Whether you work for a large organization that regularly executes web development or like me, manage the web development process for a marketing agency, I’ve learned that there are some fundamental aspects to creating a successful model. Some clients will say that agencies take too long, or that the process can be frustrating and expensive, and some agencies can say that some clients don’t provide enough support or information through the process and it’s difficult to develop a finished product that meets their expectations.
However, there are solutions for both sides of the equation that can bridge those gaps and provide both the developer(s) and client(s) with a better experience, and most importantly a better deliverable for the business it is being built for.
I’ve been developing web projects and managing the development of web projects for most of my adult life. This is what I believe a solid model comes down to.
Choose a CMS that is appropriate for businesses across multiple sectors and stick with it!
I need not go too far into why I believe a database driven website is the best route for web development here (more on that later) but as an organization, you should “own” a CMS and that should be your primary development platform. For many this is WordPress or Drupal, large organizations may use SiteCore or Oracle, either way having a firm understanding of how your CMS works and utilizing it for as many of your projects as possible will streamline your process, create efficiencies and most importantly lower operating costs.
Cost-effective solutions are business-critical
Every member of your team, whether they are a developer, designer, or content strategist needs to be on the same page when it comes to affordable, high-quality development. You need to be able to pass on value to your clients, whether they are internal or external and develop websites that can actually obtain an ROI.
Iterative Development is crucial
Long gone are the days where you build a website with static, proprietary code and leave it for 5 years. Every few months Google’s algorithm is changing, and with those changes come new ways to obtain organic traffic and provide a better user experience for potential customers. Look at your websites like a living and breathing entity. With that comes the idea that your website “owner” (as in a business, or department) may not have a budget to continually develop new functionality. This means that you need to develop websites so that junior and non-technical staff can update, add or change content on a regular basis.
Build for Non-Technical Content Editors, but don’t go too crazy with custom development
In the world of CMS’s comes the nature of “Custom Content Types”. An example or use case of this is when a business has a specific content type on their website, maybe phone numbers for specific locations for example, and that content needs to be updated regularly. This would be a good use case for a custom post type. Create a new content type within your CMS so that a non=-technical editor can easily populate fields and update the front end without having to manually update or edit pages. However, with this in mind, it’s important that you don’t go too far down the custom content type “rabbit hole”. The more custom your CMS is developed in the back end, the more development is required when you need to make changes. A solid web project manager needs to understand this and build for the future and feasibility.
Function First, Design Second
Wait! No, I am not saying that solid design and beautiful website isn’t important. It is absolutely critical that your website represents your brand. But what is more critical is that your website functions properly for your customers. When it comes to budgeting and scoping out a project, you need to put your “customer hat” or “end user hat” on and make constant decisions that are better for them, than your desire for a beautifully made custom front end. Remember, your website is a part of a digital eco-system, that’s a message you need to communicate regularly. It will not solve your businesses problems on its own, but rather as a part of a cohesive digital experience for your customers.
Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
It is important that you make note of the maintenance required for any web project. Don’t let the “Hype” of the end deliverable escape your project management and planning. Always develop with the mindset of “how much of a resource hog will this thing be when its launched”.
SEO is still critically important.
Ensure that your web development includes basic SEO incorporated right into the content workflow, and that the business driving the project understands the value in the data available. Most importantly ensure that you integrate data sources like Google Analytics as soon as you launch. These reports and utilization of them can become just as important as the website itself down the road for most businesses.
GET BUY IN ALWAYS
No matter the situation, develop a website with buy-in from all stakeholders right from the start. This is absolutely the most important thing I have learned. Every business department or stakeholder\business owner involved in the project has their own objectives that will need to be met. You need to work through them and ensure that you are communicating regularly and looking at the objective holistically, not just at the micro level.