At Forthea, we have a fully integrated web design and development department that works alongside our SEO and PPC coworkers to bring our clients the best websites possible. In my role as a web project manager, I strive to make the jobs of our designers and developers stress free. In a perfect world, we all strive to complete all our projects without a hitch, but lets face it – nothing is perfect – so my job is to try to achieve perfection through planning.
Planning is vital for any well run organizations and the day-to-day operational tasks that demand precision throughout multiple team members.
In my experience, many companies underestimate the complexities when creating a new website. In some cases, a company simply doesn’t make a plan for their website and disaster can strike. This calamity is understandble – you’re busy running a business, and don’t have the time or knowledge of what it takes to plan a website – and entirely avoidable. Don’t lose your online sales through a lack of planning. The first step is recognizing that planning the website is just as important as planning for anything else in a business.
The Value of Planning and Needs Assessment
I am constantly approached by potential clients who request estimates for a website build. Usually they have a general idea of what they want or examples of websites they like. Others, especially larger organizations, will submit a request for proposal (RFP). However, in most cases, there’s not enough information for a designer or develper to accurately provide a proposal. If a potential client just wants a rough estimate, I can usually provide this, but much more information is needed in order to provide an exact quote.
The more information I have at the beginning of a project, the better we can serve our clients. Ideally, a prospective clients provide a time for thorough needs assessment before requesting a proposal. While it’s hard to see the efficiencies gained by up-front assessment, ten hours spent on a needs assessment can save 30 hours of development time. Discovering an unexpected requirement of a client halfway through a project is a recipe for headaches, extended development time, cost overruns, and missed deadlines. As you’ll read below, failing to recognize and pay for proper planning creates big problems.
Common Results of Failing to Plan
- The designer or developer is forced to make assumptions, which may or may not be correct, about how certain content will appear on the website.
- The amount of back-and-forth communication about insignificant matters can be multiplied many times over.
- Backtracking causes delays and missed deadlines.
- Work that falls outside the original scope of the project creates cost overages.
- Confusion and client dissatisfaction are byproducts of a shoot-from-the-hip process.
Plan Who’s Doing What
Every website project is a little different, but usually the typical roles needed include the following: stakeholders, project manager, web designer, web developer, and a copywriter.
Keep in mind that one person can play multiple roles in a web project, but each of these roles bring vital skills necessary for completing a project. If possible, a site that’s design-by-committee. Having a group committee to help brainstorm ideas for a new website can be helpful, but having multiple people emailing a list of 25 ideas can turn into a confused mess for all parties involved. Groups of people can naturally come up with more ideas and build on each others’ ideas, but it is much more efficient to narrow a large list of committee-generated ideas down to the few best ideas. When there is noone to make the final decision and take charge of the group, things can get out of hand. It is much more efficient and effective to work with one vision that has one master approver instead of many.
Begin organizing content well before you are ready for content. I cannot stress this enough!!
Website content is crucial to a successfully planned website build, but collecting content can be the most laborious part of building a new website. Even if the content already exists on a current site, it most likely needs to be reorganized and updated. A great tool offered to help keep content generation organized is Jumpchart. Organizing the site architecture is an often overlooked component to a successful site, but users have to be able to find what they’re looking for or you’re doing a lot of work for nothing.
Making sure that all parties involved can see the current state of the content is very important. Everyone should know the status at all times, so that the process keeps moving forward. It is important to closely monitor content generation to make sure that nothing is being overlooked. One thing that can commonly forgotten is that content is not just text, but also images, documents, and all the collateral that supports the material. All images and documents should be collected and organized alongside the textual content so that you aren’t scrambling to organize them at the last minute. The bottom line is that the content will always take longer than anyone thinks it will. Get started on it as soon as you possibly can.
Execute the Plan
Again, planning for a website at the beginning of stage one will save everyone involved so much time, energy, and money in the long run. By agreeing to the specific terms and conditions upfront and making sure everyone is accountable for along the way, you will really have a positive outcome on the overall website project. Inevitably there will be road blocks along the way, but with a well-structured plan it is much easier to bounce back in place and continue plugging away.
If you’re thinking about undergoing a redesign, reach out to us and we’ll work with you to create something beautiful.