What happens when the self-service digital ethos in which we are living is applied to a website design and development process?
Before answering the question, a brief look at the digital landscape. Websites have been around for a long time, 17 years to be specific, which also corresponds to when we started doing them.
Fast forward to 2012, everyone knows that creating a website these days is a highly automated process and that you can throw a fairly decent one together, pretty fast and cheap, right?
Some would answer, “sure,” yet my experience indicates that while creating the “good enough site”— by cutting corners or taking a template approach — is attractive on a pure economics level, it carries some risks.
I’ll put these risks in the context that anyone considering RainCastle, while looking for the best value, is also expecting some combination of creativity, technical expertise and client service to be delivered within a specific time frame.
The areas in which we’ve seen a few clients economize are:
- Content creation – generally copywriting and in a few cases providing an image library
- Content integration – the implementation of content into the various template styles we’ve designed
- QA – the detailed site review prior to site launch
Clients and Content Creation
While having a client share in some or all of these responsibilities does in fact reduce budget, we have found that no amount of detailed coaching on our part can add hours to a client’s day that will enable them to do the job for which they are being paid, such as vice president or director of marketing, and be the website copywriter who will deliver concise, search engine optimized copy in a pre-defined schedule.
What we find is that our clients, like ourselves, are doing more for less and in less time, and when their clients need them, it is not a moment of truth deciding which gets put on the back burner: the client or the website.
While we discuss the potential for this during the project kickoff, I see the pressure this responsibility places on our clients and have seen project schedules elongate, sometimes dramatically. This brings up additional issues of continuity and change management, which over time defeat the budget attenuating process. And this does not address the other issue of the real difference between being a decent writer and being a good writer for the web.
Virtually all websites we create are built on a content management system, which enables clients to edit their sites in the future. WordPress is an example of a popular CMS we often use. The common practice in website creation is to deliver a website and follow up by training the client how to do basic maintenance.
Recently, there have been a couple of instances of clients taking on the content integration of the website, essentially learning on the job, before the site has been launched. While content integration is not technical in the way of programming, it requires a meticulous attention to detail and a comfort-level with things digital.
Again, without being able to devote large chunks of time over several weeks, or not yet having gained the necessary facility with the CMS, or simply not being detail-oriented, the project schedule may suffer and we may need to do some quantity of “cleanup” work, both of which can negate to some degree the budget attenuation process.
There are two parts to the QA process: reviewing site content and functionality with a fine-toothed comb and testing the site against current browsers.
We will always do the latter and we’ve had one experience with a client doing the former. The twin dangers of economizing by reducing our role in this area are that the client may miss important details we are trained to find and that the client will take this opportunity to qualitatively review content again, a job that must be completed before we begin programming. The result of rethinking content after programming is expensive rework, again defeating the budget attenuation process.
These are times when every dollar spent must demonstrate value and we support that. It is also a time when time can be even shorter than dollars, which is why great client service, attention to detail and a battle-tested process enable us to provide the support our clients need and minimize the extra costs they don’t expect to pay. Every relationship is collaborative, and we’ve had great successes sharing responsibilities, but it must be approached intelligently and with reasonable expectations.