Having been in the web design and development game for over 15 years, I’ve seen clients and prospects fall into a set of familiar traps when it comes to the process of creating a web site. Here are five tips for avoiding the pitfalls lurking in any web development project.
1. In-house Copywriting
The number one reason for an off-schedule or derailed web development process is when clients write their own copy. While this is not always the case, we’ve seen on many occasions, an in-house person “assigned” to write web copy on a tight schedule. This person usually has a million other equally or more pressing responsibilities and consequently, the web copy languishes. In virtually every instance where we, as an outside resource, manage the copy, our client is thrilled and their schedules met. I highly recommend outsourcing copy for the best result in the least time.
2. Socialist Decision-Making Process
Though it may offend some reader somewhere, a “socialist decision process” seems to me to be a good description of one in which nobody on the client side asserts a leadership position. Consequently all decisions regarding the web site, be they design, IA, content, whatever, are made by a committee of people often consulted at random times. The subjective nature of a web site allows for many opinions. Without a clearly articulated decision process firm decisions don’t happen and schedules and budgets are often impacted. The optimal decision process has about 4 people empowered by their organization. They may give colleagues the opportunity to preview the work as a courtesy, but the decisions rest with them.
3. Unclear Goals for the Web Site
Concerns about the competition, frustration with lackluster sales, anxiety about stale content, consternation from dwindling site visits; there are seemingly endless reasons for needing a new web site, yet surprisingly many companies go into a web redesign without clarifying their objectives. Ambiguity is the enemy of a web project. The most successful web site projects are ones in which the client presents a brief outlining their goals and objectives. We can then measure ourselves toward those goals as the project progresses.
4. A Tactical Rather Than Strategic View of the Web Site
For most B2B businesses, the web site is the most visible marketing vehicle with the greatest capability for generating leads. The tools at our disposal for building and measuring lead generation for every web site are unprecedented. Still, many B2B companies treat their web site as a content repository and nothing more. It is viewed more as a cost than a benefit. Our savviest clients have built the web site into their overall strategy for success and evaluate prospective web development partners on long-term value and not just price.
5. Unresolved Messaging
Messaging is not the same as copywriting. Good copywriting can only present when the underlying brand messaging is differentiated. Brand messaging is the pillar on which copywriting, design and even IA stand. Before beginning any web project, a company must have a clear brand positioning, the essential statement defining what they do and how it differs from the competition. From that positioning springs specific messaging for the company, its products and services, solutions or applications. When brand positioning and messaging are done well, web design, copywriting and IA often work smooth as silk.