Lessons Learned On What Makes A Successful Client Project
Over the years, there are key things I’ve discovered that can make or break collaborative web development projects. This blog post is a list of those things - the big picture items that guide much of my work with clients. In my experience, keeping these things front and center goes a long way toward keeping projects moving in a good direction.
1. Focus on creating great content.
Content is always a major driver in my work with clients. Thinking back on the successful projects that I’ve been involved in over the years vs. those that have died on the vine, the deciding factor has almost always been content.
From the get-go, I work with clients to identify their website goals and then focus on building great content around those goals. We talk through the specifics of what the client wants people to do on the website and then build user-focused content that encourages people to take those desired actions.
2. Focus more on things that are of value, less on technology and design.
While it’s admirable to look for ways to do things better with technology, it’s also important to remember that technology alone isn’t going to save any project. Focusing instead on high priority items such as business goals (and allowing them to drive your design and technology choices), sticking to an editorial calendar and building referral links will go a long way in the internet world.
3. Make sure the right people are in the right positions.
Red flags always go up for me when I see the wrong person driving the ship in a collaborative project. It’s important to make sure that the people on your project team are working in their area of expertise and, if possible, that they are doing things that they enjoy, since we all do a better job when we’re doing stuff that we like.
This doesn’t always happen though and it’s fairly common to see the wrong person in a decision-making role. For example, someone with limited design experience might be making critical decisions about website design revisions, which can lead to trouble down the road.
4. Don't skimp on website hosting.
Even the best design decisions can be derailed by a poor foundation. For most projects I am making hosting decisions for my client but there are cases where hosting is predefined. Be sure your hosting is fast, reliable and provides regular backups for you. You don't want to find youself in a position after go live where the server can't handle the load or, even worse, the site is down or not backed up (usually when you find this out it's too late).
Be sure you're laying a solid foundation at the start to avoid disaster scenarios down the road. Nothing is more frustrating to both me and my clients than a bad hosting environment.
5. Design for a reason, not just for a change.
There’s a ton of great data out there (Google Analtyics, etc.) that can be put to good use in web development projects. In my experience, design decisions are best made based on this data, along with your gut instinct. In my work with clients, I have used this data to make changes to everything from Adwords to websites themselves and in many cases, it has resulted in higher conversion rates over time.
6. Hold everyone accountable.
I’ve seen even the best laid plans fail miserably over the years and all too often, it’s a matter of not staying focused on getting the needed tasks done to execute the project plan. Busyness is often the culprit, but we’re all too busy. Poor execution makes it far too easy for competitors to come in and do things better.
I’m a big fan of building a solid editorial calendar for projects and then sticking to them, holding everyone accountable for their role in the process. Sometimes this may result in a project team realizing that they don’t actually have the right people in place to do what needs to be done, but this can be valuable learning that ultimately leads to the best result for the project.
7. Fail faster.
This is often the hardest concept for my clients to swallow. What, Fail? Why would we want to fail? As counterintuitive as it may seem, you can learn a lot from failing. Sure, in a perfect world you would nail things the first time, but that almost never happens. In my collaborative work with clients, I try to get them excited about pushing the limits and to see failures as learning opportunities. This usually leads to some exciting new discoveries.
Keeping these big picture items in mind will help you achieve success with your website and make the most of the collaborative effort required in today's web development process.