Oct 2010 25

Top 10 issues facing web design projects (and how to beat them)

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Posted October 25, 2010 by |  

I recently stumbled across some very scary stories about web design projects gone wrong. Many writers claimed that a supplier or a client was being unreasonable or unprofessional to the extreme - the type of storytelling it's usually best to take with plenty of salt. In my experience, most people don't start work each day thinking how they can make someone else miserable. And yet there are so many cases where things have gone wrong. So what happens?

A lot of the self-justification in the scary stories might be a symptom of knowing, deep-down, that things could have gone better if only they'd tried. At the start of the project it's easy for all involved to have positive intentions, but by the time any problems develop the motivation to gracefully solve problems might have become stale. Even if things have gone well the final delivery of the project may not always match the promised standard.

At Experia, we've taken careful note of these kinds of factors and integrated balances into our way of working that ensure issues are kept to a minimum and the final outcomes are as good as we've promised. To mark Experia's launch, and our attention to resolving typical web design issues in favour of our clients' needs we thought you would find these insights useful too.

Here are the top 10 issues we've seen, and what you can do to help avoid them:

  1. Being unclear about what will be provided
    At the top of the list is making sure that everyone involved in the project is clear about the project brief and has agreed on the required outcomes. This kind of planning and agreement upfront is essential for measuring and tracking progress throughout the rest of the project. You should flavour it with the unique approach of your business and include your business goals. Visual references can help articulate subjective thoughts and ideas. A good web designer will help you define your needs, and respond appropriately with a written estimate and/or proposal.  If you'd like to work with Experia, we've provided an easy to use project questionnaire that gets you thinking.
  2. Allowing subjective opinions to cloud requirements
    The personal thoughts and ideas of people involved in the project are important for making your site unique, but need to be balanced with an objective viewpoint that considers the end-users and the marketplace environment. Good designers should have techniques in place to bring the best of creativity and the best of targeted strategy together, and will work with you to ensure that concepts are on track with what you need.
  3. Not giving content the attention it deserves
    High quality website content plays a vital role in satisfying the needs of users as well as allowing people to find it through better search engine rankings. It's unfortunate that many web designers don't include content development in their proposals as it's a service that many clients would benefit from having external help with, especially where an expert web copywriter is used. Experia recommends professional copywriters and has also put together a set of useful guidelines for developing good content.
  4. Not being responsive to time-sensitive tasks
    Project schedules can spiral out of control when dates and deliverables aren't assertively managed. Often the cause of slippage is that a stakeholder isn't responsive to communications and decision-making - this goes both for client and designer. It's also important to ensure support for those responsible for content delivery - it's one of the major hurdles. A good attitude to operate with across the project is to release early (get drafts out as soon as you can) and to release often (build iteratively on the drafts to improve quality).
  5. Not setting the project up with a realistic budget
    If cost is a primary concern in your project you should set a budget and talk to your web designer about what can be done to meet it. A good designer can give you feedback on the most effective ways to use your budget and will provide a guaranteed estimate that includes a contingency amount. They'll also keep stakeholders aware of any potential cost deviations during the course of the project. Ensuring the project is properly planned at the beginning, and maintaining communication throughout will go a long way to achieving the expected budget.
  6. Cutting corners irresponsibly
    It's often very tempting to choose the cheapest option but it's important that decision-makers consider whether the results will actually achieve the required level of quality. We often see websites where it's obvious that a friend, colleague or family member has been used in favour of a professional, or where stock photos attempt to take the place of real people or places. Choosing the cheapest website hosting service or using a pre-made design template are also culprits that make future work difficult.
  7. Losing sight of the desired outcomes
    A well managed project will regularly track progress and allow early feedback. As with several of the above points, ensuring that a written scope (even just a single page) lists the desired outcomes and success factors is important. This allows priorities to be made so critical aspects can be completed first, and factors can be weighed throughout the project and after completion to objectively measure success. It's not a prerogative, but being nice to your webdesigner also helps things go smoother. =)
  8. Not following basic SEO practices
    Search engine optimisation (SEO) is important for getting your site ranked well in web search engine results and bringing natural traffic to your new site. For SEO to be implemented easily and effectively it needs to be considered from the beginning of a project; the online positioning, site structure, content development and website coding should all follow basic techniques that prepare for future work. Achieving good results is a long-term effort.
  9. Not preparing for problems in advance
    Glitches happen and things break after delivery. Failing to make contingency plans for these could place your website or associated systems in jeopardy. Firstly, make sure you have a support contract with your designer and technical providers. Make sure that regular and offsite backups are taken of critical files on your website. Take the time to learn and familiarise yourself with the various tools before you're under pressure to use them. If your designer offers training it would be a good option to take up before your project is finished.
  10. Thinking that the site launch is the end of the project
    The day your website is launched to the public marks the beginning of an ongoing commitment. Small regular content updates using a Content Management System (CMS) are often helpful for your site users and are certainly good for your search engine rankings. If you don't have the time to do these yourself, consider outsourcing the work to your web developers or a copywriting freelancer. Your use of the site will also suggest specific tweaks to your marketing approach and SEO requirements. Plan and budget for these improvements and other future upgrades -  your business will evolve and it's important that your website reflects this without being hacked around to cater for the changes that come along.

In web project horror stories we see evidence of poor communication skills, lack of respect, unethical behaviour, lazy work habits and a lack of vision. At Experia we have our seven fundamental values, our simple but mature processes and an understanding gained from experience. We also use regular feedback and retrospective project discussions to help us use every project and client as an opportunity to improve.

What issues have you had with web design projects in the past? How did you get to a solution, or what have you done to avoid problems?

- Luke

 
 

Last modified by Luke Chambers on Feb 6, 01:46 AM | Back to top

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