While investing in a strategic website redesign can greatly improve your online presence and position your firm for more growth, several avoidable factors can quickly derail a web development project.
In addition to the need to avoid some critical mistakes in the website redesign process, there are several common factors that can derail the project along the way. Here are 7 to consider.
1. Not having a dedicated internal project manager for the website redesign
While it’s a given that your web development partner will assign a project manager to oversee the project from the agency side, it’s not always a given that a dedicated project manager will be assigned on the client side. And by dedicated, I don’t just mean a single point of contact is assigned, I mean dedicated in the true sense of the word. The little known truth is that managing a website redesign on the client side is a huge task that many firms are simply unprepared for. For significant portions of the process, the internal project manager’s time will be dominated by the website redesign.
In many cases, a firm’s marketing director acts as the project manager, however their time and attention is often (understandably) split between many competing interests. This can often lead to many critical tasks being either shortchanged or delegated to another member of the team who may or may not be focused on the project. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for project management to be assigned to a junior marketing coordinator who lacks the experience and empowerment to make strategic decisions that can greatly impact the project. Sometimes, the assigned point of contact is given the redesign project in addition to their other regular duties. While this isn’t always avoidable, especially for smaller firms, this approach underscores the fact that many firms underestimate what a redesign project involves.
A strategic website redesign project should have one single internal project manager who has the experience, empowerment, time and internal resources—AND is truly dedicated to seeing the project through to a successful completion.
2. Making changes to the scope and/or design midstream
We use the house building analogy a lot in the web development business, but it’s one that’s easy to latch onto. You can’t expect your project to be completed on time and on budget if halfway through construction, you decide to move the kitchen to the other side of the house or add a finished basement that wasn’t a part of the original plans. Likewise in web development projects, changing the scope or altering design once development has commenced is a surefire way to derail the project.
With today’s complex content-managed and responsive websites, clients often underestimate the amount of front-end and back-end development work that takes place to make those designs come to life on the web. Therefore any design, functionality and/or content management-related changes in the middle of a project will likely require additional development hours that will ultimately increase your budget and affect the schedule.
While minor design tweaks along the way are acceptable, be sure you’re completely satisfied with design BEFORE giving approval. And make sure you have thoroughly considered your functional, technical and content management-related needs BEFORE development begins. If you are unsure how a certain design feature will work, ask your web partner before development begins. This will help to ensure that your project stays on budget and on schedule.
3. Delays in providing feedback, approval and completing other critical tasks
As previously mentioned, a website redesign project requires a lot of a firm’s time and resources to execute properly. And while a great deal of the project schedule ultimately depends on the web development partner, project milestones can’t be reached without the client’s involvement. Failure to provide timely feedback on design and/or development, or missing due dates for other assigned tasks, are factors that can certainly derail your redesign project.
Going “dark” for significant periods of the project schedule will not only affect the schedule, but it can cause issues for the development partner as well. Web developers ideally like to work on one website at a time in order to increase efficiency. Every website is built differently, so it takes time for developers to “get back in it” once they have moved on to another project. That means that if you’ve been missing in action or missed numerous deadlines for feedback and/or other tasks, don’t assume that the agency can just pick right back up where you left off, as the developers may be onto other websites and your site may be have been pushed in the schedule.
Don’t start a strategic website redesign until you are able to dedicate the proper time, resources, people and attention to the project for it’s entire duration. And once the project has started, do what’s necessary to ensure it remains a priority.
4. Not asking enough questions and making incorrect assumptions
Let’s face it, if you aren’t in the web design and development business, there’s only so much you can know about the process. And as we’ve already described, web development is a significantly more complex process today than it likely was the last time you or your firm went through a website redesign. So it’s critical for you to ask appropriate and detailed questions along the way to better understand the process and the implications of your decisions. We’d rather you ask too many questions than not enough!
Certainly, your web development partner can and should explain the process as best they can, but there is no possible way for them to explain everything involved in the process or to know where you might be confused or misguided. Likewise, making incorrect assumptions about how the website will function, what content management control you’ll have or what is expected from your agency partner is sure to derail a project, or at the very least lead to unmet expectations and disappointment.
Don’t assume anything! Just because you think it should be a certain way or expect it to be a certain way, doesn’t mean it will be. Confirm your assumptions and ask plenty of questions along the way to better understand the overall process and what to expect with the end product.
5. Saving content gathering and/or creation for the last minute
Perhaps nothing derails or delays a website redesign project more than procrastination related to content gathering and/or content creation. While the overall design of the website and page templates should be designed using real content provided upfront, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have it all pulled together at the beginning of the process. However, delays in gathering and creating content can lead to massive setbacks that impact design and schedule.
During the planning phase, you should have a clear handle on the size of your site, the site’s information architecture and how your content will be handled both in the front-end design and the back-end content management. Changing the content that certain pages and/or section contain will likely require change orders for design and development (see #2) and delay the schedule. Likewise, waiting too late to pull all the site’s content together will either delay the launch, or cause you to rush through content entry and optimization and shortchange testing.
Prioritize content gathering and creation at the beginning of the redesign process. Don’t just sit back once you’ve delivered sample content (e.g. example of a bio, project profile, company overview, etc.) to your web development partner. Stay focused on pulling it all together so you can stay on schedule and focus more on testing and other small details before launch.
6. Looping in the IT department late in the process
While we would never recommend that the IT department should play a primary role in your website redesign project, they shouldn’t be excluded from the project either. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, there are likely to be many aspects that require the IT department’s input and assistance. Don’t make the mistake of bringing IT to the table too far into the process, whether it be for things like hosting, DNS management, security protocols, and integration with other systems (CRM, HR, ERP, Accounting). There can be many IT-related issues that marketers are unaware of or overlook that can derail a redesign project. These issues can affect everything from design to development to deployment and can ultimately impact budget and schedule as well.
Involve your IT director/department at the onset of the project. While not necessary (or recommended) for them to be intimately involved throughout the entire process, they should at least be a part of the kickoff meeting and the pre-launch meeting in order to make sure technical requirements, security protocols, hosting issues and integrations are clearly understood.
7. Ignoring the advice and counsel of your web development partner
While this one may come across as self-serving, it’s certainly not without merit. If you’ve done your due diligence and selected the most qualified agency to develop your website, there should be a level of trust in the partner you’ve selected. The agency likely has years of experience designing and developing websites for similar firms in similar industries with outstanding results. The agency’s experience has allowed them to pick up best practices, learn valuable lessons and has given them a high-degree of technical competency. This is, after all, what they do day in and day out.
Much like how you expect your mechanic to know how to fix your car, you should expect your agency partner to provide wise counsel to guide you in the right direction with your website redesign. Ignoring recommended best practices and advice can certainly derail your project and lead to a less-than-satisfactory end product. This doesn’t mean you should never push back and question! This just means that if you’ve selected the right firm, you should trust them. If you don’t trust them, then you’ve selected the wrong firm!
Choose a firm that you trust. Talk to their references and be sure others before you have placed their full trust in the agency. Especially for matters that aren’t subjective (e.g. aesthetics, colors, etc.), lean on your agency partner to make recommendations for user experience, functionality and overall web development best practices.
Don’t underestimate what’s involved in a website redesign
Undertaking a strategic website redesign is no small task for any firm regardless of size. And even with the best of intentions, many firms underestimate what is involved in the process and all that will be required of them to see the project through to a successful launch. The web development process continues to evolve dramatically, so don’t assume that your last redesign experience is indicative of what to expect this time around. Hopefully the issues raised here can be mitigated to ensure your website redesign project stays on track to the final destination.