A new website is an exciting moment for any organisation. Over the last 13 years, we have been fortunate to have been involved in the creation of many new websites and ecosystems, and have been present through the growth of mobile and responsive platforms, and the introduction of technologies such as augmented reality and contactless payment, which were previously the preserve of sci-fi movies.
Whatever the platform, and however seductive the technology, there are certain truths that have prevailed during our tenure. Usability and structure are (of course) constant considerations. Effective solutions to audience needs is another, along with the use of excellent and appropriate content.
There is an additional area that must be considered, and never more than now. It is frequently overlooked, but without it, sites cannot promise sustainability, or maintain relevance, and that is the lifecycle of the website. At Draw, we have observed this in three different ways:
- Best in class websites, which are developed through the involvement of all stakeholders, the setting of clear goals and the recognition that a site is like a garden (that needs constant attention) not a castle (which is built and forgotten). See Kent Valentine’s article 'Castles and Gardens' for more details of this.
- Or, in terms Frederick Herzberg would recognise, they begin by being stellar and motivating for talent and customers (we have a great website); then they decay or are overtaken and become hygiene factors (we have a website) until finally, they are embarrassing (why doesn’t our website work on the devices our customers are using?).
- Finally, a new website can be created that is considered a triumph by the core project team only to find it disappoints some stakeholders at launch, particularly when those stakeholders' opinions were not sought or whose expectations were not managed.
The third category is to be avoided. Once at this stage, a project can rarely be recouped, except through additional financial and interpersonal investment. In our experience, most firms occupy the middle ground, because after launch, priorities shift, and capex (and therefore attention) is diverted elsewhere.
We encourage our clients to be in the first category, where investment can be protected through the use of opex as well as capex. In this way the website can change according to the content it contains, the journeys that visitors create, and the mutable needs of the business.
Success here depends on the ongoing engagement of the stakeholders and the commitment to remaining true to a shared vision. Most website projects begin with these noble intentions. But only the ones that commit to it for the whole lifecycle are likely to perform as intended.