From this article you will learn
- What are the stages of the website creation project
- What should be included in the brief for the design and dev team
- What are the most common causes of delays and how to avoid them
- Why good communication earns money
Working on a new website is always a challenge. You have to go through an extensive process and not get lost along the way. The workload depends to a large extent on its purpose and how we plan to use it after launching it.
The image website requires much less work (which doesn’t mean that there is little of it) than an extensive website that will play a key role in your marketing activities.
For example, building and working with a site focused on recruiting new employees will be much more challenging than a business card site. Problems can arise both at the beginning and the end of the project. There is no particular rule here. Sometimes the planning and organization of a project take longer than its implementation. This usually happens for formal reasons like approval of the budget, deadlines or a contract negotiation. However, more often we plan too quickly, which later translates into the extension of the main part of the project or completely eliminates the chances of its success.
For the project to work properly, it is important that all its members know what parts the project consists of. A full-blown website design isn't all about coding. There’s a lot of work both before and after the development stage:
- formalities and contracts - it also takes time. Legal departments usually have something to do and will need time to review the project contract.
- collecting requirements / research - this is a key moment during each project. Try to use it well to create the best image of the project, but also to determine what it’s really about.
- functional design (UX) - the purpose of this stage is to figure out the functionality and prepare the skeleton of the website. The designer will prepare a prototype - "frames" denoting the structure of the page and the arrangement of its elements.
- visual design (UI) - the aim of this stage is to cover the skeleton with the skin of the graphic design. Here, a visual language will be created that the website will use to speak to its audience.
- development - now design turn into code and the website comes to life.
- QA and feedback phase - this is where you get into the game again. How quickly you move to the next stage will depend on the speed and quality of your feedback.
- content - this stage should start much earlier as without the final content, the page will not be published.
- publication - this is the day, the page lands on the open Internet. Depending on its scale, this stage also takes some time. For most of these stages, your input will be needed - be it feedback on completed stages or answers to questions from the team. How efficiently and precisely you answer them depends on how quickly the team will be able to move on.
Brief - this is where it all starts
Brief is the key to a successful project. A good one will set everything on the right tracks from the very beginning. A bad one will become a problem from which it will be difficult for you to break free. Here are some tips on how to make it work for you:
Answer the question about the goal - why do you need a new website? A website is a tool that you will use to achieve your goal. Answering the question "why?" will allow you to determine what it should be like.
You only want to ensure your brand presence on the Internet? Or maybe you want to start sending a newsletter? Do you need a place to publish reports and financial statements? Or maybe you just want to recruit new employees?
For each of these activities, a different website will be created.
Identify problems - pay attention to what problems your current site generate. Why can't you achieve your goals using your current tools (website)? Do you want to create a blog and working with an old CMS gives you a headache? Or maybe your website just got old? The page takes too long to load or it losses messages from your customers? Identifying such problems will help generate a satisfying change at the end of the project.
If possible, get feedback from your users or do a corridor test.
Identify all stakeholders - who has the final say on approval? Will only your department work with the website, or maybe someone else needs it too? Is the HR department to handle the recruitment conducted on the website? Should the customer service department receive messages with feedback about the product? Their needs must also be included in the brief.
Information about the estimated budget - In the IT industry, many things can be done in many different ways. They are not necessarily better and worse. Some of them close one, but open another door. Information about the level of the expected budget will allow the team to choose solutions, tools and methods of work to the budget you have at your disposal.
Advanced animations are a strong differentiator. Placing a 3D animation on an image website can be an attractive proposition, but it generates high costs (e.g. preparing a 3D model and using it on a website are two separate activities). Some animations of this type can be made much easier by combining translucent frames into an active animation. See chapter seven on this page - the building is not a 3D model, but still functions as a spatial structure.
Prepare references - nothing on the Internet exists in a vacuum, check how similar tasks have been performed by others - your competitors have already done it, learn from their experiences.
The dev team will definitely have questions. Be ready for it and include it in your schedule.
Elements of a good brief
Tick out these points in your brief to win the hearts of your team ❤
- The background - what do you have now? What motivates you to change it?
- Purpose of the action - what are you doing this for?
- Dates and deadlines - when do you want to do it?
- Budget framework - how much do you want to spend on it?
- Elements of the project - a detailed description of what is to be done and how it is supposed to work.
- External integrations - CRM, newsletter, inventory, etc.
- Functionalities - forms, multilingualism, WCAG, etc.
- References and expectations - how did others did it? What do you like?
- Stakeholders and contact persons - who will use the website and whom to ask questions?
The project is dragging on? One of these things happened!
Two most common reasons for prolonging the time of implementation are the increase in the scope and the change of decisions made earlier. Such situations can be caused by undisclosed expectations and ideas, which is something like "hey, but we imagined it differently". Additional tasks or re-doing something will require additional involvement of the team. This will then translate into additional costs and potentially extending the time needed to complete the project.
It may also result from the feelings of the decision-making stakeholders, whose needs weren’t taken into account when planning the project. Such people may have to give up their needs or block the project.
What now? To protect your budget, you can try to replace new tasks with something that is not essential. You will add it later as part of project development.
Website design project requires many, very different competences - research, design, development, etc... Each of these roles can be played by a separate company, whose competences may overlap. Involvement of many parties in the project and the unclear division of responsibilities may generate problems. The lack of a clear division of responsibilities between dependent parties will generate a blockade in the project as soon as one of them encounters a problem on their way.
How to avoid it? Openly communicate the responsibilities and tasks. Ask and act proactively to clearly distinguish the tasks of individual parties.
Even the best designed and implemented project will not see the light of the day without the final content. Filling the website with the final content is sometimes a very time-consuming task, and if the content is not ready to be introduced on time, it may take a relatively long time to generate it.
How to avoid it? Include time in your schedule to prepare all the materials you need. If materials from subcontractors are needed (for example, photos of your team or office), plan their work well in advance.
Sometimes it is also the case that the project has overwhelmed you - the challenge turned out to be too complicated, which makes it impossible to accept or consciously make the necessary decisions. Such projects most often revolve around unresolved problems.
What now? Take a step back and ask the team for a broader context and possible solutions. Try to solve one problem at a time.
Take care of these 4 things to deliver the project on time
1) Show the broader context for the dev team. Don't let them guess what you meant. This will help them better understand what you want to achieve and how you will use your new site.
As great as your implementation team may be, they can't read your mind 😉
2) Iterate. If your project is large and its development takes too long, divide it into parts. This will allow you to quickly start your activities. Identify the absolute minimum you can work with (MVP) and focus on this area of work first.
The home page is often a highly visual summary of the entire page. Thanks to this, in an almost unchanged form, it can be used as a landing page that will fill an empty domain for the duration of the development of the rest of the page.
3) Avoid downtime. The implementation team cannot stand still. If there are communication delays, they will be assigned with different tasks in other projects. This can extend the time it takes to return to your project.
4) Talk about needs. Ask your team how they prefer to work, describe what your needs are. From my perspective, openness is the basic factor influencing cooperation in the project.
You need a regular work status for your manager? Inform the team about this and arrange a short weekly call to summarize the work.
The money is on the calendar
Usually, the relationship between the duration of the project is proportional to its cost - whether it’s the invoice issued by the implementation team or the internal costs on your side. The more time you spend implementing the website, the longer you will not be able to start the activities you plan to base on it. Or on the other hand - the longer you work on a new page, the longer the old one does not meet your current needs. This directly translates into the company's profits. Thus, smooth transition through the project, lowers costs on all fronts - the real cost on the invoice as well as the cost of lost operational opportunities.