If you’ve decided to contract out to build a new website for your company, it may be a good idea to look at some of the most commonly made mistakes before you get started.
In the 15 years my web-design firm Intechnic has been in business, we’ve experienced every possible crazy, stressful situation, and have worked hard to find the best solution or compromise in each case. In the spirit of problem solving — and helping others avoid similar issues — I’ve provided a look at some common obstacles we’ve faced, along with suggestions on how to avoid them.
Not Having SMART Objectives
Setting objectives is not enough. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) objectives is a great place to start, but you must also have a solid plan of action designed to achieve each. It should be backed by market research, stakeholder and customer interviews, competitive analysis and more. Your web developer should provide you with a plan of action as part of their proposal. Make sure you read it, understand it and agree with it.
Doing Your Web Designer’s Work
Let your web designer do the work you hired them to do. When it comes to creating websites, people might think they know better than their designer. Teams of professionals spend their entire careers perfecting their skills. Provide constructive, relevant feedback but don’t interfere and don’t do the work for them. Listen carefully to what they have to say. After all, you hired them for their expertise.
For example, a customer of ours took graphic design classes many years before hiring us. When the time came to redesign her company’s website, she dusted off her 1996 version of Corel Draw and followed every revision of our design with her own rendition. It looked like a ’70s tailgating banner. The customer was having fun, but our design department was weeping. We averted catastrophe when we asked to present her design to an independent expert for feedback, who explained the issues to her. She let our design team finish on their own.
If you micromanage your web designer, not only will it wreak havoc with your project, but it can also result in a mediocre, unattractive and dysfunctional website.
Designing for Yourself or Your Boss
When the customer undertakes the role of a designer to satisfy their personal taste or the taste of their boss, they can make a similar mistake. This is a bad idea. You’re not a professional designer, and your site should be designed for your customers. Although some may not like it, others will love it. This is where a web developer’s expertise is important.
One of our client’s entire marketing team was scared to think differently than their president. He was opinionated, and had a lot of poor ideas. When asked, the Marketing Director admitted that his head was going to be on a platter if the website didn’t perform; however, we explained why we needed that control and he found a way to take the project into his own hands.
Don’t build a site that only you or your top executives will like. They are not your website’s target audience.
Lacking Proper Communication
Often, clients assume something is included or that they can make changes. But have you ever been in a situation where you and another person are clearly not on the same page? This also happens with website projects.
The last thing you want is to be surprised that something you feel is essential to the project is outside of the scope or the developer’s capability, and will take extra time and incur greater costs.
Once, an client was upset that something wasn’t included that hadn’t been communicated to us and wasn’t in the proposal. We quoted and developed the feature separately to resolve the issue and explained that the customer hadn’t lost any money — we would have quoted the feature separately anyway. We had, however, lost time, and we didn’t meet the customers’ expected completion date because of this lack of communication.
Talk to your web developer every time something is not clear or if you feel they’re not clear on a particular detail. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. You may be surprised how many details are caught in this process.
A world-class website requires careful coordination of many activities performed by different teams at different stages. You must factor in proper timing for communication and management, review and feedback, testing and quality control, etc. Give all these aspects sufficient time. If the project is rushed, the compromise will most likely be evident in testing and quality. By saving a little time now, you will inevitably spend a lot more time and money to fix problems that could have been avoided with proper planning.
Rushing a project guarantees loss of quality. If a cake is taken out of the oven too soon, it won’t be done. If you raise the temperature, the cake will burn.
Getting Hung Up on Details
By constantly adding and removing features, you will drive the designer crazy and waste both time and money. What’s even worse is that you’re throwing a wrench into the entire project flow.
Once, despite our advice, a customer decided that the way to achieve the best possible logo design was to try all possible combinations of fonts, colors, shapes and taglines. It took them almost six months and thousands of dollars in going back and forth to decide on something that turned out only decent. Our designer had created a logo that blew theirs out of the water in six hours.
Change of direction is the No. 1 enemy of project planning. For some it’s about indecisiveness, for others it’s about trying to take the designer’s role.
If you can’t adhere to the project flow, you’ll go in circles. You’ll be late and over budget. The solution is simple: Make a decision and stick to it. If you’re not sure, give the professionals the benefit of the doubt. No detail is too small or insignificant, but obsessing on aspects that aren’t relevant or have little impact may cost you both time and money.
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s site, here.