Creative / 2nd May, 2017

How to take the Pain out of a Huge Website Project

Organisations are achieving a competitive advantage by going beyond brochure-style websites and developing an online presence that interacts with their customer.

And that means huge websites are becoming the norm. I’m talking about big product portfolios and e-commerce functions, dedicated sections for different audiences, and integrated log-in areas with additional capabilities, to give a few examples.

To get these big projects right – so you deliver on time and get value for your investment – you need to follow the right process and engage the right skills. We’ve developed a specialism in this area – this month alone we launched Translate Plus, a 150-page site duplicated over 6 languages, and Wilson James, another large scale build. Make have also worked in partnership with two of London’s leading agencies working on two significant global website launches. 

So we’ve spent a lot of time refining our process and getting the right people on board.
Here’s what we recommend, so you know what to look for when you’re planning your big site.

The agile methodology

This is a bit of jargon the marketing industry has co-opted from software development. It means you work towards incremental milestones, have constant communication and build in flexibility so you can adapt based on changes. Because as important as it is to define the web spec and scope of work, changes are inevitable on big builds – there are too many variables and stakeholders involved.

Our agile approach prioritises regular communication – within our team and with your delivery team. We’re big advocates of Slack, the team messaging app. It allows you to segment workstreams, send messages and share files in one place, and gives you a single interface to track everything related to each part of the project.

As a result, it’s much easier to adhere to the plan and keep all stakeholders engaged in the process.

The planning phase

I’ll state the obvious: you need to get the foundation work right for the website to achieve your goals. And that foundation work has to cover various areas:

  • Keyword planning – so the website is structured and written to maximise visibility in search engines, and to address the queries people are searching for
  • Site map – one of the ways we add value is by providing an objective point of view about what information to include and how to structure that information. The site map needs to make it easy for visitors to find what they need, and it can be hard to step out of your insider perspective and consider this from your audience’s perspective
  • Information architecture and wireframing – the next stage of developing that user journey is deciding on the best way to structure the information on the page, taking into account best practices in user interface and user experience
  • Mobile planning – considering all the factors related to display, speed and usability that ensure users have an optimised experience on every device

The implementation phase

  • Design – design has to fulfil lots of functions. It needs to capture your brand, draw the visitor towards your intended action and work for any screen size and device
  • Content – that’s compelling, in line with your brand, resonant with your audiences’ language yet still crafted in a way that considers your keywords
  • Development and content management system set-up – you need the site to be developed in a way that you can manage easily without breaking it. So it’s easy to add news items, new products, blog posts, job listings, banner messaging, etc, and it automatically publishes in a polished template that gels with the rest of the site
  • Population – this where all the content gets put into site. A big mistake I see companies make is not considering population in their schedules and budgets. For big sites it’s a big job, and if it’s not done right all you don’t get value from all the user journey planning and message refining
  • SEO set-up – you need to retain the search equity from your old site, and you need Google to start indexing you straight away.

The testing phase

The transition needs to be seamless. That means no downtime when the new site transfers from the staging site to the URL. It means all the redirects are in place so you retain the search equity and support returning users clicking on old links. And it means having your security, support and maintenance protocols in place so your investment is protected immediately.

And then, when we load the fast, sleek and feature-rich site for the first time – we raise a virtual glass and share ‘thumbs up’ emojis over Slack.

Have questions? Email me at hi@makeagency.co.uk