Sometimes, I encounter clients that have expansive ideas that require their website projects to be developed in phases. The most difficult decisions for them are deciding what needs to initially be online, and what can be added during a subsequent phase. It’s easy to delay an online presence just “one more week” in order to add “just one more thing.” And . . . then . . . the website launch is delayed again . . . and again . . .
So, I have two cautionary points to make.
First, look for a designer that will carefully plan with you, explaining the wisdom of breaking a project into phases based upon what’s practical and what’s affordable.
Second, be sure that any features or functionality to be placed in the website are truly relevant, either to the content being offered or to the design. Costly and time-consuming ideas that are aren’t in alignment with the project’s objectives can interfere with a clear interface and easy-to-locate content.
This isn’t for the designer’s benefit. It’s for the client’s.
A web presence is always a work in progress. It should never be launched today, forgotten tomorrow. Web development best practices have changed exponentially over the last 10 years … more significantly, over the past 5 years. Which means that web designers/developers are always in learning mode, always in a state of flux, and running hard to keep up. But it’s necessary. Our clients depend upon us to guide and direct them. It’s not good for them and their web presence to ever be behind the 8 ball.
So when meeting with clients, it’s good to advise them of this. What will perfectly fit their needs now may not in 2-3 years. So the solution must flow gracefully to the next phase. Because there will always be one. A next phase.
It’s essential that every web project accommodate the client’s needs. Several key questions should be asked prior to beginning development. Such as …
- How will the website be maintained? By the client? Realistically … are they willing or able to make routine updates, or would they rather send updates to the web designer? If they want to make updates themselves, how often will this occur? Flesh this out ahead of time. It may be less costly to have the designer make infrequent updates.
- Does a CMS make sense, or a static website? Consider Item 1 first. Then, discuss what features the client needs (they may bring up ones that they want … but their practicality should be reviewed).
- Consider the client’s budget as well as their future needs. What is delivered to the client today might not completely work a year from now. Their needs could change. Explain why planning for the future of a website is integral to it’s development. Design must occur with change in mind. The design must be separate from the content presentation, utilizing current web design best practices, whether a static or CMS website. Explain this thoroughly to the client. It may mean there are greater upfront costs — but far less cost in the future due to the need for complete redesigns. A website should be as flexible as possible.
The above three issues should drive initial discussion. Only then can you know what direction to take.
I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. At one point during his career, he took a new idea developed by Xerox and executed it … with great success. By some, this was viewed as a heist. Jobs himself acknowledged it:
Picasso had a saying—‘good artists copy, great artists steal’—and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.
We can debate whether Jobs actually stole someone else’s work … or, whether he was inspired to develop his own ideas from it, taking the initiative to “grab the ball and run with it.” This made me think about the ways that I obtain ideas and inspiration.
At some point in our lives, most of us have been inspired by others. One of my pastimes is finding inspiration through others’ web design work. There is a great deal of talent out there, and so many people working countless hours to keep abreast of the latest when it comes to web design. Most are eager to share their cutting-edge discoveries; it’s my job to seek them out. It’s not stealing to be inspired by someone else’s work or accomplishments. Having said that, I will continue seeking out cutting-edge web design techniques, and newer and better solutions to include in my client projects.
Boy. What we don’t know. It would fill a book, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this. Actually, I’ve discovered that the really smart people that I know also realize there is a TON more that they DON’T know. Making assumptions about, or not considering, what our user has or is can have a negative impact on our project outcome.
When it comes to developing websites, we don’t know a ton. This article on css-tricks.com sums it up. Knowing what we don’t know is the first step to developing a successful web presence. Thanks for the reminder.