Constant Evolution — This is what makes software development both exhilarating and challenging. The same goes for clients running their businesses. As a client, you may be wondering how it is possible to define all of the needs for a website redesign at the start of a process that you know will take 3-6+ months; especially when the needs of your business are changing rapidly.
The Answer: Understand That the Process Is Iterative
RFPs and requirement documents are important when initially shopping around to find an agency or partner to work with on a website project, but it is vital to understand that these documents are not the “holy grail.” Finding a partner that understands the goals of your project is more important than making sure they have an answer for every line item. You should actually be skeptical if they seem to have all of the answers before doing any of the heavy lifting that goes into understanding your current processes and pain points.
Understand that these documents are meant to be a launching pad into conversations that will help shape the overall strategy for a project. What you are feel you “need” prior to the start of the project and what you ultimately launch with may be very different. Making decisions too early in the process can be detrimental.
Software development is iterative, meaning that at each step of the process you will need to test to validate decisions and be comfortable changing course if necessary. You can’t map out the entire course of the project on day one, instead think of it as one of those “Choose Your Adventure” books where you make educated decisions based on the information you have in front of you at that moment. You may need to pivot, but you are making more informed decisions along the way. It is also more fun this way!
Focus On the Goals, Not the Features
What is important when starting any project, but specifically a software development project, is outlining goals.These goals will be the North Star that you turn to when decisions are being made, so you need to ensure they are solid.
Clients sometimes make the mistake of setting very general and subjective goals. For example, “the website needs to be better,” is not an acceptable goal. There is no way to validate, and everyone may have a different idea of what “better” really means. Instead, set more specific, clear goals for a project.
One example is: “The goal for this project is to increase conversion rates on the site by 10% within 3 months post launch”. This is clear and results can be measured and analyzed to ultimately determine if the goal has been met or not.
Optimize for Even Greater Success!
As you start to consider the life-cycle of a website redesign, you may think that once the new website is launched the work is done. This is a mistake, and ultimately a missed opportunity.
Getting from point A (the start of the project) to point B (launch day) is a major accomplishment and should be celebrated, but the opportunities that lie after launch day are great. An optimization phase post-launch is the best way to validate decisions that were made throughout the course of the initial project, and to optimize and make necessary changes to improve overall success.
Evolution is vital to keep your business growing, so don’t be afraid to jump into a project with clear goals and an open mind.