Perhaps the most important theme throughout any new web project is the process. It’s one that’s explained in the initial sales meeting, kickoff meeting, and throughout each stage of a project. It’s crucial all teams are aware how each step impacts what is to follow and long-term development.
Setting the tone from the start is critical, so we’ve put together some reminders on why you may be requesting a new website, and what to expect throughout the process.
1. What are your goals?
First off, why are you looking to get a website? Is it not accomplishing what you would like it to? Do you need more emphasis on e-commerce? To get a better understanding of what the client is looking for, we put together a handy exploration document that has key questions to get to know you and your business so that our team is now apart of your team. Of course, this is all in addition to the client kickoff meeting. Questions as simple as “Who is your target audience?” to “What are the top 3 conversions you want the user to accomplish?” are critical in the teams’ understanding before we get started.
During the kickoff meeting, we can thoroughly review the exploration document, discuss any items that may have been discussed in the sales meeting that are not in the proposal, and clarify your dream goals for the website.
2. Ghost Stakeholders
I cannot tell you how many times I have been put in a position where the point-person signs off on designs, the team has moved into development, and then I receive the dreaded call… “This wasn’t approved”. Actually, I can… one time. It only took one instance to assure that in all future kickoff meetings all stakeholders are discussed and a point-person is assigned with who has the final say.
Not establishing this from the beginning as I have experienced can cost additional time and throw your budget out the window. Set the ground rules on how you expect approvals to be signed-off on in a timely fashion in order to keep the project moving - however, if there are questions that you have or doubts, bring them to the PM’s attention so that they can be discussed and reviewed prior to moving forward.
3. Content. Content. Content.
Something I hear time and time again from our UX and Design teams is “Where’s the content?” Well, unfortunately, many companies we work with could be brand new and don’t have content at their disposal - they are writing it as we go! It’s up to both parties to be flexible but also understand that having this information up front assists in all steps.
For instance, UX can determine whether space is needed for a snippet or a details page. Design can mock up a version that has space for two lines, when really the content is 5 paragraphs. It’s then up to front-end to determine how the page will function to accommodate either two sentences, a full details page, or perhaps an accordion - what you may not know is that these facts down the line could break the site.
If copy is available and will be edited, we’ll set up the client on a great software that outlines the website page by page, area-by-area, to drop in imagery, PDFs, external links and copy. If you are starting new, this will work for you as well to organize your thoughts and keep the flow of the build.
4. Weekly Updates
Keeping the client updated throughout the process is key. There are lots of gaps and lulls throughout the website build, especially once it hits front-end development and programming. How much does a client really need to know about what widget your using or how your site looks on mobile? Well, sometimes those little details help. One thing I’ve picked up as a PM is to send out weekly progress updates. What the team did last week, and what we plan to accomplish this week. If there are any questions to answer or meetings to schedule, it gets sorted out then.
Weekly updates helps keep the client organized and lets them know if we are waiting on them for any deliverables or items needed on their end in order to accomplish XYZ, keeps your team on track for the week, and the PM organized. More importantly, it keeps you within the timeline. This is your opportunity to push for the approvals to move to the next phase.
5. The Steps
In the kickoff meeting, not only are we determining stakeholders, discussing content, etc., but we are also reviewing how the company works their way through a website build to assure that both parties are clued in on expectations and deliverables. We’re here to help and explain as needed. The blueprint phase is key - here the functionality document is outlined which takes you all the way through the end of the project and tracks each page, features and how exactly the website should function. We’ll also lay out the wireframe as a black-and-white version of your site so you can see the flow of each page and how users will interact with the site. Once those steps are approved, we move onto design - the art of what your site will actually look like. Then onto front-end development, where the designs come to life. Lastly there’s programming - the bones of your site as we build your custom content management system and connect it to the front-end.
Without the design, we cannot move into front-end. Without UX, we cannot have a functionality document. Approving each step, as well as understanding why we go in the order are determined on a case-by-case basis, but the majority follow this format. If you have questions, always ask - we’re here to help!
Having a general understanding of the process as well as expectations are vital in creating your dream site. Although it may seem like a lot of busy work, the reward is well worth it. As we mentioned, we are now apart of your team and we want to assure we are there for you and deliver a site you are more than happy with.