Posted: April 9, 2015
Website redesigns can range from a short refresh to a large multi-year project. No matter what your redesign includes, you’ll be setting a launch date and building a timeline. While some people can be flexible with the launch date to get stellar results, others simply don’t have the luxury of time or budget. Either way, we have spotted timeline landmines that frequently delay the launch of a shiny new website.
Here are some common challenges tips to avoid explosive situations:
Starting with Impossible Expectations
- Landmine: Nothing sets a timeline up for failure more than basing key milestones and deadlines on wishes and not on reality. Often we hear a set launch date for a major redesign but only a few short months to execute.
- Tip: If you are expecting an amazing and functional site that accomplished goals and exceeds expectations then the timeline needs to reflect your wishes and not the other way around.
- Landmine: Whether you are editing, creating or starting from scratch, content can be a timeline killer. Content is an essential element of your website and should be given the attention it deserves. Keep in mind that assets like videos and images can bring life to your content. If not done well, credibility can be at stake.
- Tip: Content is king when it comes to websites so give yourself plenty of time to plan, create a strategy, draft, edit and edit some more. Also, build a buffer that allows great asset creation and selection.
- Landmine: If ever there was a superpowered landmine, this might just be it! It is very rare where you will find a technology solution that magically moves your content to a new website, puts it in the right place, styles it and doesn’t misplace those images and documents you spent so long creating. Having enough time to manually move content, make decisions and review is rarely the case.
- Tip: What this means for you, planning is KEY. Work together to divide tasks and know who is responsible for migrating sections of content and who is responsible for reviewing those sections. If you don’t have your ducks in a row, they will scatter.
- Landmine: As obvious as this might sound, it happens all the time, sometimes without warning or signs that it happened until it’s too late.
- Tip: Makes sure everyone knows the scope of work and discuss gray areas before the project begins. Keep an open dialogue about questions and never assume everyone is on the same page without actively communicating. For example, if a great idea comes out of the information architecture phase, that idea may need to be executed in backend development. If there is a 3rd party completing the backend, they may not be able to accomplish the development in the current scope and timeline.
- Landmine: Don’t get me wrong, feedback is CRUCIAL when redesigning a website and can actually accelerate the timeline and boost success. But there are three ways that feedback blows the timeline way off track. 1) Not enough time was allowed to get feedback from all key players. 2) Feedback was vague. When we receive feedback with no details we lose time with lots of follow-up questions and guess work. This often results in the need for additional rounds which are rarely built into the timeline. 3) Feedback was late or not provided at all.
- Tip: If it seems unlikely that you can get leadership’s feedback as well as input from stakeholders and a web advisory committee in three days, then build a timeline allowing for a full work week to collect and compile thoughts. Set-up guidelines for feedback with examples and always stress the importance of meeting the timeline.
Keeping your timeline from being blown to smithereens can be a full time job. If you only take away a few things from this blog know that wiggle room is a must, patience is a plus and being aware of landmines will keep your timeline from blowing to dust.
If that list didn’t give you enough to think about, here are some additional notable landmines to consider:
3rd Party Integration
- Landmine: You may run into delays working with feeds that won't cooperate, applications that won’t style and 3rd parties that just won’t integrate no matter how nicely you ask.
- Tip: Don’t ever assume that something can integrate, even if the 3rd party says it will. Do the homework before finishing your schematics. Then, if you run into issues you have time before development starts to sort things out.
- Landmine: New CMSs require lots of training and education. Some functionality may be gained while other functionality may be lost.
- Tip: Take your time in selecting the right CMS for your needs. Get training and provide training to everyone who will have some level of control over your website. Don’t leave out governance, protect your investment!
- Landmine: No matter how closely information architects, designers and developers work together, unexpected technical limitations may occur during development. For example, minor changes to designs may happen when taking a photoshop file and creating the CSS.
- Tip: Keep the lines of communication open between resources to head off as many of these issues as possible. Also set stakeholder expectations so that they are aware that when design comes to life across multiple browsers and devices, minor changes may be seen.
- Landmine: Even if technical requirements are gathered before the project begins, some unique requirements may sneak by that result in additional work and hours. Examples: new security requirements, additional browser support, higher levels of accessibility, etc.
- Tip: Document as many requirements as possible before beginning and get the list approved by key internal stakeholders. This includes your IT and security team but also those aware or requirements from governing bodies. (Accessibility requirements etc.)
Newcomers to the Project
- Landmine: It isn’t easy to jump into the middle of these projects so give newcomers some time to learn the ropes. Newcomers with POWER: If this person has authority to change the direction or scope of the project then the timeline may be in for a wild ride!
- Tip: Patience is key. We will get through this together but the team will need to communicate and determine how best to move forward.