The honest truth!
We’ve been building websites for a long time, and with hand on heart, some of them overshoot the ‘go live date’. Not a great start for a blog to build confidence in us as an agency! But it is true, and there are some good reasons for it, but all of them are easily avoided.
We have spent several years working on our internal website development process to ensure that everything goes really smoothly, and we’ve just about cracked it. However we still have work to do on five key reasons why a website development project launch is delayed:
01 – No agreed timeline
When your website project starts, it is really important that you set out a timeline. With us, we have seven clear steps to our process, and once we have been appointed, we put together a comprehensive timeline for the whole project. This doesn’t just include the meetings or when we present things to you, but also takes into account the time that is required for clients to take a look, discuss with colleagues and give feedback. When planning out schedules, be realistic and take into account holidays for key members of the team who will need to have an input. When the schedule is agreed, put it in everyone’s diary, book meeting rooms in advance and stick to the dates!
02 – Content and imagery
Content is far and away the number one issue. The site is almost always nearly completed and the work of putting together content has barely begun. We implement a content plan during the wireframe stage so that our clients know the level and type of content they will need to create and curate well in advance, so we can schedule in key content delivery milestones too. This should mean that when the site is ‘built‘, the content is all ready to slip in.
If you don’t have the skills in house, or more commonly the time, bring in a copywriter early on who can work alongside yourselves and the development team to map out what is required and speak to the key individuals in the business who will give them the information. There is the added benefit that the tone of the content will be unified and written in a way that allows new visitors to understand what the proposition is.
One thing to bear in mind is to allow some time for the web development company to make some changes once the content in. Often minor bugs and issues are only spotted once ‘real world content‘ is added instead of the placeholder content that is often used to populate the site during the development phase. Ensure that you give plenty of time (a week or two) after you’ve added the content for the agency to look at it, spot issues, rectify them and thoroughly test the site before deploying live.
If you are having custom photography of your premises and people, make sure that you give plenty of time for the photography session to take place, the post production to take place and for the photographer to send the files over to you. If stock imagery is being used, build the style and tone in with the content plan.
03 – Training
Some website development companies will build the new website and then give you the login credentials to the content management system (CMS) with an expectation that you know how to use it. Even if you do know how to use WordPress, you may not be familiar where all of the elements that make up the site are located in the ‘back-end’. It’s really important that you get full training to make best and most efficient use of the website, and a bespoke user guide that you can refer to at any time to help make updates and additions.
04 – Hosting and domains
The site is built and everyone can’t wait for it to go live, but no one has had the conversation about where it will be hosted. Maybe that conversation has taken place, but it isn’t being hosted on the website agency hosting infrastructure, and instead is being hosted elsewhere. The new environment is alien to the developers, support tickets are taking ages and there are errors because of conflicts between the technologies. Have the conversation about hosting early on and way before the site is due to go live, load up a test version to weed out all of the issues so it is a smooth transition when you actually want to deploy the site.
Occasionally, the site is added to a new hosting environment, everything works well and all that is needed is for the DNS settings linked to your domain URL to be switched to the IP address of the new server (don’t worry if that lost you, it isn’t something you’ll have to do!) It is incredible the number of people that when you ask them for the login to their domain control panel, have no idea where their domain is hosted and if they are even the legal registrar! Get ahead on this right after the very first meeting so that you can make sure all your ducks are in a row well in advance. If you are worried you aren’t the legal registrar of your domain, read a previous blog we wrote on the subject. If you want to find out where your domain is hosted, a useful tool is to go to who.is, type in the domain name and select the ‘DNS Records‘ tab.
05 – Project approval not involved from the start
With any project, not just a website development project, there will ultimately be one person that signs it off and releases the final payment. That person absolutely must be involved at every stage of the project. Building a website should involve a series of stages that are carefully configured so as to make incremental progress, and not move too far forward without sign off. This makes sure that the budget is protected and used well, any issues can be flagged up early on and resolved without great cost and the clients feel really involved at every stage of the process. If the person who is giving ultimate approval is only brought in at the end, there is a risk that they don’t understand the thought process and rationale behind everything that has been done to date, and the changes they request are costly and significantly delay the launch of the website. Whoever is giving ultimate approval must be included at every phase of the planning, design and build.