Nostos Network
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Nostos Network

Refocusing your efforts online? Here’s what you should know.

Over the last four months, Nostos has been in a unique position to see COVID-related trends develop in real-time across more than 30 independent marketing, design, technology, and consulting companies.

One undeniable impact of COVID-19 has been the need for industries operating mainly in physical spaces to fast-track their move to digital product and service delivery. Back in April, one of our members’ clients commented, “We moved everything online in three weeks. Pre-COVID, that work probably would have taken us two years.”

For many companies, this kind of work went from being somewhere on list to being the highest priority in a matter of days. Across Nostos, we’re seeing a substantial increase in digital RFIs, RFPs, and exploratory conversations about creating digital products or more robust online features.

This rapid reprioritization has a lot of benefits — namely, open-mindedness and the freedom to iterate quickly. Projects with questionable urgency or oodles of time to work with can often suffer from over-analyzation and decision paralysis. In our current environment, much of this work isn’t a “nice-to-have,” it’s mandatory for maintaining business and meeting pressing customer needs.

The downside is that many companies new to creating digital experiences don’t yet know what goes into a good digital product or feature, how to plan for it, or what they should be looking for when they evaluate potential partners.

To help companies in the decision-making process, we’ve outlined questions and comments our digital design and development members often field, along with some recommended considerations.

“We need an app, right?”

In the beginning, focus on the challenge rather than the solution. You are the ultimate expert in your business and your core needs and challenges. Your digital partner is the expert in digital strategy and development and can help sort out the best solution, whether it’s a mobile app, website redesign, software platform or feature, or other option.

“I want people to love it.”

Compile some inspiration and information. What experiences do you and your team love? What do you hate? What is your competition up to? What do you know about your customers or users already? How will you determine if people love it once it’s live?

Your success will hinge largely on how well you understand the needs, challenges, and expectations of your customers. To that end, your partner may recommend a research phase at the beginning of the work. It can be tempting to skip research in the name of moving quickly, but even a small study can set you on the right track and save time and money down the road.

“Let’s just start making it!”

“Building the plane while you fly it” tends to be a longer, more painful, and more expensive process than if you’d taken the time at the beginning to be strategic and create a plan. This doesn’t mean you need a long and arduous initial process. It does mean that you and your partner should align on the overarching strategy and key aspects of the desired experience before building. This will clear the path for your partner to deliver faster work that’s built properly the first time.

“It’s a website. How complicated could it be?”

The best experiences can be deceptively simple. The most seamless ones are thoughtfully positioned and may involve some complexity behind-the-scenes— especially if they deliver more than information and/or are custom-made.

If you’re newer to this, you may need to do some work to understand the different options available to you and their pros and cons. Lean on your partner to explain the choices clearly and help you make thoughtful decisions.

“Should I be looking for a freelancer or an agency?”

Like physical environments, digital environments require special skills and expertise. When building a retail store, the architect, builder, and interior designer are usually different people. In digital, the user experience strategist, developer, and designer are usually different people as well. Whether you go the freelance or agency route, it’s unlikely that one person will be able to launch a digital experience from start to finish.

“That seems expensive.”

If you’ve requested a proposal and are surprised by the proposed costs, know that a good partner should be able to talk with you about how and why they arrived at their number. Have an open conversation, be flexible, and know that they’ll do their best to find a creative solution that works for everyone.

Look for partners who are honest and collaborative and be wary of proposals that promise the world at the low, low cost of nearly nothing — you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed with the result.

“Once it launches, it won’t need updates, right?”

The digital world is in constant evolution and there is no such thing as a static experience. Your partner can help you determine the most efficient way to support your experience longer-term. This could mean setting you up to manage it internally, allocating a small monthly budget for external support, or helping you plan for a mixture of both.

“People will find it on their own.”

It pays to think ahead about how you’ll help people know about and find your experience, whether it’s designed to serve existing customers or attract new ones. For example, it’s more efficient to prep your site to be found via Google searches while you’re building it than to try and optimize it retroactively.

Don’t wait until it’s built and launched to align with your partner on how you’ll help people find and engage with you.

“This is all a bit overwhelming.”

It’s true that there are tons of different resources, considerations, and decisions that go into digital products and experiences. That said, you don’t need to be an expert to co-create an awesome one. Find a partner who understands your goals and is invested in helping you achieve them, and trust their expertise.

If any of this resonates with you, we’d love to chat. Reach out to Ashleigh and we can discuss what you’re thinking about and guide you to a thoughtful, collaborative partner who could be a great fit.

Some of our best-in-class digital design and development member companies include Be Found Online, Bright Bright Great, Foundry, Intechnic, Livefront, Minnow, Otherward, Straight Line Theory, and Upstatement.

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Nostos Network

Nostos Network

We believe independent agencies create better work and are better places to work.