If you want to avoid the common mistakes that are made when building a new website then the only way to do that is to create a plan before you do anything else.
Successful businesses all have plans on key parts of their operations. A business plan, marketing plan, operation plans etc. are all expected items for the management of the business.
While there are many different approaches to business planning, it’s recognised by many that without a plan you have a much higher chance of failure. A common quote is “If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.”
In the early years of web development, there was little to plan around and little experience to base a plan on. That was well over twenty years ago and we now know a lot more about the things that should make up a website and have a lot more experience.
Websites come in many different sizes and have many different roles and the benefits of spending time up front to plan them depend on the size and type of website you are looking to build.
If you have a one-page landing page that is limited in role and scope then your planning will be minimal, compared to a lead generation site for a medium size services business or an online store.
There is a raft of reasons why you should be developing a proper plan before you engage designers or developers or kick off the project internally, we’ve listed six benefits below that should give you a reason to consider why you should be too.
6 reasons why should you plan your website:
1 - Save Money.
In order to have a website built, there are some steps you need to go through. If you are using a 3rd-party team then you will most likely be wanting to get a quote for the project.
Most quotes will have some clauses that highlight anything outside the specifications quoted on will cost you additional fees.
This is fairly normal but where the problems arise is in determining what constitutes ‘the specifications’.
If you have an extremely detailed brief (the plan) then you are going to be more likely to be the one that isn’t out of pocket if the quote doesn’t cover the work. If you are the one that provided a loose guide and some general notes and it wasn’t covered in the quote then you could be paying handsomely for the additions.
Some agencies will include a scoping cost in the front part of the quote with an estimate for the rest, which will then fluctuate based on what you request during the scoping process.
The problem for you is you have committed to this team now and that cost isn’t known until you have done whatever scoping options they provide. In this example, you will have a limited number of agency hours to provide the brief which could result in not getting all the detail either.
If there is no scoping process and you provide a substandard brief then the chances of you getting additional charges are high, or alternatively, there will be corners cut so the developers don’t lose money.
Either way, it costs you money in the long run.
If you are using an in-house team it costs you in lost opportunity and resources every extra day the project runs over.
2 – Save Time
For all the reasons above, time and money are closely related. Every change or mistake in the build of your site costs time. Momentum gets lost; teams get frustrated and lose their enthusiasm for the project.
Like taking a road trip when you know where you are going you are able to take the most efficient route to get there.
Creating a website plan (scope) is like Abraham Lincoln’s quote on cutting a tree;
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”
By sharpening the axe of what you actually need in putting it down in detail you save yourself the time of ‘cutting through the work’ in quicker time and less backwards work in the project.
3 – Solves Many Design Issues
A lot of web projects start with the design before anything else. While the design is very important, the best design is made with knowledge of all parts of the end product.These include content, goals, the intention of the thing being designed and it functions in the greater product.
If you haven’t made critical decisions about what it is you want your website to do, and the role each page and object within those pages then you are going to create many design problems.
You will also be asking designers to make you something out of thin air. Don’t be surprised if they end up giving you something that looks surprisingly like a similar business. Without your guidance and a clear plan, they will be looking at your competitors for ideas.
This is also why picking a theme before you know what you want ends up creating a substandard product.
When you are clear about your needs your designers will be able to create you something that you love because it will be the visual representation of what you have already agreed on what you wanted.
4 – Better Results.
If you don’t know which port you are heading to any wind is a good wind. While you might choose a ‘pretty’ design and get a site built that is aesthetically pleasing if you don’t engineer it for your actual needs the chances of success are slim, but more importantly they are being left to chance.
If you want more leads then you need to plan your site for that purpose, if you want people on your site to call you and not email then again there’s a method to do that. If you have products to sell or need to improve support response times each of these has specific needs for your business.
Like a business growth plan, if you want specific results then you need a map on how to get to those results.
When you create a website scope that addresses the results you want and lays out a clear method to get them then the team you choose to deliver that will be more easily able to produce it.
5 - Avoid Disappointment
There is nothing as deflating from a development team than to hear from a client “it’s not what I expected” or “it doesn’t do what I wanted it to do.”
The issue with not providing a clear and detailed expectation map to your developers means that you are more likely to end up with those feelings about your web project.
This comes from you not getting out of your head what you really want, and assuming you’ve provided enough ‘verbal’ guidance or that they should understand these things are expected.
Don’t be that person.
Commit to being reasonable and creating a guide to what you want and need so that you won’t experience disappointment and your business won’t suffer.
6 – Ensure Your Business Gets What It Needs
As with avoiding disappointment and getting better results, by spending time planning what you want, learning how to do that better and committing it to paper so that others can understand it is the only way to get a website that will work for your business.
It’s your business so give your business website the attention and process it deserves so that you can improve your results and warrant the ongoing investment you are putting into it.
These six reasons are important reasons but not the only reasons for creating a website development plan.
You don’t build a house without blueprints nor should you build your next website without blueprints.
Take the time to create a plan and you’ll notice the difference.