Hints and tips for managing website development
This year has been one of those years. You know the ones. You have a list of ‘to dos’ a mile long, and by the end of the year, you start to realise there are just certain things that will have to carry over to the next year. Mainly personal admin.
The last six months have been very busy at Write Way Up. We have undertaken several projects for different clients that have both challenged us, and really encouraged us to embrace creativity and innovation. We’ve worked on everything from café branding and fitouts, to project managing an incredibly complex web build.
And what have we learned? We’ve learned that sometimes building a physical shop can be much less complex than building one online! We’ve learned the suppliers you choose to work with are paramount to success. And we’ve learned we love to work with clients who are involved, engaged and passionate about what they do.
So... how about those web dev tips?
Building new web sites is notoriously challenging, not only because many of us are working with languages we can’t read ourselves, but because it often feels like a bit of a lucky dip when selecting a web developer. Some web development or digital agencies are amazing – they have that rare combo of great customer service, good communication and high levels of competence – others can make the job much harder than it needs to be.
When selecting a supplier, be picky – don’t go with the first group that has a nice website (they all should!) and offers a seemingly discounted price… sometimes you get what you pay for. To find the best supplier for you, try these three steps:
Write a comprehensive request for quote that includes all of your expectations in terms of functionality and design.
When a quote is provided, read it carefully, have an expert associate read it, then ask lots of questions – make sure you and the supplier are on the same page, and don’t get caught up in sales rhetoric and big promises. The more genuine the agency rep, the easier they will be to work with and the more likely they can ‘walk the walk’.
Look at their past clients and ring them – especially the small ones that wouldn’t have generated much income for the agency – ask the client how well they worked together, if the agency delivered on what was promised, and whether they’d use them again. And don’t stop at one – one review isn’t representative.
Once you’ve selected your agency, it’s time to get down to business. Agencies work differently: some are agile and some will work more traditionally, some will want documentation, and others will move to rapid prototyping. Either way, it’s vital all expectations are clear before the build starts. Even if the agency doesn’t need a requirements document, write one for yourself. Use this document to detail every function, user interaction and design expectation, step-by-step through the user journey (and remember, as admin, you are a user too!).
Even once you’ve really carefully defined your requirements and expectations, things will come up. A website is like a living, breathing thing – as it grows, it can be a bit unpredictable. To help ensue you end up with the best possible end product, make yourself available to answer questions as they arise, to test things yourself and to clarify requirements.
Web development can be expensive – and there are positive ways to cut costs, and other cost-cutting measures that will affect your product. Some of the ways you may cut costs include:
Offer to help with testing. If your site has a lot of moving parts, every change can have a bit of a domino effect, and an impact on other moving parts down the line. That means testing needs to be extensive and through –and that takes time. Volunteer to do some of the testing yourslf, to see that everything works perfectly after each change.
Populate your own site. If you have a Content Management System (which you should!), you will be able to manage your own content and grow your own site – so why not start straight away. Offering to populate your own site with content, once style sheets are in place, can save the dev team hours in entering you content.
Website projects can be quite extensive and the amount of work involved and the number of choices required can make them very personal projects. People can become attached and can find it difficult to be objective, or to understand why what they want can’t be done by their dev agency. This can affect the relationship and ultimately, the delivery of the final product.
If you have little experience in web projects, it can be much easier to get a third party project manager to help you establish your requirements and communicate between you and the developer. Think of them as a translator. This is particularly important when your agency is top notch at development, but not so great at communicating or project management.
Realistically, very few businesses these days can be successful without a website, and with technology changing so rapidly, it’s important sites are updated regularly so they offer the best opportunity for your business to be competitive and cutting-edge. The agency and project manager you work with can mean the difference between a great site that helps you win market share, and a site that looks unprofessional and is complex to use.
Chat with us if you would like some help managing your website development project or selecting a web developer.