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Systems Alliance Blog

Opinion, advice and commentary on IT and business issues from SAI
Keyword: website redesign

businesswoman slipping It happens to the best of us. We set a date for something and, for reasons unanticipated, that date comes and goes like MySpace. However, there are some things we can do to minimize the risk of missing that date (which, in some cases, can decide a project’s success. . .or failure). If your new website has to launch in time for that annual conference, or publication or board meeting, then it’s vital to make sure communication is clear and prompt, procedures are followed and risks are identified throughout the project. Don’t be the next victim of a lapsed deadline! Here are six things you can do to make sure you meet that all important date.

1. Respond to email.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes something as simple as a pending email response can push a delivery date back. Failure to respond to emails quickly can cause a domino effect that can delay a website from launching. For example, if a firm is waiting on approval or feedback on a deliverable, they often cannot move onto the next phase of the project without official signoff from a main project point of contact (POC).  If one of my clients is slow to respond, I’ll follow up with phone calls, but swift replies on both sides of the fence will help reduce risk and keep the project running smoothly. So, don’t forget to check your “nagging from my PM” folder for important questions and requests!

2. Don’t ignore the content Goliath.

We’ve heard it a thousand times: content is king. All of my clients know this, and we emphasize the importance of content planning from day one of any website project. However, failure to establish a feasible content writing, editing and approval schedule is one of the most common reasons why websites don’t go live for weeks—and even months—after the desired launch date. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work required to identify, write and enter website content, so start early! I work with my clients to establish a content schedule that coincides with the main project schedule, but it’s up to the client to see it through. Waiting until development is complete to start thinking about content never ends well!

3. Get it approved.

A horror story I’ve heard from several clients is finding out at the last minute that a previously unknown stakeholder has to approve a website before it goes live. For example, a university may elect a committee to oversee a website redesign and, at the eleventh hour, finds out the president wants to weigh in before the switch is flipped. This could amount to hours of rework and long delays. Seems like a longshot, but it happens more than you think. To avoid this, make sure all stakeholders are identified at the beginning of the project. Even if day to day contacts are involved in 99% of project activities, make sure you know what has to happen before a website goes live, and who has to give the thumbs up to make it happen. If the president/CEO wants to be hands off until there is a finished product, account for this in the project plan and identify the risk early on. You can never be too prepared!

4. Document everything.

We all like to think our team members will be with us forever, but as we all know, people leave. This can sometimes be unavoidable, but if a main player leaves at a critical point in the project, this could cause major delays as we wait for a replacement to be identified and brought up to speed. It’s always tough when stakeholders change midway through a project, but thorough documentation can help ease the transition. Don’t rely solely on your vendor to do the knowledge transfer. (We’ll do our best, but, you know your organization better than we do!) Setting the new person up with documents, notes, designs and other resources they can review can keep the project on track and minimize delay.

5. Know your infrastructure.

Picture this: you’ve spent the past 12 months redesigning your website. It’s approved and ready to go - and then you realize. . .you need a domain. Also, you need a place to host the site. These are things I address with my clients early on, but you’d be surprised how often a website sits on a development server as a client figures out where it’s going to live when it launches. Or, sometimes you discover the server you thought it was going to live on does not have the proper storage, database or infrastructure to support your fancy new site. This snafu is easily avoidable. Make sure server requirements are identified well before launch!

6. Redundancy is your friend.

When it comes to a website project, the Highlander approach is not ideal. For small organizations, it may make sense to have one person act as the main contact to coordinate activities, but if that person leaves, great documentation alone will not ensure a smooth transition. Keeping at least one other person in the loop can be hugely beneficial in this situation, and even if the project team remains intact, having another person to take point on a busy day or over a vacation can help keep the project moving. Unlike the Highlander, there does not have to be only one!

These are by no means the only reasons websites are delayed. But, considering the sea of other unanticipated reasons outside of our control (procurement delays, alien invasion, nuclear winter), if we can limit any potential issues we can anticipate, we will increase the likelihood a website will launch on time! 

Working on the business development side in the web & digital space, it seems as if every other week I talk to a marketing executive who knows their website needs help, but doesn’t really know what to do about it. If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. It can be challenging to convince senior leadership and other internal stakeholders that your web presence needs attention, particularly if “attention” equates to “spending a lot of money” in their estimation.

Getting internal support for a big project is going to be harder for some organizations than others, and there are a lot of variables to consider. And depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your website, you could be looking at a fairly sizable investment for refreshing your online presence....Read More

success or failure

The notion that an enterprise website needs to be completely overhauled every few years is no longer as commonly accepted as, say five years ago. As we explored in our last webinar, we’ve observed organizations nowadays looking to maintain the freshness of their websites through continuous, incremental improvements over time.

But for this approach to be effective, you have to start with a relatively strong web presence. Your company won’t benefit from only minor incremental adjustments to a digital strategy that desperately needs a major overhaul. If you are in need of a major overhaul, and you plan to work with an agency or consultant, keep reading....Read More

As a Web consulting company, we spend almost every day talking with college/university administrators about their websites. I might ask a prospective client, “how do you feel about your website?” or “is the site effectively meeting the university’s objectives?” Frequently, marketing directors will candidly admit that their websites ‘need help’ or ‘ought to be refreshed’, but they aren’t doing anything about it.

Often, these executives run into a common problem: they don’t know where to start. There may also be variations of this challenge. For instance, many colleges distribute ownership of the website across many different departments, so it can be difficult to get people ‘on the same page’; most university administrators have busy schedules during the school year and just can’t find the time to make long term plans for the Web.

Whatever the obstacle is, please know this: if you’re a higher education executive who’s responsible for the school website, you cannot afford to put an underperforming website on the backburner.

...Read More

A Closer Look at Your Content May Help Answer a Tough Question

It’s been six months since your site went live. After extensive planning, upwards of 12 months (or more) of work and countless meetings the new site is more usable, accessible and aesthetically pleasing – at least it should be.

Now management wants to know, “how are we doing?”

“Our site analytics should have shown ________ by now!” (Fill-in the blank options):question marks on a chalkboard

  • “More conversions
  • “Better page ranking”
  • “More visitors and page views”
  • “Higher customer engagement”

I think you get the picture.

So, what went wrong?

In a word, it’s your content....Read More

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