML." "Our coders are good." "No way, the layout is impossible to turn into HTML, too many curves." etc..etc..
    They spent 2 weeks trying to make that one design work. I then spent 1 week debugging it and cleaning all the crap out to try to make it work, and it still would break under MacOS IE&NS, Linux NS,etc... Then we scrapped the whole thing, fired them, and got down to business. We had 2 weeks to go before the big launch (we were spending $10MM on marketing for it). We hired a few freelance people (ended up hiring one full time) and did the whole thing ourselves, and managed to release on time, with a few all-nighters in between. Had we not fired them at that time, we would have lost all of our marketing budget and certainly gone bankrupt by now.
    If a company that you entrust to create your consumer experience makes a mistake, you are dead.
    I wonder how much marketing money IAM lost on this fiasco. Remember, you pay TV and Radio Spots well in advance....
  • by waldoj ( 8229 ) <waldo&jaquith,org> on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:42AM (#932364) Homepage Journal
    If they have any sense, they'll have professional liability insurance. For a company of our size [], it's about $1.2K/year. Totally essential. For Razorfish, it'd be closer to $100K/year, I imagine. Still totally worth having, and it'll save their ass in this case.

    Note: IANAIA. (I Am Not An Insurance Agent)

  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @08:28PM (#932366)
    dear god, i'd be stunned if *any* company missed a deadline, but a SOFTWARE COMPANY!?!?!? Lord Jesus, say it ain't so!
  • by exploder ( 196936 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:42AM (#932368) Homepage
    According to the article, Razorfish did not meet several conditions of the contract:

    It alleges that some of those breaches include building a site that could not be accessed with version 4.0 of AOL's software, despite promising a site that could be so accessed; missing almost all delivery deadlines; and creating an interface for IAM's buy-side tool that was "unusable."

    If these allegations are true, then I'd say there definitely was a breach of contract and that has every right to sue.
  • Well, I don't have any intimate knowledge of RazorFish's business practices, but as a member of a design firm I'm going to contest a few things that I feel need to be challenged.
    1) COST. ...

    Granted. They probably did pay a lot. There are plenty of firms that would've done it for less, but I'd imagine they wanted a firm with a strong reputation. RF can charge high dollar prices because they feel their real-world expertise in dealing with other high profile clients (RazorFish doesn't even try for anything but high-profile well-funded companies) is worth more than UnknownFirm. This makes them feel "safe" even if UnknownFirm could've done better work/lower price/etc.

    2) DELIVERABLES. USWeb, according to reputation, bids high and gets the work done more or less within budget; RazorFish, and many others, tend to bid low to get the contract and then pile on additional costs as "unforseen" events arize. Usually this stuff is retainer work anyway...

    Huh? What does this have to do with deliverables? Anyway, my firm does none of these things. Our contracts cover finite projects and we do nothing "unforseen" (sic) as we prefer to remain honest. Design firms that don't will soon find that an easy buck now could cost them future projects. Don't condemn the entire industry on your (limited?) experience.

    3) WHAT THEY COMPLAINING ABOUT??? The site is, really, pretty typical and average for what web design companies produce: nothing that 20 bright college kids couldn't do by looking at any firms' clients' pages and replicating... they asked for what a web design firm produces, they got what a web design firm produces. Caveat Emptor.

    OK, first, the article makes "what they are complaining about" clear. You're basically saying absolutely nothing aside from implying that "20 bright college kids" could design on the same level as RazorFish. I challenge you to prove this. And...Caveat Emptor? Always. As with any product, you should do some comparison shopping.

    4) THE WEB DESIGN INDUSTRY IS LUDICROUS. OK, I know USWeb the best, and they run an incredibly tight shop that... well, works (slowly but surely) by strict adherance to formulas, guidelines and regulations. (Don't even mention perl if you want to be hired by them!). But billing at $300/hr and up for this crap? The work because Marketing is Big, CKS is a Real Ad Firm, and their clients Don't Know A Fuck about what is going on.

    For such a strong subject and equally strong itemized list, you sure have nothing to say. Are you rehashing the price thing again? Big marketing always brings big prices. Honestly, companies that want huge returns understand that they don't come cheaply. It's fun to say they don't know what's going on though, isn't it?

    I agree that there is certainly room for anyone (in any industry) to be paid too much for sub par work. Assuming the allegations are true, RazorFish won't get away without a tarnished reputation. There are other Fish in the sea. And they're even different colors and sizes. Maybe you should have a look for yourself before claiming to know "How Web Design Firms Work".

    And seriously, aside from the pricing practices of one firm (and unproven conjecture about a competing firm) you don't really explain how anything works. Defending sweeping generalizations is a bitch, isn't it?


  • Moderate this down as redundant if you want, but perhaps this should serve as a wake-up call to other shoddy designers of web sites that fail to function if Java is disabled or not supported, JavaScript is disabled or not supported, or certain plugins are disabled or not installed (I'm not saying don't use those them). Some people turn JavaScript off because too many web sites have taken advantage of it to do nasty annoying things (banner popups, disabling the exit button, etc.); others turn Java off because it slows down their computer; same with plugins; others turn cookies off due to privacy concerns; someday more people are going to turn just about everything off of their web browsers out of privacy concerns and things like that. Someday this could really mean a loss of audience. Maybe that's not why IAM is suing Razorfish, but I wouldn't be surprised that such lackadesical attitudes towards browser compatibility if it were the subject of lawsuits someday if not now.
  • I was about to take this article seriously and post a comment on how this case can be easily resolved. If a company hires another to write a piece of software, standard practice is to give them a requirements document containing specifications which range from must-haves to wish-list items. So unless the New Economy has discarded common business practices of the past several decades, this issue can be resolved by checking on the requirements document, unless of course it contains crap like "The website must be cool!!!".

    Unfortunately after reading the entire article twice I realized that this was simply another failed dot comm in it's death throes clutching at straws, rhetoric like " is informed that virtually every aspect of the site developed by Razorfish fails to meet's needs, or basic levels of workmanship in the (W)eb development industry." sounds exactly the kind of E-commerce/E-marketplace/New Economy newspeak that such entities are prone to use. Also

    From the article:
    IAM, which laid off 25 percent of its staff last month, is currently embroiled in a legal battle with four former employees that it says violated their contracts by trying to start a competing company and fraudulently dealing with IAM. The four in turn are suing IAM, alleging that IAM stole their business plan.
  • I've been in the web design industry for several years now and I've been on both sides of the wall - both as an employee of a web design shop and an employee of a company that hired a web design shop. The problem for web designers is that a) the technology is ever-changing so that if you start a project that lasts for more than 6 mos., chances are that by the time you are done there's a new version of somebody's browser out that doesn't work quite right with the site you were just about done with. b) clients don't understand that they can't just show up at the last minute and make changes to the requirements, or that requirements need to be set at the get-go. c) projects managers internal to the web design shop don't realize that a "small change" made half-way through implementation can have a huge effect on the project schedule. That said, I was recently laid off from a job I'd been at for a whole 2 months in large part because the design shop that had been contracted to build the initial e-commerce site dropped the ball, did practically no analysis/design, and produced a product with enough bugs in it to make microsoft prowd. If there had been formal requirements documents agreed upon before work began (I wasn't close to the management team there, so I don't know for sure) then I think that the company should have been sued. Several million down the tubes and nearly 200 jobs lost because some developers thought that they could get the job done quicker by skimping on the design phase (their internal design documents were litterally written on cocktail napkins). It's the same thing as if you were starting a company and hired a company to build you an office building, and then they were to build the house without any blueprints. Sure there's a house there, but how safe is it and how does it look? If it was your company wouldn't you sue?
  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher&gmail,com> on Friday July 14, 2000 @11:06AM (#932381) Homepage
    This should be a wakeup call for the hit and run web designer industry.

    I've got a client whose websites are all hacked up e-commerce packages. Its really funny trying to navigate some of their internal sites. Everything has a shopping basket, and after you perform each action you procede to the checkout stand. This includes a website for inventory management and some basic groupware functions. To sign up for a meeting, you place it in your basket and check out. To retrieve your group's weekly work plan, you place the request in your basket and proceed to the check out function. To submit a helpdesk trouble ticket for a network problem, into the basket. When I have to find the list of open problems I cover, I have to add them to my basket before I can view them.

    Despite a ton of complaints, most of the mangement think this is the only way the web can work. And the web developers skip out with a ton of money after a very short development cycle.

    There are thousands of horror stories out there, its about time a company struck back at an incompetent group of web monkeys. With some legal prosecution of a few bad apples, the market will shake out the worst and web site design will become a little more sane.

    the AC
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @11:21AM (#932385)
    How'd you like to be the webmaster at Here you're suddenly hammered by a horde of slashdotters showing up, and you're going "What the f...?" Then you go over to SlashDot and find out that your site has been incorrectly linked in a story about, but that everyone's saying, "yeah, that site really is a piece of feces. They oughta sue." Gotta ruin your day.
  • They are a fuckedcompany [].

    At least I have a new pick for this next week...
  • by Kagato ( 116051 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:42AM (#932389)
    Well, since you cannot log in wiht out paying $$$ I don't think anyone can really say if it meets specs or not.

    In my opinion I would never sign a contract to provide a web app that would work with any AOL browser. Maybe I'd have a page that would display to AOL users telling them to download IE or Netscape. But that's about it. It's not reasonable to specify neat multimedia and glitz that will view on, in my opinion, a substandard product.

    Given the fact that the site was designed for a company that consists of agents and marketing people, I wouldn't doubt that the look, feel and specs of the web site was a moving target.
    1. It alleges that some of those breaches include building a site that could not be accessed with version 4.0 of AOL's software

    I'm sorry is it me or does everyone hear the word 'feature' ringing in their skull?

  • by SetupWeasel ( 54062 ) on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:44AM (#932397) Homepage
    If it says in the contract that the website must work under AOL 4.0, then it must work under AOL 4.0 or they can sue. What if you paid for a house to be handicapped accessable and the didn't bother to put ramps for your wheelchair? You could sue that contractor as well.

    It may be a grey area over what's "accessable" or not, but there are tons of similar lawsuits. This is a non-issue.
  • Could this set a precendent for the quality required for custom built software?"

    Well, I work in the consulting biz, and its not like people haven't been sued for delivering, um, custom software of a questionable quality before. Usually (if you are smart), you have a set of criteria and metrics that your deliverable will have to meet in order for the contract to be considered fulfilled. Now, if you are just suing saying "my website sucks", that probably isn't specific enough to get anywhere. If you say "My contract required no pages load in more than 30 sec over a 28.8 modem on average...." you may have a case.
  • By an interesting coincidence, I replaced a FoxPro/Telemagic system with a totally custom web based system using Linux and mySQL. The portion that replaced their Telemagic system took about 1.5 weeks for the initial beta and an additional month of refinement.

    It would have cost at least $ 150k to have had an outside company do the exact same thing I did for about $40k (my salary over the whole development period).


  • by rlowe69 ( 74867 ) <ryanlowe_AThotmailDOTcom> on Friday July 14, 2000 @10:47AM (#932421) Homepage
    Maybe it's because Razorfish does big sites, but I wouldn't trust a web design company to make a site from scratch without checking in periodically.

    I think some of the fault here lies with Most companies like to see some sort of rough layout of a design before things proceed, especially on a big site. If didn't stipulate that in their contract, then they goofed.

    Of course, a web site is not a hamburger. Just because you have a site, doesn't mean that it is edible (ie. usable).

    Also keep in mind that probably paid 40-100k for this site. It's a crime how much web designers can charge for their (sometimes quite easy, comparatively) work. But Razorfish had a good rep. Now they don't. :)


  • You're looking at [], the site Slashdot errantly linked to, which admittedly is pretty bad. The graphics and layout on [], the site that Razorfish (mis-)designed, are a bit more sophisticated.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling