The Cobbler’s Kids Are No Longer Shoeless

Finally, after 2 years, dozens of design iterations, catfights, bickering, assassins and all manner of strife…we launched our new website. That might just have been the most painful process we’ve gone through short of a proctology exam.

Why the fuss? Well, when you’re in the web design business, it’s kind of vital to have a good website (of course, that didn’t stop us from leaving the old creaky site with squirrely navigation out there for far too long). So certainly the pressure is on to have just the right design, crackalackin’ code, and perfect imagery.

We also are fortunate to have lots of work to do for paying clients. Spending any time at all on our own site means time away from everything else we have that has to get done. Our needs certainly take a back seat, which led to a lot of late night/weekend puttering around with the site.

Know what else we found out? We might just be the world’s worst web client.

Consider the following:

  • We didn’t go into the project with any clear cut goal in mind – just that we were tired of looking at the old site and needed something that “looked better”
  • The site constantly took a back seat (waaaaaaay back) to everything else we had going on
  • When we did have time to pay attention to the site, we were irritated that it hadn’t progressed
  • Feedback was pathetic. Comments like, “that’s not the look I had in mind”, “I don’t like the way that works”, “you really should shower more” and “Ugh” were common.
  • Directives like, “we need to be different” were thrown out with absolutely no explanation
  • We had several design “standoffs” that were in no way, shape or form objective. Ideas were dismissed simply because they weren’t their own.

What we learned

If nothing else, it truly has given us a better appreciation of the process our clients go through. It’s tough to run a business and take on any kind of additional burden, let alone one as potentially monumental as a website. But if there’s one thing I have always tried to do, it’s to learn from mistakes so that they aren’t repeated. With this in mind (and knowing that we only have about 2 years before we’ll probably want a new site) we’ll be starting on a new site immediately. Except this time we will:

  • Assign a SINGLE person to be in charge of the project
  • Have a brain-storming session with all key personnel to determine:
    • Goals for new site
    • Metrics to determine success
    • List of good attributes of current site
    • List of deficiencies of current site
    • List of desired items for new site
    • Reasonable timeline for project
  • Develop a schedule to achieve timeline – hold people accountable
  • Create a list of sites we like
  • Create a list of competitors and analyze sites (what works, what doesn’t, opportunities for us)
  • Develop a sitemap for the new site
  • Create a wireframe for new site
  • Gather all assets for the site:
    • Images for each page
    • Headlines/subheadings for each page
    • Text for each page
    • All associated links, PDF files and any other items for placement on the site
  • Provide meaningful feedback in a timely manner
  • Concentrate on the overall goals – not the individual minutiae
  • Let the chosen project manager do their job and not second guess everything
  • Keep sharp instruments away from anyone involved in the process

Hmm…this list seems familiar…wait a minute – this is the process we encourage our clients to go through! Son of a…

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