Don’t spend your web budget all in one place … err, at the same time?

The web as you know it will change between the start and finish of your project

Web marketing, just like its offline brothers and sisters, includes hours and days and weeks of talking, whiteboarding, scribbling and hair pulling – and this all has to happen before you can even start to picture your final project brief.

‘Web content’ and ‘cutting edge’ are defined differently by every single person, ever, on the planet.

Having just (sort of) pulled through a site redesign, I’m taking the time to look back on the process looking for TSN turning points.

Learning 1: Nothing beats a great project leader, but nothing hurts more than losing that leader and no one else was involved with the project.

Learning 2: Bring IT and marketing together. People speaking both languages need to be in from the get go – before companies or services are picked, and especially before any contracts are signed.

Learning 3: Appoint your ‘sign off’ teams for each page/section and book time in their calendar’s.

Learning 4: In any company with more than one audience/goal, plan to host open town hall presentations periodically and offer updates through the project (redesign blog).

Why I am really writing this post is to say: break your redesign into pieces!! A single contract that promises strategy, architecture, design, build and multimedia, will result in months of grief.

Before you talk strategy, do you know what functionality your site will need? Do you even really know what strengths to look for in a developer, or in a graph designer? Hiring a jack of all trades designer may not cut it if you are a school known for media arts or innovation.  And the designer known for breaking design rules and carving new paths might not work for a company built on tradition and policy.

Before you define your site architecture, do you know how many pages you will need built? Maybe it is the current 10000 sitting on your server, or maybe with good arch you will only need a fraction of that.

Before you wireframe and evaluate your available content, do you know what templates you will need? Homepage, landing page, level 2, news release and event? What about contact pages, brochure requests, detailed legalese pages, directory entries? Templates save lives, it makes sense to take the time to determine how many you need rather than purchasing a randon number based on a guess.

Before you wireframe, how do you really have any idea how complicated the build will be? Do you need some pretty HTML + CSS? You’ll probably need java, but how much and how complicated? What about integration with your already existing structures? Gee, if I realized that my form could have fed into salesforce, I probably would have rathered buy that – over a second new database that I now have to import.

Video … Flash … Photos … You need to know what your sitemap before you can start deciding which pages will benefit from video. And if your layout needs panoramic photos, you will probably need a photoshoot – did you plan that 6 months ago in order to get the pretty green grass?

S/he who builds web does not necessarily build good flash. Flash, video and photography all cross the content/build binary. Normally the client has pre existing content and maybe some new pages to write … Flash, video and photos are more than a few hours of writing and revisions. They take a special skillet(s) that not all clients have in house. But technically they are sort of content, so surely your html/css/java firm won’t have included animation in the budget …

My message here, is to do your redesign in pieces. Use everyone to their highest, best use. Find firms that can work together, rather than settling on someone who proposes to do it all. Use your strategy and architecture to scope your web build. Use your wireframes to determine your media and functionality needs.

Any tips out there? We’ve all survived redesigns with happy results in the end (hopefully) – what was your approach?

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