Whether you are adding new features to an existing website or starting the next twitter or facebook, you might not have the technical know how to implement all of your ideas. You may need to work with a professional web development company to do the heavy lifting for you. Over the years, I have heard plenty of nightmare stories from my clients working with other developers, and I have had to deal with a few tough clients myself. Based on these experiences, here are few things that stood out to me that made projects run smooth and were completed on time and on budget.
Be Prepared and Be Precise
Being prepared is an obvious no brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people neglect this basic step. It takes more then an idea to make a website successful. If you haven’t taken the time to think your idea through and how it will translate into a website, your web developer will have no clue what you’re trying to accomplish and will not know where to set expectations. Web development is an incremental process, so setting expectations is very important in keeping everyone on track and focused on the bigger picture.
Put your ideas on paper. Drawing up a simple site map or illustrating task flows can go a long way in showing your developers exactly what you want your website to do and how it should be built. There are many ways to do one thing, so doing this will give your developer a baseline for breaking down the components of your website and creating the tasks that will make up each component. Present each feature of your website in “IF, THEN” scenarios. An example of this would be: IF user clicks this, THEN this happens; IF user clicks that, THEN that happens; IF user is using mobile device, THEN this happens; IF user is on a desktop, THEN that happens…etc. If you don’t know how to draw up a site map or a task flow, do a search online and you will find plenty of tutorials that will show you exactly how to do it quick and easy.
Think About Your Users, Yourself, and The Future
Your website will be consumed by your users, so putting them first is a good idea. Doing this will make it easier to hash out all of those great ideas floating around in your head. Discuss these ideas with your developer. Web developers spend a lot of time online, so most likely they will be able to provide you with some valuable feedback on which idea should be main features and which could wait for a possible future release.
Another thing that is frequently overlooked, is how your site needs to be maintained. This is all about you. You may need certain things to be updated frequently so you will need a tool that helps you do this easily. Talking about these with your developer will give them an idea of how to build out your website so you can do certain things that fit your abilities. This should save you some headaches later when you need something simple to be fixed and you don’t have to call someone to do this for you.
Look ahead and put together a road map. Chances are you may not be able to get everything done in one shot and future releases may be in order. If this is the case, talk to your developer about this. If you’re working with a competent developer, they will know how create a codebase that can be extended in the future, either by them or another developer. Most programmers take pride in writing good code, so this type of information will give them a better idea on how to structure your website so that it can be scaled up in the future without having to start from scratch.
Form vs. Function
I’ve noticed most people initially focus in on what their website’s gonna look like. Although it is an important piece of the puzzle, the overall experience your user’s have is far more important. There are plenty of examples of websites that look a lot less appealing, but do what they do well and have a huge user base to prove it. Again, design is part of that formula, but just not the most important one. In the web development process, design usually runs concurrent to engineering but gets implemented towards the latter part of the project. You should focus on the user experience first then compliment it with some awesome designs that enhance that experience.
Be Mindful of Scope Creep
Throughout the process of building your website, it is not uncommon to discover new things that you may want to incorporate into the project. If these new ideas were not part of the original plan, this is what we call scope creep. Although, to some degree, scope creep is expected, the amount of how much new work is presented can become a potential hazard, especially if all of it cannot be fitted within the project’s timeline and budget. When this happens, you’ll need to re-prioritize and compromise with other features you have on deck. The worst thing you can do is have an expectation that your developer will include everything that you want. This will become a point of contention since the developer will need to spend more time to build out the extras, and without a compromise on either time and budget, your developer will not be a happy camper. Be open and talk to your developer about your new ideas and be willing to move around some of the features and put them on a backlog for a future release. The potential for another release and more future work for the developer will give them added incentive to stay focused and on point.
Ultimately, for your project, you are the captain of the ship. Even though your developer is in charge of putting it together for you, you are the one that dictates what happens. As a leader, be passionate about your project! Chances are your level of enthusiasm will rub off on your developers, and that is a good thing. We all want to be part of something good and will put extra effort into it if we’re inspired.
For your next web project, be prepared, be thoughtful and be passionate, and you will probably get the results you are looking for.