Most web design projects either go over time or over budget, or both. Whilst this doesn't mean the project is a disaster, it certainly leaves you with a bad feeling about the project.
It's common for web design projects to be quoted and started without completing a detailed strategy and planning stage. A web design project is far more likely to turn into a disaster when these stages are missed. What else can contribute to a disastrous web design project? Read on...
Start with a thorough assessment of your existing website
Take the opportunity to thoroughly analyse the performance of your existing website before you tear it up to replace it with a new one.
Take a close look at the sources of all your visitors. Where are your website visitors coming from and what's driving most of your visitors.
Determine where your website visitors and leads engaging and where they're dropping out.
In particular, determine exactly what your current website is contributing to your business. How many of customers are produced each month which originate from your website. Record statistics for the visitor to lead conversion rate and the lead to customer conversion rate. These can be used as a benchmark for your new website.
This is part of the strategy stage of a website development project, but I thought it was worth separating out for this article.
Develop a well defined strategy
Without a well defined strategy it's next to impossible to produce a plan with enough detail to enable all stakeholders to know exactly what's going to be built and what it will achieve for the business.
A website development strategy will include at least:
- Determine the performance goals for the website
- Develop detailed persona profiles of your key website visitors
- Quantitative Research—Website & Analytics Audit
- Qualitative Research—User Research
- Put all the above together with some fundamental assumptions
- Global & Page Strategy
Only after this work is done will you have a deep understanding of what's involved in your website redesign and what it will achieve for your business.
Use your strategy to create a detailed development plan
Only once you've defined your website development strategy, can a plan be created which contains absolutely everything which needs to be done to complete the project, how long each task will take to complete and who will do each task.
This plan allows accurate costing to be developed, and resources allocated for the job (including client resources).
Ensure the plan includes exactly what is required of your team
One of the biggest challenges during a website redesign can be the time commitment required of you and your team. It's important that the plan details exactly what is required of your team and this is discussed BEFORE the project proper is started.
Often these requirements are discussed in general, assuming the client will provide what is necessary when it is necessary. Most project plans produced by developers only include the time allocation for the developer's team, whereas the project plan should include the time allocation for the clients team as well.
Understating, not discussing, or not planning for the time required of the client's team is a key contributor to web design and development projects going over time and over budget.
Be responsive to your designers and developers
Anything blocking the project has to be cleared quickly for the project to be completed on time and on budget. When the developer let's you know they have an issue which is blocking progress it's important to be responsive to their needs.
Of course, this is going to be much easier for you when the project plan has included your team's time allocation. When you're struggling to respond to routine things you weren't aware of when the project kicked off, it's hard to be responsive when the unexpected pops up.
Be realistic with your budget
A realistic budget will help ensure the project can be completed to your expectations. It's common for a project to be quoted to fit a budget and either hoping it can be done for that, or the developer plans to talk about the overruns later. Neither of these situations are satisfactory.
One of the best ways to overcome budget issues is to do the strategy and plan stage as an initial project. This way you'll spend a small amount of money to completely describe the project. Once the project is completely described, accurate project costings can be developed.
You can then determine whether you have the budget for that project, whether there's room for more work, or whether the project will have to be scaled back so that it stays within budget. Doing the planning first allows you to set a realistic budget for the website you want to develop.
Doing the planning up front as a small project allows you to get quotes for the complete development knowing these quotes will be accurate and provide little escape room for website designers looking to under quote.
Given that most websites are redeveloped every few years, it's likely you've been through the process more than once and you experience may have been good or bad.
Most web projects go bad due to poor planning, poor project management and poor process. Address these issues and your next project will be a pleasure.