This is the fourth in our series of posts about the Oreo Cookie Strategy for profitable website production. If you just found us, you can access the earlier posts here:
- Part 1: How to Make Money on Website Projects
- Part 2: Planning Profitable Website Projects
- Part 3: How Design Contributes to Profitable Website Builds
From a design agency’s perspective, profitable website production is the result of four things: clear design direction, follow the review process, manage changes, and let the development team drive the production.
Clear Design Direction
As with most things, clear design direction starts in the beginning.
Use wire frames to define site functionality and start the design process. A website isn’t advertising. It’s the hard-working center, or hub, of modern marketing strategy. This suggests that having architectural drawings before you start the design is smart.
Bring the developers into the design process early and often. Get the developers involved before the build begins. You are much less likely to be dealing with production budget overruns.
Meet with the development team before the build begins and go over each page of the approved design. Don’t assume the developers know the back story. You have had many conversations about the design but they won’t read between the lines. Fill them in.
Listen to the developers’ feedback. If given the chance, they will offer time-saving options. Be flexible. Ask yourself if the suggested change to the design is critical. Will the design fail if you move this image over 20 pixels?
Follow the Review Process
Everyone should use the same browser for the first review. We suggest that you use Chrome, it’s where we start the build. Ask your developers what browser you should use for the first review. And be sure you understand what you are reviewing. If the first review is desktop only, don’t waste time telling the developer it doesn’t work on your phone.
The first review is the design team’s opportunity to give feedback. Use it to make sure that the build captured the design, and that desired functionality is in place. Remove “pixel perfect” from your vocabulary. It’s an impossible goal. Responsive design, the multitude of browsers and browser versions, mobile devices in all their shapes and sizes, have made “pixel perfect” an anachronism. The build should represent the design. Asking for a perfect representation of the design is a waste of time and money. Not going to happen.
For the next review the dev. team will make requested revisions. They will start perfecting things across the defined browser and device list. The second round of revisions is when the project owner, the client, should review the site. Be sure this happens before the build is complete. Changes happen. Something your client liked on paper two months ago may need to change when they see the design in their browser. Don’t wait until the site is almost done to get their opinion. This will cause delays and have a not fun impact on the budget. It will not lead to profitable website production.
This is the most important factor for profitable website production. There will be changes. Get over it. And make sure your client understands that there will be changes. Even with a strong discovery process, there will be things that come up in the build. Accept this.
Profitable website production has to work for everyone.
Agencies, add a contingency to the budget. Don’t expect the developers to suck it up for the greater good. You have a long-term relationship with your client and may choose to do this. The development team doesn’t and won’t.
Make sure your client understands that a website isn’t an ad. It’s custom software. There will be things discovered in the build. Even the best planning will not find everything. And the more complex the site, the more likely this will happen. Working from a fixed budget is not realistic. Having a budget is important. Working against the budget is important. But if the website production is to be profitable, there needs to be flexibility. Otherwise the only way the production can be profitable is to cut corners. This won’t get you and your client the best website.
Have a change management process, and use the process. A website is software, building it is like a game of whack a mole. Small changes to design and functionality will impact the budget and the schedule. Change management flags changes and identifies the impact on the budget and the schedule. We call this the HGTV factor,
“Well that wasn’t expected. You have two choices, you can either give up something else in the build to pay for this change, or find more budget.”
Use the contingency budget for vital changes.
Profitable Website Production Means Letting the Dev Team Drive
When the build starts, let the dev team drive. Turn the project over to them, which means you need to let them have direct contact with your client.
By all means stay involved. Let your client know you’ll be there for strategic and design support. You want to make sure the website delivers the promised idea.
But don’t try to over engage at this point. You’ll lose money. Rarely are design agencies competent to manage the details involved in the production. It’s not what they do. If you try to micro manage the build part of the project, you will most likely lose money.
There you have it: clear design direction, a review process, manage changes, and let the developers drive the build. Easy to say, harder to do, but when you follow these steps you will have a profitable website production. More important, your client will have an effective website that will support their business.