You picture it in your mind: the world’s greatest website. Or even just something really cool. And something that will draw a lot of visitors and make money for your business. You work and you work on it, and you spend lots of money, and at the end of the day it’s just not what you wanted.
And it’s not what your customers or audience want either. It wasn’t lack of desire and it wasn’t even lack of effort. So what was it?
When examining why web projects fail, we have to take into account why any project fails. People often tend to treat websites as if they were something special.
Don’t get me wrong… a great website is something special. It’s completely revolutionized the way we do business and the way we communicate. A great website is a true equalizer. On the web, you have the opportunity to be just as well-designed, visible, and effective as a company one hundred times your size, and for a fraction of the cost. But you still have to do things right.
So getting back to our question: Why, indeed, do websites fail? Why does any project in business or communication fail?
It all comes back to lack of clarity, lack of planning, and lack of communication.
The thousands of amazing different things you can do on the web can make it difficult to concentrate on what you want.
I’ve been to serious corporate sites that have auto-loading flash games on their landing pages. What the…?!? I mean, I like playing Desktop Tower Defense as much as the next person, but that’s just absurd.
Do you really need lots of videos, pop-ups, quizzes? Do you need scrolling tickers?
Here’s the thing, maybe you do need some of those things.
And here’s another thing: Maybe you are more sophisticated than that and you wouldn’t dream of putting on a scrolling ticker (though that tower defense flash game will always be tempting, I’m sure). But maybe you are also really gung-ho on SEO.
SEO is awesome. It’s so powerful. But do you really need it maximized on every single page? Some people waste a lot of time, money and resources on this. Other people don’t spend nearly enough.
But how will you know? You need clarity of vision. You need to think carefully about what you want to achieve with this website, both in the larger picture, and on the small scale.
Larger picture clarity means you know what you expect this website to provide in your life or the life of your business, that wasn’t there without it. Are you trying to make money? How much money? Are you trying to influence people’s opinions? How so, and for what reason?
If you are just building a webstie “because we need a new one,” that’s not specific enough. Think it through carefully and then write it down. Don’t let yourself be vague. If you can’t explain it to someone with two short sentences, keep trying until you can. This is so important!
With proper clarity, the next two stages will be so much easier, in my experience. When you are working on your planning and execution, all you have to do is look up at your two sentence statement of purpose and ask the following question:
Will this step take us in the direction of our clearly stated purpose, or not? If not, then you know what you need to change. And if so, then you know you are on the right track!
You need to know your budget, your timeline, and your team. Who you hire depends a lot on what you can afford. In my estimation, it’s really best to spend right up front and get things done right. The web is absolutely crawling with people who will gladly take your business. Before you hire, take a look at their work, and ask them what kind of plan they envision for your website.
Be clear about your expectations, and then ask your developer to be clear about his needs. How much will it cost? How and when will payment be delivered, and very importantly, exactly what will be delivered.
Make sure there is exact agreement on these terms. Once the rules are set, it’s much easier to relax about those technicalities and focus on the task at hand. Creating a really dynamite website is so much easier when things are clear about the planning.
And in fact, it’s a lot of fun, too.
So, now we’re clear about our goals. We’re clear about the steps needed to get there. We now need to make sure it all happens just as we’ve laid out. And that takes…
If you’re anything like me, you might tend to roll your eyes a bit when people start talking about “communication.” It seems so vague. I mean, duh, of course all the team members are going to be talkin to each other. So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is being absolutely clear at every step of the way. As you set your goals, make your plan, and start to execute the steps one by one, your website will start to take shape.
Your developer will have questions for you. You may have new needs that arise. You need to talk about everything, preferably in writing when it’s possible, for maximum clarity, as it occurs.
Really, if you’ve done your homework in the Clarity and Planning stages, Communication should just be an ongoing process that sees your well-oiled machine into the promised land.
Failure vs. Success
I personally get excited when I start a new project. But it can be a long way to the finish line. Having clarity of purpose, a plan to get there and proper communication can make all the difference in whether I achieve my objective or not.
Remember, the dividing line between success and failure when making great websites isn’t always who puts in the most work, and not even about who spends the most money, it’s about who sets up a plan to actually achieve the clearly expressed goals that get them where they want to go.
Now good luck and get going!