Website projects are big undertakings which inevitably carry an element of risk. It’s a fact that a project won’t always run exactly how you want it to despite everyone’s best efforts.
As a web development agency, we’ve seen our fair share of web project challenges over the years. But more importantly, we’ve learnt from these challenges to hone our ways of working and form seamlessly processes.
Gathering insight from our 20 years of experience, we’ve collated 12 ways to help you de-risk your website project.
1) Be clear on what you want to get out of your project
We’ve seen it many times before. A business knows they need a new website, but they don’t know how to define their website requirements. Truly understanding how your website will support your business is key to de-risking your project.
To help this process, we recommend taking a practical phased approach and exploring areas such as:
- What are your objectives?
- Who are your users?
- What are your priorities?
- What technology is right for your business?
- Who should you involve?
2) Write a robust brief
Successful projects usually have one thing in common and that’s the creation of a well-defined brief. When creating a brief, it needs to be clear, concise and cover what you expect from your agency. A vague brief can cause misinterpretation which means varying costs and solutions could be provided.
While all briefs are unique, there are some commonalities which should be covered:
- Who you are: This could include your history, your objectives, your audience demographic, why the project is needed and what project success looks like to you.
- Your digital estate: To show your business structure, existing platforms and third-party integrations.
- Project overview: This could include your budget, timescales, objectives, opportunities, audience segments, design requirements and what success looks like to you.
- Technical requirements: This is a good point to highlight technical and functional requirements which are an important part of determining timescales and budgets.
- Hosting: Will you need hosting support from your agency, or can you host internally?
3) Select the right technology for your needs
Choosing a CMS can be difficult because the options are essentially endless. Our advice is to consider these three questions in this order:
- First: What does my business need?
- Second: What does my audience need?
- Third: What technology is best suited to achieving this?
There are a number of areas to take into account when deciding which technology best suits your needs.
- CMS requirements: What do you need your CMS to do? How will it support you in reaching your goals? Who will be using your CMS in your internal teams? Have you considered your CMS in terms of today and in the future?
- Site architecture: The way your website is structured and how it helps users find the information they need plays a key role in your technology decision.
- Budget: Budget unsurprisingly comes up in various areas of a project and your technology choice is most certainly one of them.
- Business size: An organisation of a certain scale is likely to need to invest in technologies also of a certain scale to support them.
If you have no idea where to begin with your technology choices, you may find it easier to lean on the expertise of an agency. While an agency can inform and advise, the final decision should always be yours.
4) Choose an experienced agency
Choosing the right agency to support your web project can be daunting. There are countless ones to choose from and finding a credible, experienced and reliable option can be hard. Will they get your business? Will they deliver what they promise? Will we get on?
Arming yourself with relevant knowledge can make this process less stressful while also helping you find an agency that can support your needs – today, and in the future. Here are our top considerations:
- Look for a market leader
- Research their past work and case studies
- Explore processes
- Look into their support options
- Research their ability to forge long-term partnerships
Remember that no two web agencies are the same. Look for an agency with strengths aligned to your objectives, who understands your needs and can deliver a solution on-time and in budget. If you want more guidance on selecting your web agency, take a read of our blog on the topic: How to Select the Right Digital Agency for Your Business.
5) Get to know the team behind your project
Getting to know who you will be working with on your project is important. Initial introductions should happen early on, with roles and responsibilities outlined to make you aware of their different areas of expertise.
This ensures you know your main points of contact and allows you to start developing effective and efficient working relationships. We also advise finalising your key contacts for project signoffs at this stage so an approval schedule can be shared.
6) Establish clear roles and responsibilities for your team
From day one, it’s important to establish your internal responsibilities for approvals and sign offs. Missing deadlines can have a significant impact on the project causing timeframes to slip.
Who should be part of your internal team? What will they be responsible for? Do you have an internal project manager for your agency to work with? Who can sign off on key decisions? Agreeing this upfront is vital when key milestones are reached and will keep each phase on track.
7) Agree on communication channels early
Maintaining effective communication channels helps to avoid misunderstandings and complications further down the line.
A communication plan covers the preferred format and frequency of project updates, encouraging all team members to consistently communicate with one another. Taking this approach, you know exactly what to expect and you can book in calls or meetings with ease to ensure team availability.
We use tools such as Trello, JIRA and Slack to support communications and provide visibility of project progress.
8) Document your project plan
The project plan will likely be produced after the first meeting between the agency and the client’s project team. This project kick-off is typically a collaborative forum to discuss ideas and objectives in more detail, agree specifics such as sign-off turnarounds and planned absences, as well as identify third-party constraints and critical events that could influence project timings.
Want to know more about planning for a successful project kick-off? We wrote a whole article on the subject.
9) Identify project risks
Projects are never without their challenges, no matter how efficient and effective you work and they’re not just the agency’s responsibility either. Some of the project work requires the input from you as the client too, for example, meeting approval deadlines and creating content in line with timescales.
It’s worthwhile identifying any major project risks prior to starting. Discussing risks at such an early stage will create awareness in the team and provides a list of areas to keep an eye on. These could include:
- Too many decision makers
- Scope creep
- Content delays
- Third-party integrations systems
- Custom code
- Staff leaving in the core project team
10) Get ahead with your content
We all know just how valuable and important content is. Yet many businesses wait until the later stages of their project to create and sign off content which inevitably throws up new challenges. The project delays we see often involve content which is why taking a content-first approach is always our recommendation.
Realistically, content should be considered before even embarking on your web project. Leave enough time to create, review, sign off and actually enter the content into the new website.
11) Understand your costs
Understand how much you’re prepared to spend on your project before jumping in. From this point, a contingency budget should be set. It’s better to have this in place from the start to provide a safety net and provide you with the freedom to consider new ideas that may surface throughout the research and discovery phase.
However, it’s not enough to simply set your budget – you want to deliver on that number too. The first step in achieving this is by ensuring you have a clear indication of costings. Our unique cost configurator is ideal for this, providing an early yet accurate indication of expected project costs.
12) Add a contingency
During a web project, the unexpected can occur. Therefore, it’s critical to thoroughly scope your project to minimise the likelihood of scope creep. While every effort is made to create an accurate project scope, things can change. If your scope alters throughout, additional time will likely be required which will impact your final deadline and costings.
We also always advise our clients to allow for contingencies. A contingency can be applied to both budgets and timescales, helping to soften the blow if the unanticipated does happen. Setting aside additional time and budget alongside creating contingencies will help to avoid disappointing your stakeholders and means you can steer clear of awkward conversations with your finance team.
Here for the long-term
Be aware of the processes and measures your chosen agency has in place to mitigate risks that will derail your project. From kick-off meetings to resource planning to scheduling tools and everything in between, every agency will operate slightly differently. It’s about finding the processes that suit your business and project.
Our approach is to forge long-term relationships as shown by our range of long-standing clients like Ryobi. Taking an iterative approach to all of our projects, we ensure our work is centred around bettering your website.
If you’re looking for a helping hand with your website project, contact the team to find out more about our processes and whether NetConstruct could be the right fit for your business.