Can You Benefit From Iteration?
Gone are the days when you could build a website, post your content and then plan on updating the site only every few months. Nowadays, things change quickly and websites are not the static fixtures that they used to be. Instead, it's good to think of your website as a dynamic process that will need regular attention in response to changing conditions.
Lessons Learned from the Business World
We can learn a lot about the iterative process from the business world. It’s a big part of what every good company does when developing a new product or service. Iteration is the process of creating, testing, analyzing and refining a design or product in response to test results, customer feedback and changing consumer needs. By the time a product actually hits store shelves, it’s usually gone through many iterations, so many in fact, that you might not even recognize that the initial prototype had anything in common with the final product.
Iteration in Website Design and Development
Iteration is equally important in the web design and development world. Ideally, the iterative process is part of a project from the get-go. I like to remind my clients that the website that we come up with in the brainstorming phase will likely look very different from the site that we go live with. Initial ideas are refined as we think about and talk through what will and won’t work. User testing in the design build phase provides feedback from real users, which helps to improve the content and design so that it does a better job of meeting users' needs and achieving your goals. Iteration means refining and changing things, getting rid of stuff that doesn't work and building on the things that do.
Refine, Refine, Refine
And the site that you go live with likely won’t be the same site that you have three or six months down the road. A/B testing will let you see how different versions of the same page are performing and which one has more potential to meet your goals. And Analytics data will give you ongoing feedback as to how users are interacting with your website, letting you see what’s going well and what needs tweaking.
Don't Worry, You'll Still Have Time For Other Work
This may sound like more work than you signed up for, but it doesn't have to be. I'm by no means suggesting that you put your other work aside and start devoting endless time to your website. It’s more a shift of thinking that I'm suggesting, away from seeing your site as a finished product, toward one that will need your regular attention. With good systems in place, like an easy-to-use CMS and a web and communications team that's all on the same page, reworking your website to respond to changing conditions can become an easy and regular part of maintaining your organization's online presence.