This is the fourth post in our series about the Oreo Cookie Strategy for successful website production. It will show you how to make the website development process part of your successful website redesign.
If you just found us, you can access the earlier posts here:
- Part 1: Successful Custom Website Development Projects
- Part 2: Website Redesign Project Plan
- Part 3: Website Design – Projects That Succeed
From a design agency’s perspective, the website development process is the last step in a successful website redesign or…
Generally, success is the result of four things:
- Giving clear direction
- Following the review process
- Managing changes
- Letting the development team drive the production
Giving Clear Design Direction
As with most things, clear design direction starts in the beginning.
Use wireframes to define site functionality and start the design process. A website isn’t advertising. Instead, it’s the hard-working center, it’s the hub, of a modern marketing strategy. Having architectural drawings before you start the design builds a strong foundation for this strategy.
Bring the developers into the design process early and often. Doing so will reduce 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 may 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. And remember to be flexible. Ask yourself if the suggested change to the design is critical. For example, will the design really fail if you move an image over 20 pixels?
Following the Website Development Process Means Following the Review Process
Everyone should use the same browser for the first review. We suggest that you use Chrome, and it’s where we start our builds. 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, and mobile devices in all their shapes and sizes have made “pixel perfect” impossible. Instead, the build should represent the design. Asking for a perfect representation of the design is a waste of time and money.
For the next review, the development (or dev) team will make the 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 clients liked on paper two months ago may need to change when they see the design on their browser. Don’t wait until the site is almost done to get their opinion. This will cause delays and hurt the budget and profitable website production.
This is the most important factor in the website development process. There will be changes, and you’ll need to be flexible. 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.
Remember: profitable website production has to work for everyone.
Agencies, don’t forget to add a contingency to the budget. Don’t expect the developers to shoulder the burden. 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 advertisement. Explain that a website is custom software, and 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 that things will come up. Working from a fixed budget is not realistic.
Having a budget is important. Working against the budget is important. But if the website development process is to be successful, there needs to be flexibility. Otherwise, the only way the production can hit its budget is to cut corners. This won’t get you or your client the best website.
Have a change-management process, and use the process. A website is application software, and building it can be like a game of whack-a-mole. Small changes to design and functionality will impact the budget and the schedule. A Change Management process will flag changes and identify the impact on the budget and the schedule. We call this the Home & Garden Television 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.”
So be sure to have a contingency budget for vital changes.
Website Development Process – Let 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. Design agencies rarely try to manage the details involved in the production. It’s not what they do. If you try to micromanage the building part of the project, you will probably lose money.
There you have it: a clear design direction, review process, change management plan, and policy to 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 importantly, your clients will have effective websites that will support their businesses.