This article is part of our series on Four Essential Questions to Ask When Building a Successful Website, specifically part of question four: how do you go about building the site?
In business, as in life, things take longer than they do. And in website projects, some things take much longer than they do. You can almost count on it. In addition to Gantt charts, waterfall approaches, and proper resourcing, you need a project plan that accounts for typical time-consuming tasks.
Let’s explore the top four time killers for digital projects and how you can solve for them.
Time killer #1: Research
In a sense, research is the “good” kind of time killer. Without it, you risk creating something that isn’t fit for purpose, which sticks you with major revisions that drain the budget and tank the timeline. Before anything can happen, we need to understand a company’s brand, how their offering works, who will be using the website and what they need from it, where the user experience could use some improvement … the list goes on. And we need to hear about this information from a variety of sources on the client’s side to get a full picture of needs, goals, and requirements.
You want to kill some time up front conducting research, but more often than not, it’s either not scoped at all, under-scoped, or impossible to conduct in a timely manner because you’re stuck trying to track down the right stakeholders.
In a lot of cases, research simply falls by the wayside in project planning. Rather than carve out time to learn about a thing (like an audience, area, or discipline), website teams just plan to do the thing instead.
It’s critical to fight for research time up front, when the project plan is still taking shape. That way, everyone on the team can get the information they need, which in turn helps them make informed decisions every step of the way, as well as anticipate and solve for any roadblocks that might be lurking further down the path.
Getting the right people on the calendar can be a challenge. During our client discoveries, we make a point to ask: Who else should we be talking to? Once we have a list, we make sure to track every step until the interview has been completed. Consider using a tool like Calendly, which allows you to propose a series of time slots. It also automatically puts the meeting on everyone’s calendar once accepted—a huge win for convenience. Because the easier it is for the interviewee, the better your chances of scoring some time with them.
Time killer #2: Migrating resources
Moving large collections like news and blog articles from a platform like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace to Webflow is often particularly sticky and especially time consuming. The developer and content designer on a project will need to be prepared and in sync for this eventual big-time workstream. After all, there always seems to be a new mystical plugin that makes importing key content impossible. (You know what platform we’re talking about here 😉)
Make a really good content matrix, or rather, a spreadsheet that outlines what you have, what you’re missing, and what you need to use. Products like our map migration automation tool also help with migration, as well as smart and constant collaboration between content and development.
Time killer #3: Hidden URLs
Websites (especially enterprise-level ones) are often junk drawers or have sneaky sub and side-domains attached to them in one place or another. And inevitably, it’s the most important content and has to be accounted for. Alternatively, if your website isn’t a junk drawer, it might still be a house that was built one room at a time. There’s a main thing, and then there’s another thing built here, here, here, and here. The problem is that it’s difficult in the scoping phase of the project to identify all those locations, which can create unpleasant surprises later on as deadlines loom.
Attack hidden URLs with a kick-ass content audit (aka, one that doesn’t solely depend on AI). At Edgar Allan, for example, we use a tool called Screaming Frog, but we can’t rely on it for absolutely everything. You need a very detail-oriented person to run those links down and make sure you haven’t missed anything, because the AI tool will leave stuff out. I repeat: the AI tool will leave stuff out, which will leave you scrambling down the line.
We also make it a point to ask the client about possible URLs from day one: What else is out there that we don’t know about? Is there a campaign landing page somewhere that we need to pay attention to, but that isn’t linked up correctly to your site? Sometimes SEO uncovers these locations as well, because we see traffic coming in from weird places that turn out to be whole separate domains, but it never hurts to ask.
Time killer #4: Quality assurance (QA) and user acceptance testing (UAT)
You think you’re out, and they pull you back in. The website is complete, except for the fact that a website is never complete until it’s been tested. And test you must.
Test and test again—incorporating as many perspectives as you can get. We like to involve a variety of team members, but we also hire QA people focused solely on testing. A range of roles is optimal: yes, you will ask your writer to look at everything, but you’ll also know you’re getting a sharpened focus on all things content. Same goes for designers, account managers, developers, UX researchers, and so on. When it comes to testing, you can’t really be too thorough. And if you have a plan in place to get it done, it goes from time killer to value asset in no time flat.