Time and time again, we get the horror stories from companies who have started a web project with the best of intentions only to see it end in disaster. A successful project is not something that can just be lucked into; it takes various components that all must be managed properly for execution. No matter what the size of the organization, everyone struggles with the same problems; using our internal team or hiring a partner, how much budget is there for the project, when can we expect to see the end product, and array of other questions that all have to be answered.
It has been my experience that these issues can be easily managed utilizing the 5 following tips:
- Choose the right Partner
- Formulate a Project Strategy
- Project Manage the Design and Development
- Online Marketing
- Continual Refinement and Improvement
Choose the right Partner
As ridiculous as it sounds, one of the most common mistakes companies make is not choosing the right team for the job. Often the decision is based upon reasons that, while they may have some impact, overall would have been better served by thinking bigger picture. In order to select the right vendor you must consider several key factors when choosing an outside resource:
- History – Who have they worked with
- Project – Do they have experience in that area
- References – What do others have to say about them
- Comradery – Does their team mesh well with your
- Feeling – Does your gut just say something doesn’t seem right
For an internal team the choices would be more about support:
- Design – Should our IT Manager design the website or should we get a professional designer for that portion
- Application – Is there a solution that will save time and money using internal resources or do we need a custom solution
- Marketing – Does our marketing staff understand online or has their experience only been in more traditional media
Formulate a Project Strategy
You wouldn’t build a new house without having a blueprint, so why would you build a website without one? The second no-no we see is just jumping into the project because management has said to get something going without taking the time to visualize the end goal. Proper planning is probably just as important as choosing the right vendor; the only reason that it is not more important is if you’ve done your homework on finding a partner then they should be able to assist you in formalizing a plan. Over the years we’ve developed a set of fundamental items that remain true to almost any project; a few to consider are:
- Customers - Who is your audience
- Brand Perception - What is the mood or feel of the site
- Actions - What do you want your audience to do
- Goals - How do you plan to measure success
- Marketing - How will your audience find you
- Solutions - What business problems will the new site solve
Obviously there’s a great deal more planning that should go into every project, but I don’t want to give all of our secrets away.
Project Manage the Design and Development
So this is the point were most organizations get it about ½ right as they have an internal dedicated Project Manager, the mistake lies in understanding that most web projects are now much more IT focused than marketing and often the expectations are not properly set. What I mean by that is 5 or 10 years ago you could deliver 20 pages of information, some company background, bios, about us page, along with a few images and a decent designer could put all that together and deliver a nice “Brochure Style” website.
Today, with more and more organizations utilizing custom software and sophisticated content management systems, design is only a small portion as most of the work is done behind the scenes. Having a development team that knows how to organize their recourses through a development process like scrum or iterative development, will have a much higher success ratio than those shops using a waterfall model or cowboy coding model. In the end it all comes back to point number one, choosing the right partner.
Luckily more and more organizations are starting to realize that their website is a vital part of their business and they know that they need to drive more traffic which will drive more sales. Online marketing dollars continue to grow, but where should those dollars be spent: SEO
, PPC, viral videos, advergaming, banner ads and the list goes on. This is where choosing the right partner is again vital, as a good partner will be able to help you formulate a plan and establish goals even if they are relying on someone else for execution. Personally, I think a good vendor should be able to provide all the needed services, however that’s not always possible and an educated partner should be able to help you select the right vendor for your online marketing initiatives.
Continual Refinement and Improvement
Wash rinse and repeat. Getting better doesn’t mean that you just sit around and wait on the competition; Toyota instituted the Kaizen process that has been a vital part of their success. Kaizen is the philosophy of continual improvement, that every process can and should be continually evaluated and improved in terms of time required, resources used, resultant quality, and other aspects relevant to the process.
On the web, we do that by getting feed back from our visitors and site users and adding things that they would like to see. Small changes that make the site better and better over time, Facebook has done a fantastic job of continually improving and in doing so has been able to supplant MySpace as the dominant online social community.
Embarking upon a new web development
project is never easy, but if you follow these 5 tips your potential for success will be greatly increased!