What can cause a web design project to go over budget or off schedule? This question is often asked of web firms. Similarly, client's ask, "What can we do to ensure success with our website project?"
Good news, bad news: this is not rocket science. In design, success is often subjective. Reigning in subjectivity is where we can realize economies, both in money and in time. To that end, the following recommendations apply to a majority of website projects, regardless of industry and irrespective of intentions.
Five Tips for a Smooth Website Project
Assign a Dedicated Project Manager - Assign a dedicated project manager, someone who will be the day-to-day contact for your web design agency, who is accountable for delivering the project, and for whom this project is a top priority. This may sound obvious, but not everybody does this and it is necessary for success.
- Select a Small Decision Team - Define a small web (approval) team (three or four people) within your organization, empowered to make timely and final decisions on behalf of your company. This doesn’t mean more people can’t see it; in fact, there will be people within your organization with good ideas or important standing who need to be "kept in the loop," to offer opinions and suggestions. But the team that is empowered to make decisions and communicate to the agency, must be small and nimble.
- Get C-Level Participation Early - At the beginning of the project, ask C-level leadership (or VP level for a larger company), to communicate internally that the website is a strategic initiative to be treated with the same care as a job for a customer, and that those assigned will be accountable for results, as with a customer job. And secure that same C-level participation when kicking off the project with your agency. This will ensure everyone shares the same clear goals.
- Build in Extra Time for Content Development - Copywriting is where a web process can be most easily derailed. While I recommend that you delegate content creation to the agency and assign them the responsibility of interviewing your appropriate team members, some clients, especially those in technical fields, prefer to write their own copy. In these situations, we suggest that those on your team designated as content providers, allocate 25% more time to the effort than they expect.
Although we will provide copywriting guidelines, writing for the web is very different from writing technical documents. Brevity and conciseness are harder to accomplish than long form text. We always provide helpful guidance, but carving out a reasonable chunk of time from an already busy day requires dedication, planning and corporate imperative.
- Have Your Market and Brand Strategies Fully Baked - Yes, I saved the best for last! From experience, many website projects also make apparent the need to first firm up brand and/or marketing strategies. We usually identify this need in the pitch phase, but sometimes if key executives have not been present, we determine later that there is no clearly articulated go-to-market strategy or coherent brand position and message.
While the website can be the catalyst to initiate those discussions, particularly during the information architecture process, creating a website without a clear market or brand strategy is a risky way to approach your website and will most likely extend the timeline and budget. If the market and brand strategies are unclear, we suggest a "pre-web" exercise to put a stake in the ground from which the web content, SEO and look and feel will be leveraged.
In our years of creating websites, clients that have adhered to these five steps have been successful time and again.
For more on this topic, read my previous post, 5 Steps for Saving $ on a Website Design Project.