How much time should I plan to invest in my website? - PART 1 of 3

How much time should I plan to invest in my website? - PART 1 of 3

12 Dec

Author : Brad Muncs, Categories : Web Site Development

Making sure your web project is a success starts before an agency is selected, and ends way after launch (actually, I like to believe a website can constantly get better).

This series of articles aims to help mentally prepare anyone who is planning to redesign their existing website or create a new online presence.
 

 

Different moments in the website redesign process, different amounts of time to plan for

At a really high level, there are three moments in your web project's life to plan for:

  • Before: selecting a web partner
  • During: the production, and
  • After: launch 

This article will focus on the first of those three moments: the preparation before signing on an agency.
 

How much time to put aside before the selection of your web partner 

Redesigning your website is a significant achievement. It impacts your entire organisation because at some point every person that interacts with your business is going to visit your website. 

Here are a few suggested milestones that need to be planned in your schedule before actually starting the production of your website.

Get people involved

Don't initiate your web project alone. Get people involved - ideally top management needs to buy in so that they can support you and provide the required human ressources and budget.

Getting everyone on the same page, such as setting up a brainstorming meeting, requires time, but is well worth it down the line.

Write down your expectations

Once everyone has bought in, make sure you take the time to write down expectations.  A few questions to ask yourself at this step are:

  • How does the website fit into my business' objectives?
  • What are my competitors doing well that I want to emulate?
  • What do I want the website to project?
  • What type of advanced functionality should the website offer?
  • What are my pet peeves with my current website?
  • What feedback/suggestions have I received regarding my website?
  • How much money am I willing to invest in my website - is this from the IT and/or Marketing budget?
  • Who will be responsible for the website?
  • When do you expect the new website to be online? Is this related to a real event or is it approximate?

Once all these expectations are identified, send a copy to colleagues so that they can share their thoughts.

Write a RFP

Now that your expectations are clear, take the time to write a succinct document (5-15 pages) detailing your company, the website's objectives, and the list of features you require from your website. This document is called the "RFP" or "Request for Proposal".

Before sending it out, ask some colleagues/friends to read it to see if all the information is clear and if anything is missing.

Since this is the document that your potential web partners will use to propose offers, you must minimize ambiguity. Otherwise, expectations run the risk of falling into the "grey zone of death" where you and your agency understand two different things for the same feature. Ex: While "homepage slideshow" could mean 5 custom images sliding left to right for your agency, your intention might have been "pictures from my 5 most recent blog posts".

Finally, make sure you specify your approximate budget and launch date* - these are very important factors for agencies that will pitch for your project.

*A realistic timeline should be between 3-6 months.

Identify potential partners

Receiving 25 proposals is too time-consuming to read through and won't help you make a good decision. Ideally, you should ask 3-5 different agencies to prepare a proposal.

The crucial element here is how to pre-select agencies that fit your requirements. A few things to look at are:

  • Ask around: has a colleague/friend had a positive experience with an agency?
  • Does your web project have specific requirements? A focus on search engine optimization, or be e-commerce friendly? Make sure your selected agency has had experience with this.
  • Do you want your website to be built with specific platforms (for example, you might want it to be built with WordPress or Drupal because your current site already is or you heard good things about them)? Best to identify agencies that are specialized in those technologies.
  • What size of agency do you want to work with? An agency with 50+ employees doesn't have the same price structure or flexibility as a smaller firm.

Send out the RFP to the selected firms

Set a reasonable deadline for proposals, and expect to promptly answer emails or phone calls from all the agencies you've sent the RFP to.

Set a time to read through all the received proposals

This could be time-consuming if you have a large/complex project. Also, it might be difficult to compare one proposal to the next, so you might want to get some expert help from in-house or external resources. Finally, you might want to plan the time to reach out to previous clients of those agencies to assess their customers' satisfaction.

Set a deadline to select an agency - and stick to it

If this isn't set, and the project doesn't have a specific event as a launch date (a corporate event or trade show for example), it's easy for a web project to constantly be "pushed" to a later date.

This deadline also helps your potential partner get an idea of when you'll get back to him and how to plan out their resources to deliver according to expectations.

It would also be nice to get in touch with the agencies that were not selected just to let them know - they did take the time to build a proposal, after all.

NEXT ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES:

We'll be looking into the time you need to invest during the website's production up to its launch.

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