Some people say there is no such thing as an ugly baby. Others say that some babies have a face that only a mom could love. With children of my own, I remember being pregnant and having nightmares of the latter. Of course, after the pregnancies were over the dreams stopped (thankfully, no ugly babies to report).
That is until I started managing the development and design of Little’s new website.
Much like a pregnancy, the new website entailed three long trimesters, the loss of multiple brain cells and many nightmares about how it would all turn out. And in the midst of it all was the launch of the new ObamaCare website – definitely a site/baby only a mom could love and one that I’m sure caused many nightmares for many people. While I knew Little’s website would never be under such national scrutiny, I needed this very important tool to work. And, when I say work, I needed it to “hum” and the [search] engine to “roar.”
In addition to including a robust portfolio and search capability, the new site needed to perform across all platforms, incorporate multiple languages, optimize search engine capabilities and integrate social media outlets. And then there were all of the secondary goals such as a content management system, video integration and a section to showcase Little’s research initiatives.
As with all significant projects, as we journeyed through the process we took notes on successes and lessons learned. Following are a few pointers to keep in mind if you find yourself in need of a new site:
1. Responsive design (a site that works across all platforms) is without question a must have. Be sure to educate yourself on all aspects so that any downsides (there are a few) to the approach don’t catch you off guard.
2. A sounding board is extremely helpful. I chose not to call it a “committee” as that connotation sounds overly difficult. But a small internal group (no more than 5-10 people depending on the size of your organization) that can weigh in at key milestones proved to be extremely beneficial.
3. Content development can lead to the site’s demise. Whether you’re developing it yourself or using an outside consultant (the consultant needs something to start with), content has the most potential to bring the development of your site to a screeching halt. Set a schedule that allows you to prioritize and keep track of when information is needed.
4. Prioritize your needs and manage internal expectations. Your website is a powerful tool but as the famous saying goes, if it tries to be all things to all people, it becomes nothing. After prioritizing your goals, communicate them internally and maintain focus on them throughout site development so that expectations are properly managed and the effort isn’t derailed midstream.
5. Expect some glitches at launch. Nothing major necessarily, but just know they are coming. If you’re developing a site that responds to a number of different platforms, be prepared for even more.
While not a small feat, we powered through the development and design of our site with the help and expertise of a local interactive agency. After approximately nine months, we managed to give birth to a bouncing site that has already demonstrated proven success. My nightmares of how it all turns out are over, but like parenthood, the job continues. Now it’s on to feeding and nurturing so the site continues to grow and make us proud.