When a company reaches the corporate level, its business website has to reflect the level of greatness. You can’t have more than 500 employees, a dozen of offices, a several billion dollar turnover, and just a simple 5-page website. At a certain point, you must turn to a reputable web design company and make sure they produce a digital wonder that would proudly show the level and scale of your corporation.
Many business owners or marketers like to treat their contractors as some “black box” where they would put a certain set of tasks, and then expect to get a fitting result upon exit. The truth is, however, that you have to maintain control over the process, or else the end result may not quite match your expectations.
So, how do you make sure you get the perfect corporate website? Here are the things you need to know about web production, in order to keep your project running smoothly.
Before you begin
Your company probably had a website already – not having one is rather strange nowadays. To help you decide if it needs to be upgraded, altered or completely redone, the first thing you need to ask yourself is what each of these amendments would achieve.
All the possible reasons for a website rework can usually be narrowed down to just two:
- Business image. The site has to match the scale of your company, and your old one just does not. This is a legitimate reason for reworking the website, but you have to be sure you’re not aiming at anything more than that. There are a lot of bright websites which cope with the representative function beautifully, but are hardly fit for anything else. If the company image resemblance is all you need, then you should expect artistic refreshment rather than extended functionality.
- Business instrument. You want your corporate website to achieve certain business goals (e.g. increase sales, attract clients, accumulate human resources etc.). In order for your future website to do that, you have to possess a distinct marketing strategy, and fully reveal it to your web producer. Do not be reluctant to share the information! The more your web agency knows about your business peculiarities, the better product they will be able to deliver.
Define the person in charge
Just as the web agency assigns a project manager for your website development, you must entitle a responsible person on your side. We advise that you choose that person wisely, and here is why.
- Representative function. The responsible manager will keep in touch with the web production team, and represent your company during meetings, brainstorms, and negotiations. This means that this person’s business vision and attitude will be treated as that of your company. If he or she fails to transmit it correctly, your future website will suffer from the same flaw.
- Decision-making. At certain crucial points, your responsible manager will have to make a series of decisions, which will influence the final look and functionality of the end product. These crucial points of the waterfall website design process will be stated below. Make sure you entrust your manager with the level of authority to judge and approve the options, which will be presented to them.
- Further website guidance. Once the website is done and launched, it has to be maintained. Updates, news stories, and visitor feedback create the impression that the company is alive and well. If your latest news piece is dated two years ago, the visitor will automatically assume there is something wrong with your business. The site is a tool, and your responsible manager has to learn how to use it. So, for the development project, consider assigning a person whom you are planning to keep responsible for dealing with the website further on.
What is waterfall development
There are several approaches that web design agencies use to organize their work. The most straightforward, and easily plannable for both the agency and the client is the so-called waterfall method. With this method, your production will undergo several fixed phases. Let us look at these phases from the client’s perspective, and define the pivotal points on which your responsible manager must focus their attention.
1) Request for proposal (RFP). You must formulate your goals as clearly as possible, so the web producer is able to calculate the project’s cost and timeframe properly. Remember to focus solely on your business goals and metrics, and not the implementation. Explain your business vision, company values, and the things that your business aims to achieve with the website, but leave the selection of tools to the web agency.
A good RFP is the recipe for your future website. Giving blurry instructions or insufficient company background will make the end result just as unconvincing. We will focus on the tips of writing a decent RFP in one of our following publications.
2) Objective setting and the initial talks. In order to settle the project’s budget and timeframe, the personal communication between your responsible manager, and the web developer's project supervisor must commence. During this conversation, try to see if the web design agency is willing to treat this project from the point of view of your business, and ask them how they are planning to do it. By this point, a good web agency will already have an idea or two in mind, and will be eager to discuss them with you.
3) Prototyping stage. A prototype is the skeleton of your future website. Web studios use prototypes so that the client, and all production departments involved in the development process can catch the same tune. Approving the prototype from your side means that you agree with the proposed website structure (pages hierarchy, arrangement of elements, enters, exits, and linking). However, please remember that the prototype is just a basic technical drawing. It may not, and probably should not resemble the final visual look of the website or its constituents. These are considered during the next stage.
4) Design concept approval. After the purpose of every page and element becomes clear, the time for breathing life into your website comes. The general visual theme, which will embody your corporate strengths is known as the design concept. The design concept always derives from your business goals formulated at the start of the project. Whether or not it will resemble your corporate colors, target audience preferences or market behavior, depends only on your initial objective setting. So, make sure to set all parameters right from the start, in order not to deal with too many design iterations.
5) Materials and content. This is an extensive process, which usually goes parallel to the standard development chain. If design is a dressing, content is the main course for your website visitor. Therefore, you have to make sure the content is at par with your website, and sends the right message in the right way. Many companies have to resort to professional photo sessions, video production and marketing copywriting, because they don’t possess the materials good enough for their websites. Your web agency can assist you in this – but again, the necessity of it should be clearly understood by both sides, and the earlier, the better.
6) Final version approval. One of the classic misunderstandings occurring between the customer and their web producer is reluctance to approve the final website version. Somehow, you may get a feeling that the final version does not exactly match the initial picture in your head.
The only legit reason for that may be the change of your goals or strategy in the course of the website development. The whole process may take up to 3-4 months, and sometimes, your company may experience some change of plans within that period. If it happens, it’s crucial to inform your web agency as soon as possible, and make sure to give the correct new introductory to your project manager. Only then it will be possible to alter the impression which your website is intended to create.
Other than that, not being able to approve the final version can only mean one thing – the lack of commitment of your responsible manager. The whole purpose of the waterfall methodology is that the final version “flows out” of the previously approved stages. In order for it to match your level of expectation, you have to get involved in the process, and treat all your decisions along the way with full responsibility.
Your role in the waterfall plot
As much as we insist on formulating business-oriented instructions for your contractor, the web agencies do not like to be overly controlled. And with all due respect, they shouldn’t be. The manager responsible for the project from your side has to understand his or her role in it.
The web producer expects you to give insights and expertise on your company’s business processes, strategy, goals and competitive environment. Based on this data, they elaborate prototypes and concepts. What they do not expect from you, however, is trying to suggest the color of buttons, shape of checkboxes, or sequence of animations. Just be the judge of how well the whole thing represents your business or copes with its goals. As for the details – leave them to professionals.
When going for an upgrade or a complete rework of your corporate website, remember that it will have to serve you for at least 2-3 years. That is why it has to embody your corporate strategy for the same period, at least. A website without the clear strategy behind it is a waste of time and money. Keep that in mind, and a good web agency will make sure your website is a worthy reflection of your business for years to come.