Websites. Those interactive, responsive, digital brochures and sources of information that come in more shapes and sizes than the Muppets. Most marketing people have had a website built, are building one or will be in the process of building one. Have you ever had a website development project go sideways? You're not alone. Here's how to make sure that doesn't happen again.
What you probably did
Most marketing organizations (marketing departments and marketing agencies) go about getting a website done the same way. They hire a contractor they know or find online. Or, they hire their mom's, best friend's, brother's nephew who read a blog or two on setting up Wordpress sites to build it for them. Bottom line? They outsource it. The contractor gives them a time estimate and a nice and affordable flat fee for the site. Chances are the site gets launched behind schedule. Either you were delayed in getting some stuff to the developer, or they were delayed in getting stuff done. It also probably went out of budget since you're building a website with a fixed cost for a set amount of activities. That means any big ideas your VP or customer comes up with after looking at the site won't be done without an uptick in cost since you and the developer didn't agree to those additions at the onset. Nonetheless, you're happy you got this shiny new website launched. This is how most website development projects go. It doesn't matter if your budget is $400 or $40,000.
Why your website project got delayed
It's important to understand why your website development project got delayed. There is plenty of blame to go around, but you really need to look in the mirror first. Usually when a developer gives you a time estimate they aren't factoring in holidays, slack time or the work load on your end to get them the information they need. Yes, they probably should factor this in, but they're web developers... not PMP-certified project managers! It's not like the developer has GANTT charts lined up on their walls to effectively track and manage how they get things done.
Also, 'web developer' is a very loaded term. Are you looking for an HTML/CSS developer or maybe someone that can build out a custom web/mobile app? Developers have different skill sets and specialties, similar to how doctors do. A cardiologist isn't going to be able to help with your emphysema much in the same way a developer that builds mobile apps isn't the best person to customize a HubSpot template. The developer you need depends on what kind of website you're building. Unfortunately, most marketing people don't know what kind of technical skills are required to get their jobs done. Sourcing developers isn't really in their job description. Either way, that '4 weeks' time estimate you get is 4 weeks of unfiltered work time assuming no slack time or delays and the developer having the technical chops to finish. You shouldn't consider this to be calendar time.
What You Should Have Done Instead
Your website needs to evolve and get updated with new content and features every couple of days, but how your deal is structured sets you up for technical and marketing issues.
On the technical side every enhancement or addition to the site that you can't do on your own will cost you money. Before you jump up and down about how empowered you are by your content-management system do know that technical issues arise very often. Say you start using Constant Contact for email marketing and want your newsletters on the site, or a place on the site for people to sign up. Doing both of those things is fairly easy, but will cost you some money since you have no plan for additions like that. Then, if you're technically illiterate or just busy, you'll need some assistance getting blog posts published and formatted so it looks right and is optimized for search engines. Again, another charge. Say you use open-source technology and third-party plugins to build the site. Keeping those systems up to date is something you'll have to account for. You get the idea.
Remember, your developers are off the hook once the site is launched. Let's say you take the website management in house after the developers hand it over. Any which way you slice it that means increased costs for you. You either need to hire a developer to maintain or you need to use in house staff to manage which takes away their time from marketing. The whole idea of you outsourcing the technical headaches when building the site was so you can focus on marketing!
Instead, what you should have done with your website budget is hire a marketing support team to serve as your back end development team. That way you, the savvy marketer, can work on getting new opportunities online. If you don't have a huge budget then that's ok....all that generally means is it will take longer to get the results you want and you'll have to make concessions on who you work with. Further, with them functioning as your team you can deal with scope changes and any technical issues that your stakeholders throw at the marketing department. Know this. Marketing is becoming a more agile discipline every day. Instead of hiring a contractor or freelancer that may take 4 months to launch a site, partner with a marketing operations team that can get you a prototype in a few weeks and then you can apply your marketing tactics when you have some data and knowledge about how things are going. You can make other changes and modifications on the fly after you have some feedback and more insight as to what your target audience wants. Learn by doing. Your website projects should resemble raising a child...not building a house.
Taking a holistic and agile view to building websites is key for you to achieve your website's marketing results. Partnering with the right marketing support team is the first step....then working with them to make modifications based on your marketing strategy is what comes next. This ebook outlines more ways your marketing department can make your next website redesign project the best one yet.
About the Author:
Sajeel Qureshi is the Vice President of Operations at Computan. Computan helps short-handed marketing departments and marketing agencies get more agile by providing them affordable and reliable back-end support. He has a degree in business administration from St. Bonaventure University, and an MBA from Eastern Illinois University