6 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE STARTING YOUR NEXT WEB PROJECT
In the last decade, the web has drastically changed. From mobile, responsive, apps, and social, to the Internet of Things, it’s intimidating for anyone embarking on a digital project. Having said that, capitalizing on all the new technology is only one side of the equation when it comes to launching a project. We often get so distracted by all the shiny ideas of digital, that we sometimes lose sight of the pillars of a successful project.
I was curious to see what our zu crew viewed as important factors to a successful project, so I sat in the kitchen the other day and asked various people around the office to answer this simple question:
“For clients who are embarking on a new project, what should they REALLY be thinking about?”
Here’s some of my favourite advice:
Think about change management
After a major site launch, many organizations are surprised at what sort of internal impact it has. From updated workflows, new admins, and integration into organizational wide data, it should be creating efficiencies throughout multiple departments. Whether change management is handled internally or externally, make sure to discuss this during the planning stage. It’s important to envision life after launch and examine what sort of systems, structure and resources will be needed to accommodate the upcoming change.
Think about formalizing project management
It’s never a bad idea to assign formal project management duties to your web project. For larger projects it’s required, but the problem is that most clients underestimate the size of the project, and realize their ‘small’ website project was in fact, not so small in the end. I would say, unless you have excess capacity or are willing to redistribute your existing duties, adding the management of a web project to your plate may compromise the project from a budget and quality perspective. A designated project manager may handle more than one project at a time, but they are trained and assigned the duties to hold all parties accountable for time, budget and scope.
Think about a simple project charter
It’s important to budget time early on to discuss ‘how we are going to accomplish this project.’ This is the very first step before any discussions surrounding content, design or technology take place. It’s simply to discuss the ground rules. Understanding roles, responsibilities, workflow, the decision tree, and project management philosophies is paramount . Every organization has different project management styles, philosophies, and tools. It’s important to put aside all assumptions and preconceived notions at the start of your project, together with your digital partner. We vary methodologies from project to project, so it’s important to set aside time at the beginning to discuss everyone’s beliefs and to find a common ground that everyone agrees will work. And remember, as the project evolves, so will your techniques and comfort working in the system, and pretty soon you’ll be a well-oiled machine.
Think about doubling your content effort
This point was mentioned several times. It’s 2016 and we still cannot stress enough the effort it takes to have great content delivered ON TIME. Imagine the time it takes you to approve the content for a simple bi-fold brochure. Now multiply that by 100. Each page of content should have that level of care and attention. This isn’t 1998, and you aren’t just writing random paragraphs to fill up generic subpage layouts. This is your chance to do it right and have it potentially live on for years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve arranged for your agency or an individual to take care of content creation, the bulk of the content will come from arms-length subject matter experts that may or may not respect your deadlines. Invite these people to your initial kickoff meetings to help emphasize their importance in making sure content is delivered.
Think about engaging users
User engagement doesn’t have to be complex. Three things you should always include in any web redesign project is to Identify users, Talk to users, and Test with users. This way you are at least confirming your assumptions. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just identify who the key users are that matter, and then profile their goals, frustrations and motivations. Once you’ve done that, go out and interview a few of them to confirm your assumptions. Ask them the questions that will help you design a tailored experience. And finally, make sure to test ideas, content and prototypes with them to get their feedback. Design with them, not for them. This does add some additional time to the whole process, including screening, scheduling and executing. We recommend budgeting $100/hr/user to reward users for any type of engagement, whether it be for interviews or testing.
Think about life after launch
When we launch a new project, we think of it as bringing something new into the world. Unfortunately, many clients treat it as a death — and soon enough, it’s all but a distant memory as they have already moved on to the next project. This is backwards. Once launched, it should be someone’s duty to nurture it and raise it well. There is so much to do after a site gets launched — from adding new content, testing usability, adjusting for changes in browsers/devices, security patches, improving experience based on analytics, to further integration with backend systems, and more. With digital continually changing, your site/application is figuratively decaying the minute you launch. So when you are budgeting, make sure to account for healthy maintenance to make these updates possible. It will allow for you to be proactive, improve your site over time and minimize any surprises.
I know it’s unsexy
I’m not saying you should avoid discussing design, content and functionality early in the process. After all, those build excitement and buy-in throughout an organization. But just like any major project, it’s rarely the actual execution that you have to worry about, it’s all the stuff around it. They say to have the hard conversations early, however, early on we didn’t know what those conversations were — but two decades later, we definitely do now. So, before you embark on your next digital journey, think about the above list and protect yourself from future headaches or surprises.