In this article, I will discuss what I consider to be my web design project success factors. These are the targets, if you will, that I shoot for when supporting a client’s success with my services. My hope is that it will demonstrate the level of quality that I hold myself to in supporting your web design project.
In my view, a great looking website is not a sufficient project outcome – it doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t contribute to business growth. “Great looking” is a given, and less than the bare minimum.
“Great looking” + “meets or exceeds functional requirements” is the bare minimum. This is the level of service that should be provided only when the client knows exactly what they want. In this scenario, the client has invested much time, effort and energy into understanding their customer segment(s), understanding how their business provides value to their customers, and developing a thorough marketing plan (short and long term) of which the website is just one peice of. This client typically has a documented RFP (request for proposal) and engages a number of agencies to bid on and communicate how they would meet the specified requirements.
While I’m always interested in learning how I can support any web presence project, I know that much of my value resides in providing consultative support, through experience and client-specific research and analysis. In reality, small-to-medium sized businesses simply don’t often have the specialized resources or the time to fully develop web presence and marketing vision. That’s where I can help.
My objective is an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship. I acheive this by supporting my clients’ success. My clients’ success can be measured, in part, by the return on investment for projects I’m engaged in.
My Success Factors
The following are the web design success factors that I employ to ensure high return on my client’s investment. While they are listed in order of importance, I consider all factors as targets for each project.
1. The project meets the right objectives
Meeting project objectives is fine – meeting the right objectives is far better. In knowing how I provide the greatest value to my clients, I aim to ensure that project objectives are not only assessed, developed and documented, but that they are scrutinized in order to ensure that they truly contribute to the client’s success.
Determining the right objectives begins with understanding the customer. This is foundational to business success, but it’s quite common in small to medium sized businesses that it hasn’t been fully thought through. By performing a thorough assessment and analysis of the customer, the business is able to refine its offerings and market position to maximize its success. It’s important for me, then, in support of bolstering the company’s market position with its web presence, to have a thorough understanding of the customer.
Next, it’s important for me to understand how the company provides value to its customers. With this understanding, I can provide the best solutions (through web design and / or copywriting) to maximize relevance and response.
Once I understand how the company provides value to its customers, it’s important for me to understand the current marketing mix and strategy, and most importantly, how the web presence fits into that overall picture. A website is just one touchpoint of a company with its customers. With an understanding of the marketing mix, I can ensure that the website leverages, or can be leveraged by, the other forms of marketing being employed.
With this information, the most effective project objectives can be formulated, to ensure that they are aligned with broader business strategies and objectives.
2. The project fits in to the right strategy
While a website is a very important peice of the successful web presence, it cannot stand on its own – or it will be a very lonely place to be. The right strategy entails not only how the site will meet the project objectives, but also how the site fits in to the larger online marketing mix. This has implications on search engine optimization, for example, and is simply a foundational element to a successful web presence.
3. The website meets or exceeds functional requirements
It really pays to have the support of a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) to ensure functional requirements are met. While many larger organizations insist on this certification for staff that manages their projects, it’s often lacking in small-to-medium sized businesses. Without the training and experience provided and ensured by this certification, a project may be doomed to failure – even with the most talented designers / developers.
– Knowing what’s required
Meeting functional requirements depends upon spending the time to develop and document the requirements. This is a step that cannot be taken lightly, as any PMP will attest to. As a certified PMP, I hold myself to a very high standard in this area, as I know that much of my value lies in the research and investigation that ensures thoroughly documented requirements. Through documentation, many times additional value-added, or even mission-critical, requirements will surface that the client may not have considered before.
– Effective management of requirements
‘Scope creep’ is a term that refers to the inadvertant or mis-managed addition of requirements that don’t pertain to the project’s objectives, or are not able to be included without affecting the project timeline or budget. Scope creep kills projects and business relationships due to mismanaged expectations. Again, as a certified PMP, I hold myself to a very high standard in this area.
4. The website motivates behavior by the intended audience(s)
A website could be absolutely stunning, but without a consistently relevant and valuable message to its intended audience, it simply will not perform to its potential. I employ industry best practices in providing simple, concise and relevant copywrite material, in order to motivate the client’s intended behavior.
5. Project milestones are met
Projects always have deadlines – it’s part of what defines a project as a project. As a Project Management Professional (PMP), I regard timelines and milestones in the highest regard, as I understand that my client’s business success depends on their ability to trust that things will be done in the timeframe that they expect. This is ensured with consistent, effective and timely communication of progress and / or issues. It also depends on periodic approval milestones, in order to keep the client informed and engaged in the progress of the project.
6. The website has wide visual appeal and high usability
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are design concepts that help to ensure visual appeal to the widest possible spectrum of your intended audience. Usability involves ensuring that page elements are where people expect them to be, visitors spend as little time as possible trying to figure out how to interact with the site or find the content they desire, and that the site guides the users interaction with it in the desired way.
7. The website is technically current and standards compliant
High technology is not always the desired solution. My recommendations are made by weighing all factors (including cost, time, risk, etc) to support my client’s ongoing success. Standards compliance is always in focus. However there are times where conscious decisions are made to break from compliance in order to implement functionality that meets requirements that may not be sacrificed.
It’s my hope that this article provided you with value as you consider your own web presence and future needs. I wish you the best of success…