Has your business decided to get a new website? As you are probably aware, someone at the business has to be the direct contact for the website design firm...we'll call this person the "project manager". Chances are good that this "project manager" has not lead a website project before, but they were put in charge because of either their position in the company or because they are thought of as being the most "technie". Not always the best way to choose that person, but it happens...so let's run through how to successfully manage a website project for your business.
Don't just rush into things and just send website RFPs all willy-nilly. While it may sound like more work initially, it will save you time and stress in the long run to have a detailed planning stage. You don't have to share ALL if this info, but you should know it.
- Why do you need a new website?
- What are your short term and long term goals with the website?
- What marketing tactics are you considering to help meet these goals (i.e. inbound marketing, SEO, PPC, Social, etc.)?
- What are the frustrations with your current site?
- What do you like about your current website?
- What is your budget range?
- What is your target launch date?
- Can you get any funding assistance through grant programs? This are most commonly available to manufacturers.
- What are your technology requirements?
- Who internally are you going to recruit to help with the project (i.e. content writing, photos, etc.)
After you know what you want, it's time to move forward with getting the right person to design and develop your new website and marketing. Whether you've got people in mind or not, it's a good idea to create an RFP/RFQ (request-for-proposal/quote). An RFP will let the parties quoting the project know what the expectations are. Your RFP can be as informal or as formal as you'd like, but be sure that it accurately reflects your expectations, is clear, and realistic.
Reviewing Proposals and Interviewing
After you've gotten the quotes back for the website project, review them by yourself and determine which proposals make the cut and which ones get cut. Now you should have a short list of candidates in which you can research.
After you've got a short list, you can review you findings with your team and the ultimate decision maker (which might be you).
It's a good idea to interview your candidates in person if at all possible. You'll be working with with them a lot over the next couple of months, so it's important that you actually like them!
After you've chosen the right website design vendor, you are ready to move forward. Before you get too far into the project, you and the chosen vendor should discuss details.
- Get a clear idea of what is expected of you
- Let the vendor know what you expect from them (no need to re-has the entire RFP, but discuss things like how and when they should give you project updates, best form of communication, etc.)
- Provide the vendor with details about your business; the more familiar they are, the better it will be reflected in the design
- Discuss your target audience (this may or may not have been explained in the RFP)
- Talk look and feel of the design early
- Define the project timeline and milestones
During the Website Project
Keeping a good timeline takes effort from both you and the vendor. You both have deadlines, stick to them. Not meeting a deadline by 1 day, doesn't necessarily ensure your overall project is delayed by only 1 day. You are likely not the vendors only client, so if you delay something they cannot sit around and wait for it...they'll have to move on to something else.
Draft a Sitemap
This is what you would expect the website to contain in regards to pages. Doing this early will provide some guidance on design and allow you to start gathering content.
The designer will send you images of their website mock-up for you to review. Review the design and make detailed notes of what you like or don't like about the design. If you feel it's worthy to send to the team and decision makers, do so and explain to them the importance of providing feedback quickly.
If you are redoing your website it's likely that your content needs addressed as well. If you are providing content to the website developer start gathering it as early in the process as you can. Compile and send your content in a consistent manner (including photos).
If your content is being written by the developer or a 3rd party, it is a good idea to outline your thoughts, facts, statistics and purpose for each page.
Your developers will likely need input from you throughout the project, which should be provided in a prompt matter. It's a good idea to do this through email so that you have a record of it.
During soft launch you and your team should test the website. It is important to test from desktops, mobile devices, tablets, etc. Document and provide any feedback. It will be easier for the vendor to run through 1 document of fixes vs 15 separate emails, so compile a full list.
Full Website Launch
Kick back and relax! At this point you have successfully managed a website project from start to finish.
Don't get too comfortable...websites cannot be set it and forget it. There should be some ongoing marketing, content creation, and continuous improvement of the site after launch. Because you did such a great job managing the development, maybe you'll be put in charge of the ongoing stuff as well. ;)