Many of our new clients come to us with a common predicament. Their website is a couple of years old and it’s just not working for them anymore. Often they’ve a big list of new things they’d like to add and an equally long list of things that need fixing. Sometimes the only sensible way forward is to start afresh.
Anyone who’s been involved in creating or running websites for some time will recognise the familiar cycle. Each re-build is expensive, stressful and then from the moment of launch the site is on a slow downward trajectory towards the point where it’ll need re-building all over again. Even sites with dedicated in-house web teams often find that a big list starts to accumulate of ‘Things we’ll fix in the next design’.
For a long time it’s been accepted that this is just the way things are. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our philosophy when taking on projects is that we aim to re-build once, putting in place a solid foundation and from then on the site goes into a process of constant evolution. Regular testing and performance reviews allow site improvements to be identified, prioritised and acted upon quickly resulting in a site that actually improves over time.
We can’t claim that this is original or even particularly new, but despite being a win-win for both website owners and design agencies it’s only now that the idea is starting to gain real traction.
So why would I do that?
- Expenditure is much more predictable. Rather than having to find a big pile of cash every few years, you can factor web development into your monthly budget.
- Your site is constantly running at optimum performance, giving you a better return on that investment.
- You can more easily keep pace with changes in technology or changes within your industry, projecting the image of a company that is dedicated to constantly improving it’s online offering.
- Any problems can be identified and resolved quickly, again improving the visitor experience.
- Changes are more gradual and so less likely to scare-off customers or cause internal stress.
- When you start thinking regularly about your website and it’s users you’ll learn more about both and are more likely to come up with the ideas to make your site even better.
Never Say Never:
There may still come a time when you’ll need to tear things up and start again. Either because you’ve reached a limit with a particular technology you’re using, or because your business takes a significant change in direction. However, it’s probably fair to say that the evolutionary approach should significantly delay that point and in-between your site will be working much more effectively for you.
How do I make it happen?
- Find a web design agency or build an in-house team who have the expertise to create a long-term vision for your site.
- Think afresh about your business aims and your website’s role in achieving them.
- Find out as much as possible about what does and doesn’t work in your current site and about the people who use it.
- If your website is in a bad shape (likely if you’re considering a re-design) then build a new site to form a solid foundation for future development. Or if you plan to use your current site as that foundation, resolve any significant issues.
- Put the appropriate reporting tools in place (both online and off-line) to properly track your key metrics.
- Review your site monthly (usability, site analytics, sales) and involve your web agency (if you have one) to benefit from their learnings on other similar projects
- Take your learnings and turn them into short-term tasks. Remember it’s important to prioritise.
- Make small changes and measure / get user feedback at every stage to be sure you’re really making things better.
The great thing about evolutionary development is that it’s easy to try. We’d encourage anyone to commit to it for a couple of months and see the difference it makes. If it doesn’t work, you can still go back, but we don’t think you’ll want to!
By Nick Barron : Aug 27, 2012