So many of our clients arrive with stories of awful projects that dragged on, underwhelmed on launch and didn't deliver any noticeable benefits afterwards.
In this post, we'll look at the real reasons why that happens, and give you the full framework needed to plan a successful project - even if your website developer doesn't understand your needs.
Websites are tricky projects
And if you didn't realise that before, you probably do now. It may have put you off ever trying to build a new website again.
If you're anything like a lot of our new clients, you spent a lot of time on your last website project and aren't really happy with how it turned out.
You tried your best to explain what you liked, but by the time the site launched you would have been secretly happy never to see your web designer ever again.
Worse still, once the site had been up a while, you realised it wasn't actually doing anything for you that your old website or your Facebook page weren't already doing just as well.
I see this all the time, and there's five common reasons why it happened. But first, let's throw a spanner in the works.
It's only partly your designer's fault
Don't worry! I'm not pointing the finger.
You might think that if you'd picked a different web designer, you would have had a different outcome.
That may be true.
But we've often taken on new clients who've previously worked with some of our absolute favourite web design companies in Leeds - companies that turn out amazing work - who still arrive with the same problems.
Does that mean they were bad clients? Does that mean you're a bad client?
Well, you'll be relieved to know that it isn't all your fault either.
Here are five things that make for a disappointing and stressful website project. If any of these sound familiar, then you and your designer had probably started on your project before you were truly ready. And, with the benefit of experience and some careful planning, you can totally fix that for next time...
Five things that make for a nightmare project
1. You didn't know what you really wanted.
If someone calls me for a consultation and says they want a new website, my first question is usually, "What for?".
That isn't because I'm terrible at my job and don't understand the point of a website. But the needs of one business or charity I work with are totally different to the next one.
If your requirements weren't agreed on before the contract was signed, you were taking a chance that your web designer understood your organisation well enough to know what your priorities were, and would be able to solve your problems as they went along.
2. The money conversation hadn't happened.
We all hate discussing money. The problem is, if you hadn't agreed on your requirements and solved them with different parts of your budget, you probably weren't on the same page right from the start.
In that situation, this happens:
Your designer might have thought they could skip a few things and still deliver what they thought you wanted on a small budget. Or they might have thought you wanted flawless design and were willing to wait for it.
You might have thought you could add some extra features and budget later on if things went well.
There might not have been a clear method to make sure the website paid back the money you invested in it.
Or - yes - it might have been that you and your designer just weren't the right fit.
Somebody told me recently that he had been working with his web designer for over a year and still hadn't got a website up and running. As we chatted, he admitted that the eCommerce site they were building was crucial to helping his business to survive, but he'd agreed to spend just £200 on it with a developer who was based over 300 miles away and was no longer contactable (more on communication in a moment). However he got to this point, it was clear that the money conversation hadn't really happened and so there was very little prospect of the website turning out a success.
Yep, there are plenty of ways in which money can make a website project a total nightmare.
3. You didn't have good goals
Somebody asked one of my colleagues recently if it was possible to build a new website for a niche product and get 100,000 'hits' a month for it. He did not take on that website project.
Why not? The goal wasn't properly defined. You can buy website traffic but it doesn't guarantee sales. You can build higher traffic levels but it might take ten years, or a change of product range.
If you set out on a new project without SMART goals, you risk never knowing whether your website has been a success.
Worse still, if you don't discuss them with your developer, they won't even have a chance to tell you whether your goals are realistic.
If your goals were limited to things like "making the phone ring more" and "getting more donations", then you didn't have targets you could tick off as you hit them.
4. Your content wasn't very good
This is a big one, and I want to tread carefully.
Every bad website project we've ever been aware of has, as one of its problems, involved delayed or low quality page content.
Articles like this one take a long time to write. I don't always enjoy putting my top priorities down to work on some really high quality page copy. (Hopefully you're finding this page useful - if so, it was worth my while!)
If your project had a long delay in it while you got round to writing content, or you had to get everything approved a committee of non-writers, you probably found it one of the most stressful parts of your website project.
And quite often, your customers aren't interested in the same things you are, so the content you put together doesn't really engage them in the way you need anyway.
5. Communication with your designer was ..... tough
Once things get sticky with unclear requirements, confusion over money and waiting for good content, communication quite often goes down the pan.
You start missing your regular meetings and ignoring their emails and phone calls, and they do the same to you.
Every so often there's a little breakthrough where you get some work done for a week or so, but then it's back to radio silence by either you or them.
Usually the communication problems are a symptom of a struggling project, not the cause. Nobody wants to have a difficult conversation and nobody wants to admit they are downing tools because of something that's gone unsaid and has now become a bigger problem.
There is a better way!
If these have struck a chord with you (and hopefully not hit a painful nerve, because that would really mix our metaphors up) there is good news.
It's totally possible to improve your website process and have a far better chance of your next project being a massive success.
Take some time to think about:
- What your organisation truly wants
- The potential benefits to you of investing in your website
- Your clear goals
- Your approach to content
- What sort of communication you would want with your ideal website designer
If you follow this framework, which we use with all of our clients, then I'm sure your next website project will be clearly defined, well planned and go on to turn out even better than you had hoped.
If you want an in-depth guide to help you address each of these five areas so that your next website project is a winner from the outset, download our free guide here.