Denver website design

Let’s face it: no matter how talented, brilliant, or cool your Web team is, designing a website is a big pain in the ass.

It takes up a huge portion of marketing dollars and time, and other projects end up getting placed on the back burner.

The worst part of that, is no matter how much time and money you put into it, it never feels complete. Six months later, the technology is out of date, the wording feels off, or you need to add more features.

A big reason your website gets caught in this cycle is because most website designs are approached with a typical project management mindset, but website design is best approached incrementally.

 

Think Big, Start Small, Work Fast

 

The lifecycle of a website design typically goes like this:

  • Year One: Huge expense to get the site updated to new technology and design standards, revise the copy to better suit the company’s current branding, and add functionality to enhance business objectives.

  • Year Two: The thrill is gone with the new website but nothing is changed.

  • Year Three: The competition’s website looks better, and new technologies are starting to come out, but nothing is changed.

  • Year Four: The website design is looking very dated, it is not performing to its potential, and nobody in the company is happy with it. Time and money begin to get set aside for redesign.

  • Year Five: Another large-scale redesign takes place.

Rinse, recycle, repeat. Sound familiar?

The problem lies in the fact that a website is thought of as a commodity rather than an organism.

website design analogyIf you compare your website to a house (a very common analogy), then at face value it could be considered a commodity.

Looking closer, the house is nothing more than a shelter for the people that live in it and the stuff they own.

As those people grow, and more stuff is collected, the house needs to change. If your home is built well, then you may only need to redecorate, remodel, or build an addition, instead of moving around every few years.

A website is an organism that is part of your business, and it should be set it up to grow naturally, in increments.

This process can be summed up with my favorite motto: “Think Big, Start Small, Work Fast”.

  • Think Big: define the website objectives, develop scope and specifications.

  • Start Small: begin with basics, add additional features by priority.

  • Work Fast: organize the objective tasks by responsibility, setup time frame, use a project management system.

 

Think Big

Denver web design

Anyone who has played with Legos will tell you: building in small pieces, without knowing what you want the end result to look like, will probably end up looking very different from how you intended.

The creative process can be wild and unruly, but can be elegant when given boundaries.

Website objectives are the boundaries you set when you start to develop your website in increments. They define how your website will meet the objectives for your business and your users.

Website objectives:

  • Ensure the strategy is heading in a consistent direction.

  • Give you a filter (a criteria for inclusion) for the content and functionality suggestions.

  • Set the Web teams standards for success.

  • Assure the customers will have a good experience.

  • Raise conversion rates.

  • Prevent the cost of building unnecessary functionality.

After you have defined your website objectives, create a basic Scope and Specifications Document.

The document should detail the:

  • Overview of the company: background, goals, plans, challenges

  • Website objectives

  • Budget

  • Audience

  • Functionality requirements

Essentially this defines what you want, and what your website needs to achieve, thus creating the overall framework for you to start filling in the pieces of your website.

With the “Big Story” in place, you can work backwards and create “little stories”. This is done by creating a scalable plan: begin with basics, add additional features by priority.

 

Start Small

Denver website design

The key to being able to build your website incrementally is building a great “starter home” that is easy to manipulate.

It should have some basic tools that will give you flexibility, such as:

  • Design editing capabilities

  • Content Management System (CMS) with integrated blog.

  • Functionality tie-in options (widgets)

  • Responsive (automatically resized to fit all screens)

  • Integrated marketing tools (analytics, social, e-mail, landing pages, forms)

After you have the basics in place, you can start to add additional features that will reach your business objectives. These could include:

  • E-commerce

  • Portals

  • Videos

  • Libraries

  • Calendars

  • Anything

You will add additional features in by priority. This is achieved by taking all of the requirements from the Scope and Specifications Document that are outside the basic design, breaking them into individual projects, and prioritizing them by importance.

The basic website design, and every consecutive project, will be approached with the same method: organize the objective tasks by responsibility, setup the time frame, use a project management system.

 

Work Fast

Denver website design

This might be obvious to some, but all website projects have many responsibilities, and those responsibilities require many different skill sets.

The tasks of each responsibility are usually organized by skill set, such as project manager, website designer, website developer, and copy writer.

However, organizing by skill set has the tendency to hinder communication, and things can be overlooked.

Organizing website design tasks by responsibility will give you flexibility to include more people in each task, and make sure nothing is missed. The responsibilities you include will be typical for all website design projects, for example:

  • Branding

  • Accessibility

  • Navigability

  • Content Creation

  • Content Removal

  • Social Media

  • Design Work

  • Hosting

  • Development

  • Analytics

  • User Testing

  • New Feature Implementation

For example, the task “branding” may include people in management, marketing, copy, and Web design. The task “hosting” may only need to include someone from the development team.

Next, group together the tasks into consecutive phases or milestones that can apply for all website projects.

I like to use “Plan, Collect, Design, Build, Alpha, Beta, Launch” as my milestones.

For instance: scope, branding, and project management setup would go under “Plan”; copy creation, images, and social media would go under “Collect”.

Estimate how long each task should take with all parties involved. This time, added together, gives you time estimated for each milestone, and ultimately the total project time and money estimate.

Now you can finally set up your project management system using all the information you have collected:

  • The scope of the website project,

  • The responsibilities of the project defined by task,

  • The people who will be handling each responsibility,

  • The timeframe of each task and milestone.

I like to use TeamworkPM because you can create templates for tasks, as well as predetermined file, notebook, and link categories, to easily set up and organize multiple projects. The messaging center keeps you from digging around in e-mail trying to remember past communications. The tasks are connected to time and billing. You can easily adjust the milestones, or use the handy Gantt chart to adjust individual tasks within a milestone.

 

Go Small Or Go Home

Denver website design

The incremental approach solves many dilemmas when it comes to website design:

  • Easier to budget and manage: your website design budget and your Web team stay consistent.

  • Always ahead: no more getting behind in technology or letting your competition one-up you each year.

  • Everyone’s happy: by always tempering the content and functionality suggestions against the website objectives, you know that the work you put into the design will not be wasted.

What do you think? What the pros and cons you see in this approach? Let us know in comments!


Denver Web Development

 

About  the Author:

Kasie Hilburn is an inbound marketing specialist for PureDriven. Her background includes marketing and sales in the manufacturing industry. She enjoys inbound marketing because it reflects her philosophies.

Topics: Web

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