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Summary:

We prefer not to look back on the mistakes of the past, especially if they’re ours. It doesn’t matter where we are in our careers right now, but there’s bound to be at least one project that makes us cringe or feel embarrassed whenever we remember […]

We prefer not to look back on the mistakes of the past, especially if they’re ours. It doesn’t matter where we are in our careers right now, but there’s bound to be at least one project that makes us cringe or feel embarrassed whenever we remember it.

These are the projects that don’t go on our portfolios, are left unmentioned when someone asks us about the things we’ve done, and are almost forgotten. These are the below average projects, and you can even say that it’s your worst work.

But if it’s the worst, why even bother going back?

Evaluating your standards. If you can tell the difference between your worst, average, and best performances, this means you have standards. By identifying the projects that you’re not so proud of, you can evaluate your standards and set your own definition of quality.

Look at your worst projects and list five (5) to ten (10) reasons each of them qualified as your worst. It also helps to do the same with your best projects and list why you consider them your best.

Understanding your clients. Sometimes, you’re the only person who thinks of a specific project badly. You may define a project as your worst, but your client could’ve sent you a glowing response. Why was there a difference of opinion? Did your efforts improve the number of sales your client was making, although your final output wasn’t aesthetically pleasing?

It’s also possible that you define a project as your worst because a client says it is, even if you thought otherwise. Did you fail to understand your client’s needs? Or was there a misunderstanding about what was best for your client? I’ve found that some of my worst projects were defined as such because I wasn’t able to explain clearly what was best for the client, or I completely misunderstood what my client was really going after. In these cases, better communication could’ve improved the project.

Remembering the reasons behind it.
Apart from client communication, there are other factors affecting the quality of your projects. Identifying the situations that led to your worst projects can help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

  • Time constraints. Did you give yourself enough time to complete the project? Bad projects sometimes come from poor time management and personal organization. I know that my worst projects early in my career came from overbooking myself, not leaving enough time to complete each project well. If you had more time to complete your worst projects, do you think they would’ve turned out better? What deadline should you have set for yourself? Answering these questions can help you prevent squeezing a big project into a small time frame.
  • Lack of expertise. Was the project too advanced for your skills or knowhow at that time? If it was, what did you do to compensate? It doesn’t hurt to ask help from others or to admit that a project is beyond our skills at a certain time. Sometimes, it’s not even the lack of expertise per se that prevents a project’s success, but the lack of confidence on one’s expertise.
  • No interest. Did you lack passion for the project? What was your main motivation for completing it? It’s not unusual that the projects you’re least passionate about tend to be the ones you define as “worst”. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the outcome, but more to do with the work process.

Seeing how far you’ve come. When I’m looking at my past work, I can’t help but be glad because of how far I’ve come. The feeling is similar to looking at old photographs from my awkward growing-up stages – it may be embarrassing to think of where I was back then, but I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for my mistakes and shortcomings. It’s better to look at previous mistakes with nostalgia and wisdom rather than regret.

Like all web workers, I’ve had my share of low quality projects. Although we can’t just delete these projects from our past, we can learn from them so that we can perform better in the future.

What was your worst project? What did you learn from the experience?

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  1. My worst project was working for a friend of mine – she thought everything could be gotten for free or at a huge discount; and she felt I should drop other projects in order to work just with her.

    In the end, I learned a valuable lesson – don’t work for friends. It isn’t worth losing a friendship over.

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  8. My worst project was back in the days when I was developer. There was no Project Management whatsoever as the Project Manager was set aside by the functional manager. The requirements were not only vague, but sometimes you just know about them.

    I spent many months working on that project with a few other developers, and then I quite. Few months later the project was killed.

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