Are you thinking of starting a business website project? It's a smart decision to improve your marketing and business ROI.
While it is a smart business decision to revamp your website, the projects can be a long and complex journey, a team effort between your staff and your professional website developers. Just as you want to help your customers have a smooth experience on your website, your website project should be lead you beside still waters.
LRS Web Solutions has been completing both simple and complex website projects for decades. Director Jeff Enlow has been a part of all of them, and here he shares his 10 commandments for a successful web project. These tips are good reminders not just for your business website project, but you might just find them useful for everyday projects, too.
- Thou shalt approach the project with an open mind.
Any successful project is the result of a trusting partnership. You know your business and your audience. Your vendor knows the technology and, hopefully, they've built more than a few websites. Insist that they listen to your input and document it thoroughly. For your part, you must trust their instincts and be open to their suggestions. People are naturally averse to change. Your stakeholders may complain about even the most successful new website or system simply because it's not the old one. Be prepared to answer their questions and talk them through their issues. Change is hard, but together we can make a better website that improves your business's bottom line!
- Honor thy scope!
If it's not in writing, it's not going to happen. Insist on a clear and thorough scope document to begin the project. Conference calls and face-to-face meetings should be documented and any changes noted in a follow-up message. No six words cause more conflict during a project than "I know we talked about this!" Put it in writing. When new ideas pop up, keep them in a "Phase 2" file. (Your website is never done!)
- Thou shalt designate a stakeholder.
No project can succeed without ownership on the client side. Designate a stakeholder who is accountable for content and approval. Then clear their plate as much as possible so that their primary focus can be the project. Web projects take longer than you think, but with a solid decision-maker at the table, tasks can be accomplished much faster.
- Thou shalt not deviate!
Sure it's good to be nimble and flexible ... who wants to work with a developer that refuses to pivot when there is an obvious need? Still, a successful website project starts with a plan. Commit yourself to creating a great plan at the very beginning and stick to it! Our project managers will help you do this, with weekly or bi-weekly update meetings. Again, if you have additional needs, pack it away for another day.
- Remember your content, to keep it your first priority!
This debate is a little newer than the chicken and the egg but just as hotly debated. What should come first ... the content or the website design that will contain it? Well if you remember that the attractive and user-friendly design that your vendor is developing is simply a vehicle for effectively delivering your content, then the answer should be a no-brainer. Design is the way to lure viewers; content turns them into customers.
- Thou shalt not be a technophobe!
Be open to using technology to facilitate communication. You may prefer frequent emails, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings but regularly scheduled Skype or Zoom meetings and online collaboration tools can be even more effective. A good web vendor will train you on how to use the technology - it's easier than you think!
- Thou shalt not lie (or at least not be 'less than honest').
Communicate openly and honestly. Don't file away frustrations as ammo for a later date. Address concerns early so your vendor can fix it and improve.
- Thou shalt not be silent.
Going dark for three critical weeks in the middle of the project life cycle is a timeline killer. Be responsive and get your vendor what they need when they need it.
- Thou shalt stay focused.
New ideas for functionality and features are always welcome but remember that implementing them could impact budget, timeline, or both. Be open to a Phase 2 project for additions.
- Thou shalt not cut corners at the end.
It's easy to lose focus near the end of a project, but don't rush the final steps. Take time to thoroughly review the work and make sure that all hands are on deck for the project to go live. Vendors will do a Quality Assurance and possibly an accessibility check. You can make sure the content is up to date.
These are some of the bedrock principles the LRS Web Solutions team follows when we design and develop websites and web applications. Keep these tips in mind when working with your web developer to keep both of you accountable.