Do you ever visit a beautifully put together business only to find the company's website is a completely different experience? It's not that the company is terrible or that the product is bad, but I propose what likely went awry is the absence of a shared vision. Details and quality control are very important when creating a website; however, without a constant reminder of a unified fate, an unseen presence, there will exist an undeniable discord between your online and offline presence.
I would recommend appointing someone on your team to be the designated "big picture person" for your website. This person has the tough task of making sure people don't get overwhelmed with details and that the overall goals of the site are actualized. Here are some tips for getting started on seeing the bigger picture for your site.
Create a board of words and images that inspire your company. Don't worry about competitor sites, or even non-competitor sites. This is the time for you to connect with your brand. Have other members on your team write down words they associate with the company and see if your ideas align - if they do, that's a good start!
Think about Apple, I imagine some of their words being: complex simplicity, clean, inherent. Eventually you will want to take the words and images and create one or two sentences that describe your company, visually and functionally. My Apple example might turn into a sentence like this:
An environment that cultivates amazement through clean design and inherent simplicity in function, yet complexity in development.
Continue to come back to your sentence when things get muddled with details.
No matter how great an idea is, we are all human and we tend to lose momentum. When a team's enthusiasm begins to dissipate, that's when the "big picture person" needs to step into the nurturing role. This means reminding team members about original goals and ideas. If creativity and ideas are not nurtured, the site may still launch, but it won't delight. Take time throughout the week to refresh and remind the team about ideas and invite creativity. Send out inspiring emails with relevant words and pictures. Take a few minutes before a meeting to do some creative exercises. Ask the team how they feel about the site and don't undermine anyone's opinion, even if you don't agree. Be sure to point out things about the site with which you are pleased in order to keep morale strong.
Cultivating a shared vision means having to get rid of some items. Scaling back is harder than it sounds because group excitement can turn into a snowball of ideas leading to a cluttered disaster of impertinent features. Do the filtering options you've chosen make sense for your average user? Does that new button add to your website's story, or does it just confuse the user and litter your design? Someone has to ask these tough questions and the team must learn to respond to them objectively in order to ensure a mutual fate. Here's a great quote from Steve Jobs about scaling in a project:
"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things." -Steve Jobs
A website is never really complete. Your site is a living thing that will continue to grow and change and hopefully improve. Don't worry about negative feedback in the beginning, or anytime for that matter, take constructive criticism objectively and dismiss the Debbie Downer comments. As the site progresses, so can you. You will get ideas for advancement from what already exists on your site. As time goes on you will come across new needs and requests from external and internal users. Keep in mind that improvement online can also lead to growth in business offline.
What do you do in order to keep the bigger picture in mind? Share your tips below in the comments.
Photo Credit: Openexhibits