How many times have you rebuilt your website? If you're like most businesses you've done it every 2 to 3 years since you've had a website. Think back to each time you've done a website redesign. Chances are you didn't enjoy any of your previous website rebuilds and you're not looking forward to the next one.
The reason that we’ve come to accept the fact that a website redesign is one giant headache is because of the approach we take to build them. The traditional website redesign process is filled with systemic risk and always requires a lot more effort from us than we expect, even when we hire a professional website developer to do it for us.
You might have guessed from what I said above that the biggest problem in website design is the way projects are run, which leads to several issues, one of the biggies being it places too much of an unexpected burden on the website owner.
Risks of traditional web design
Traditional website design and development brings with it a number of risks:
- High initial cost
- Poor project management
- Over budget, late and an inflexible process
- Design decisions are made for years to come with no guarantee of performance improvement
- No plan for continuous improvement
Large time & resource commitment of the website owner
I won't go into any detail on most of these issues as I did a detailed analysis of traditional web design in Why Most Web Design Projects Run Over Time and Over Budget. I suggest you read this article to understand more about why traditional web design is failing both website owners and website developers.
What I'd like to concentrate on in this article is the risk in bold—The large time & resource commitment of the website owner. This is a huge issue for website owners whether they know it before they start their website redesign or not.
Why should I worry about this as the developer?
Why should I care about this as the developer? Simple, I want to ensure that when we work with a client, the whole process is as painless as possible for both us and the client.
The easier we make it for the client, the easier the web project is for us, and the bonus is that we'll get the ongoing work and referrals.
Why this is such a big problem
This is a problem on so many levels, the principal one being that the website owner commits to the website redesign project without a full understanding of exactly what is required of them in order to complete the project and complete it on time.
When a business decides it's time to rebuild their website, the web project comes on top of everything else which needs to be done and often the web project is seen as an extra, low priority job, which will be done when some time can be found for it.
It's commonly thought that once a web developer is hired, that's it, and the website owner waits for the visual designs to approve then expects a fully completed site on time and within budget without having much input to the project. That's why the project is outsourced, so you—the website owner—doesn't have to do anything. Not the case, there is always plenty of things the website owner has to do during a website rebuild. The developer can't instantly understand the client's business and write all the website content just because they had a one hour chat to the website owner before they developed their proposal.
An even bigger problem when outsourcing overseas
Outsourcing web development overseas is often seen as a way of saving money on the project. When you outsource you project to an overseas developer, you become the project manager as the developer is going to build what you describe. You're going to have to take the lead, develop the strategy, make all the decisions and provide all content to the developer.
It sounds like a cheaper option to outsource to a developer in India or the Philippines, yet that may not be the case. Once you factor in the cost of the extra time you must spend working on the project yourself, you won't be saving money at all, you'll just be spending more time away from the other things which have to be done to keep your business running.
How to solve this problem
Solving this problem takes the right combination of strategy, system, process and people which takes the burden away from the website owner and produces a result which delivers on business goals. The solution is the Growth Driven Design website development process which is managed by a project manager experienced in Agile project management.
Growth Driven Design eases the burden on the website owner to the absolute minimum by first commissioning a basic launch pad website and then continuously improving this website over time, at a rate which is manageable for the website owner.
Here's how it's done:
Start with a solid strategy phase
Often website owners call for quotes from developers before the web project is fully defined. Developers then have to take a guess at the full scope of the project and submit a proposal.
The challenge here is that the web developer who underestimates the project scope the most is the one who often wins the job. The budget for the job then has to be renegotiated once the project is underway and the full scope of the project reveals itself. This is one of the reasons most web projects go over time and over budget.
The best way to solve this issue is to engage a developer to execute a website development strategy project before committing to the overall website development. That way you'll be able to call for quotes on a fully developed project scope document and the proposals you will receive will be based upon similar project scope and easier to compare. You'll save money and a lot of hassles by executing your web design project this way.
Use the strategy documents to scope the launch pad website
Under the Growth Driven Design process, rather than attempting to commission the entire website in one go, an initial launch pad website is commissioned quickly with reduced scope. The strategy documents will define the complete scope for the new website. The launch pad website will include only the most essential parts of the website, often those parts of the website which produce the best outcomes for the business. How much work needs to be done in order to commission the launch pad website will depend on many things including whether or not it will replace the existing website or work alongside the remaining parts of the existing website.
Define everything which needs to be done, and by whom, to commission the launch pad website
Now that the detailed strategy documents and the scope for the launch pad website have been developed, the user stories can be entered into an Agile project management tool. Fleshing these user stories out into the individual tasks which have to be done to complete each story creates an accurate definition of the work required to complete the website.
It's only when the project is defined to this level that the work which has to be done, and who is required to do the work can be completely understood.
Now there is enough information to have that conversation about the time required of the website owner's team, and to make a plan which completely includes them and accounts for how much time they can give.
I really do feel that the biggest problem in website design and website redesign is that developers aren't up front enough to advise their potential clients that they'll have to do a lot of work in order to get their new website commissioned. There's nothing worse for the client than to see the project start, approve some visual designs and then be lumped with a whole lot of work they didn't expect.
When you're exploring the idea of redeveloping your website, ask the developers you speak with: "How much work will be required of me during the development process and when will you require this work to be done?". Asking this question will save you a whole lot of pain once the project gets underway.
Be very careful when hiring overseas to save money. Overseas developers in countries like India and The Philippines are more website mechanics than project managers & developers. You will most likely have to take on the role of project manager if you decide to hire overseas. Ask yourself whether you have the skills or the time to take on this role.