When you decide it's time to design or redesign your website, where do you start?
Here are five common pitfalls—and a fix for each—to help make sure you get a final product to make your team proud.
PITFALL #1: DESIGN BY COMMITTEE.
There is a big difference between giving stakeholders a chance to provide input and giving stakeholders an equal voice or equal vote in the final design. There is a reason that a Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg lm is what it is. The quality of their movies is largely based on the fact that there is a single, focused vision for the final product. Their movies don’t have five or six directors. Design by committee rarely—if ever— works.
Make sure there is an overall project sponsor at the appropriate level of the organization (usually a director or vice president) and that there is a creative director who “owns” the overall design. The project owner and the creative director are the two people ultimately responsible for delivering the best design possible. Stakeholders can give input at appropriate points in the project, but they are not given an equal vote on design decisions and it’s up to the sponsor or creative director to make the final decision on revisions.
PITFALL #2: A PROJECT WITHOUT A PROJECT MANAGER.
Project Managers (PMs) play a key role in a design project and are the true “quarterbacks” of a project. The most successful and well-run projects have an experienced, dedicated PM driving the project every step of the way. Without this role, projects typically have multiple people managing the project, which always leads to suboptimal results.
Be sure to have an experienced and dedicated PM resource. This individual should be proficient with project management software, and an expert at bringing together disparate team members and ensuring decisions are made and deliverables are on time. Successful PMs possess outstanding communication and organization skills, and consistently pay close attention to details.
PITFALL #3: TRYING TO LAUNCH THE “PERFECT” WEB SITE.
The old engineering adage goes like this: “If you launch a perfect product, you have waited too long. If you launch a product with too many bugs, you have launched too soon.” The secret is finding the right balance between perfection and high quality. We are not advocating cutting corners or compromising quality, but there comes a time during every project where you need to make decisions about the final product and move on knowing that you can always make refinements in future phases.
During the definition stage, be intentional about clearly stating core features and objectives and nailing those down early. Then, be hyper-vigilant about not adding features or making design or content changes during the design and development phase. If you do a good job during the definition phase (and allocate the appropriate time and resources to do this), you should not need to make changes mid-stream—an action that inevitably delays launch dates and drives additional costs. Remember that there will always be an opportunity to revise the site or incorporate valid enhancements into the next release.
PITFALL #4: INADEQUATE TECHNICAL SCOPING.
Technical scoping of a design project is one of the most critical pieces of the definition phase, and yet we find that it is sometimes overlooked altogether. This can lead to serious problems down the road, not to mention a website that does not meet expectations.
Include the engineering team early on, so that the best technical solution can be scoped. How should the new site work with the top, most used mobile devices amongst your audience? Will the business want
a Content Management System (CMS) to streamline the maintenance process? How will the site grow and expand over time and will it be easy to scale post-launch? Your engineering team will want to pro- vide guidance on these questions as well as a many others you may not even know to ask. Get this team involved sooner vs. later.
PITFALL #5: NOT TESTING YOUR SITE WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.
Far too often, we think that we know what the target customer wants and how they will use the site. We may even spend a good amount of money defining the target, studying its demographic, and maybe even its psychographic. But if no money or resources are allocated to test the actual site (or early prototypes) with this audience, the unfortunate result can be that we create designs that work great for us, but not necessarily for our target audience.
Plan to include some user testing as part of your project, and schedule the time and resources to do it. Studies can widely range depending on the site complexity, but can be conducted in as little as one to two weeks and yield invaluable insights. Invest in user testing up front and reap the benefits over the long haul.
If you need help with any business-critical web initiatives, contact us.