If you are a small business owner or marketing manager, you are well aware of the world-wide rise of online usage.
Whether you sell your products or services online, or get the majority of customers through word-of-mouth, you know that a good website is an essential ingredient to build your brand presence.
Perhaps your small business has a website that needs improving, or you want to create a completely new one. Maybe your customers would prefer a mobile app. Whatever it is, you know you want this project to succeed!
Here are 5 reasons why web projects fail:
- The requirements aren’t made clear enough
- Customer-needs aren’t explored sufficiently
- Project plans are left ambiguous
- Nobody’s in the driver’s seat
- Overreliance on suppliers that don’t possess all the necessary competencies
Now let’s look at these pitfalls more closely:
1. Requirements are not clear
Many small businesses look for low-cost web solutions, which is completely understandable. There are certainly several very good, low-price platforms such as WordPress, SquareSpace, and WIX to name but a few, which are easy to set up even by people without any coding skills.
But the truth is that setting up the technical side of the website is the easy bit (no offence to all web developers). What’s far more difficult is briefing the designer or developer properly (or briefing yourself if you’re building a website from scratch yourself).
We have heard many accounts of businesses launching web-sites that don’t deliver the expected customer engagement, and which don’t look or work as well as expected, and we believe this is the result of poor preparatory work.
If your requirements are basic, you can easily find great templates that cost next to nothing, and make them your own by making small changes and adding original photos. If you don’t want to or can’t do it yourself, you can always find somebody to help with this kind of thing.
But please don’t start any work before you have done some preparation work.
2. Customer-needs are not explored sufficiently
When you’re creating a new website, every idea you and your team have about the design, functionality, and even the messages you’ll convey are all just that: ideas based on assumptions.
You could work hard, invest a lot of effort and money into creating something you believe in and launch it when you’re happy with it – but isn’t this approach a tad risky?
What happens if people don’t respond the way you’d hoped? That’s a lot of hard work, effort, and money wasted. Assumption testing is a state of mind: once you have bought into this approach, it’s hard to go back! Don’t be afraid to ask people to take part in research
A common way of getting a full picture is to use both qualitative and quantitative research tools.
Qualitative methods deal with small numbers and can provide very useful, deep insights into people’s real opinions.
These methods can include:
- One-on-one interviews
- Focus groups
- Activity observations
One common question that arises is how do you get people to participate? You can:
- Start with your network.
- Go to events / take to the streets.
- Get a research agency to recruit for you.
You will surely find people who fit your criteria and are willing to help, perhaps for the small price of a coffee and a sandwich. You’d be amazed how much people enjoy being asked for their opinions, especially if you show genuine interest and are encouraging.
Quantitative research involves larger scale, but less in-depth methods, such as surveys and statistical data.
It’s very cheap to create surveys, and you can circulate them to your network, your existing customers, find relevant social media networks such as groups and forums, or get help from a research agency (it costs about £3 per person).
3. Plans are ambiguous
Unfortunately, some businesses end up designing the look of their website based on their own preferences instead of their clients’ preferences, and produce content about what their business does instead of what their client needs. Products, services, history, about us, the team, etc. Perhaps even a blog with a more personal account of the business owner’s experiences. Does this sound familiar? What’s wrong with that?
The real questions you should ask yourself are:
- Is this type of content interesting to your customers?
- Does this information help them in any way?
- How quickly will a web visitor get the message that it is the right place for them?
Unfortunately for you, if they fail to identify any benefit from your website within a few seconds, they will navigate somewhere else in an instant. Engaging customers by encouraging a desirable emotional response.
In today’s digital world, the customer is a very selective king because of the amount of choice we have as consumers.
4. Nobody is in the driver’s seat
Project management is a framework of processes that help ensure projects are delivered on time, within budget, and meeting expectation of quality.
Small businesses seldom have a dedicated project manager to manage their web projects. Unfortunately, neither do the designers and developers they hire to get the job done. Everyone does their best, but some important principles get ignored, for example, a communications plan.
If you do not have a clear plan of when, how often, in what format, and who will be involved in communication between your business and the supplier, then it’s unlikely anybody will get what they need on time and the consequences can be serious.
It might be a schedule of phone calls, face-to-face meetings, email reports, and even a list of documents and questions that need to be answered by the supplier by a certain date. When these things aren’t agreed upon from the start, everyone does whatever they want and hopes for the best. Risky, right? Business owners should keep their fingers on the pulse of the project. They should regularly ask:
- How is the project progressing against the plan?
- What does the supplier need from me to help them?
- At which point should I give them my feedback?
- How long do we have for testing?
Such questions should be answered in advance; ultimately, it is the small business owner’s responsibility to ensure that there is a satisfactory communication plan in place.
It would make a lot of sense for business owners to insist on having a satisfactory communication plan before signing a contract with a supplier. Even if the plan looks like the simple example below:
- Weekly calls, every Friday at 10:30am.
- Weekly status report against the plan submitted via email each Monday morning.
- Live demo when specific features are completed.
- Meeting to train the business on how to use the system for testing purposes.
- Time-scale and a method of reporting testing faults.
- Post-delivery onsite training for the whole team.
5. Over-reliance on suppliers that do not possess all the necessary competencies
A shocking fact few are aware of is that many web designers and developers don’t possess the appropriate project management skills, nor the breadth and depth of knowledge in the field of digital marketing, nor the good sense to ensure that all the right questions are being asked of the client in order to understand them and help develop their requirements sufficiently.
When I started the Digital Heart Alliance, I went into the streets of Twickenham, where I live, and spoke to dozens of local business owners. The vast majority said they didn’t like their website, that it didn’t get them enough customers, that they couldn’t update it and that their website was a wasted investment overall.
They all agreed that a new website was a must but that they had been delaying a revamp due to previous failures.
The fact is, small businesses rarely have the skills and experience to manage web projects successfully, even when employing an external supplier to design and develop it for them (external suppliers always require effective management).
This guide has listed the things you should be aware of when planning a new website for your business.
If you follow the points covered, it will help you to understand the processes you should try to follow, the types of work and results you should expect from the suppliers you choose, and the things that you are responsible for as a leader and driver of your business and should not leave to chance.