While most new websites or site redesigns are completed on time and on budget, there are issues that can derail your website project and leave it dragging on for months or (eek) even years.
I see it in so many of my clients’ website projects. They kick off with enthusiasm and a sense of urgency about creating or updating their website. There are meetings and proposals and requests of “how soon can we get it done?”. And while most travel smoothly and quickly to their go live date, there are others that languish and feel like they crawl on their hands and knees, panting and groaning, to get to the finish line.
Many of my business owner or marketing friends have tales of website projects that drag on for months longer than expected. And there is no doubt that there can be hold ups and issues on the part of the web designer. Most of those can be overcome with strong processes and clear and consistent communication.
However there are also issues and roadblocks on the client side that can delay or derail their website.
So here are 13 common issues that can derail your website project – and the fixes that can help you avoid big delays.
ISSUE 1. NOT HAVING A CLEAR STRATEGY
Like any marketing activity, your website will have the greatest impact when there is a clear and deliberate strategy driving its development. Without a clear strategy, it’s more difficult to make sure your site does the job it has to do in supporting your business and marketing goals.
Building a website without a strategy is like building a house without plans.
Can you imagine going to a builder and asking them to build you a house, but with no clear designs or plans? Without considering how many bedrooms you need, how many people will be living there, the kind of kitchen you want or how many bathrooms? Even if you buy an existing house design, you (hopefully) put thought into whether the layout suits your family’s needs, and whether the design suits the lifestyle you want to create.
In this same way, you should develop a clear strategy for your website and its place in your marketing strategy.
FIX: DEVELOP A WEBSITE STRATEGY
Now, some people can be scared off by the word “strategy”. They picture something so complex that they don’t know where to begin. But a website strategy doesn’t need to be hard.
It’s a matter of asking yourself a few key questions:
- Why do you want a website and how will it support your business?
- What do you want your website to achieve / what is the priority goal of your website?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are the key messages your website needs to convey, and how can they be communicated in a way that is appealing and interesting to your target audience?
- How do we lead website visitors to becoming customers?
- If you have an existing website, look at key metrics to determine what’s working well and what needs improvement?
- How should your brand be represented?
- Who will be responsible for leading the website project and the ongoing management of the website?
When considering these questions, think of the answers for right now as well as 3-5 years down the track. By keeping in mind the potential future needs of your business, you can develop a website that will evolve with your business.
The answers to these questions provide the framework for the website project and will form the basis of your project brief. If you don’t feel confident developing the strategy, an experienced web designer will be able to guide you and support you in the process.
ISSUE 2: NOT PROVIDING A GOOD, CLEAR BRIEF
The secret to working with any consultant or contractor is providing a detailed, clear brief. But it’s surprising how few clients do so.
Your website brief is like the architectural plans you would give your builder. It should give information about the website strategy, but also provide more details around design, functionality and content.
The more ideas or expectations you have about your website, the more detailed your brief should be.
If you don’t really have an idea in your head of the structure of your website or what it should look like, that’s fine. That’s what you’re hiring your web designer to do and they will provide their recommendations as to how best to represent your brand and achieve your objectives.
But if you DO have a picture in your head of how you want it to look and feel, share that information with your web designer. Don’t assume they know what you’re thinking, or leave them to guess at what you want.
I once had a client say “I can’t explain how I want my website to look but I’ll know it when I see it”. This approach can lead to huge delays and increased costs if your web designer has to keep going back and forth, guessing what you’re after.
You may not be able to provide the exact design or an explanation of the picture in your head. But if you want to convey a certain look or feel, collect examples of websites you love that look / feel the same way. Create a Pinterest board and curate images that reflect the look, colour scheme and personality. Give your designer as much information as possible, and you’ll significantly increase the chances of getting the website you want, quickly and on budget.
Provide a detailed, clear brief outlining:
- all the functionality you want your website to have
- your brand guidelines, values and personality
- detailed description of your target audience
- examples of websites you love / don’t love.
- if you’re upgrading an existing website, communicate what you do and don’t like about your current website and what it’s missing.
- as much information as you can to communicate your ideas and expectations.
The best way to develop your brief is to work with your web designer as it’s created. They will be able to ask for clarification and provide advice along the way.
This will allow your web designer to give you an accurate estimate of the cost and timeline of the project, removing the risk of major delays or surprise costs. It will also give them the best chance at achieving your expectations.
ISSUE 3: CHANGING YOUR BRIEF
Let’s go back to the example of building a house. Imagine if you gave your builder the plans and they started building and putting up the frames. Part-way through the project, you decide that instead of 3 bedrooms, you really want 4. And the master bedroom’s ensuite should now include a separate bath as well as a simple shower. Oh and you’d now like a double garage instead of a single car port.
Many builders (and web designers) can tell you horror stories of exactly these situations.
While it’s usually possible to accommodate the additional requests, they rarely come without added expenses and time delays. Sometimes these changes mean going back to square one and starting again.
I’ve had an example of a client who has approved, and then changed, their website structure and design three times. What started as an urgent project was extended and extended as each change led to greater delays.
By putting time and focus on creating a website strategy and then developing a clear brief (in conjunction with your web designer), you reduce the risk of having to change your brief. Sure, small tweaks will crop up and web designers should allow flexibility for small changes and developments, but investing the time up front will reduce the need for significant changes that will derail your project.
ISSUE 4: GETTING STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED TOO LATE IN THE PROCESS
I strongly recommend getting all major stakeholders involved early in the website project to avoid delays later in the process. While some stakeholders (board members, team leaders, business owners) are happy to let their marketing team get on with the job and trust their judgement, others like to get involved in the details. If they’re not involved in the briefing process (or aren’t shown the design until it’s almost ready to go live) they can often ask for changes that delay the project.
This issue is less likely if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, but can still occur when clients ask for feedback from friends, family or team members towards the end of the project.
Get your key stakeholders involved in developing (or at least approving) the website strategy and brief. Keep them informed throughout the project so they have the opportunity to provide feedback at appropriate times. Don’t leave it until the site is about to go live.
ISSUE 5: PERFECTIONISM
While this issue is an underlying cause of many of the other issues mentioned in this blog post, it deserves its own spot as a potential cause of website delays and derailment.
I completely understand that you want your website to be “perfect”. The only challenge is … perfection doesn’t exist. Outstanding quality exists. Exceptional user experience exists. Perfection … not so much. There will always be something that can be improved.
So rather than putting off crafting the text or deciding on the images because you want them to be “perfect”, aim for great quality instead.
If you’re confident that your content is representing your brand well and helping your customers … that’s a great place to start.
Also remember, your website is not carved in stone. Unlike the good ol’ days where printed material was around for a long time, your website can (and should) be updated regularly – especially when it’s built on a platform like WordPress.
Let go of the quest for “perfect” and allow yourself to get started. Remember, done is better than perfect!!
ISSUE 6: UNDERESTIMATING THE WORK INVOLVED
Website redesigns (or new websites) involve a fair amount of work for the project leader. A big issue is underestimating the amount of work you need to do, or not being aware of all the tasks you need to complete.
Ask your web designer to provide a project plan and task list at the beginning of the project. Additional tasks may pop up, but by having an overview of the work you’ll need to complete, you can set aside the time and make the website project a priority.
ISSUE 7: DELAY IN GETTING MATERIAL TO YOUR WEB DESIGNER
A big hold-up for many website projects is the time it takes the client to get the required material (copy, images, logos etc) to the web designer. When you appoint your web designer, they allocate your project time in their schedule. If there is a significant delay in getting the material to them to start the project, your project will run behind time and probably overlap with other scheduled projects. (It’s like if a patient is late to a doctor’s visit and their appointment has to be sandwiched in between other appointments). This could extend the time it takes to complete your project as it will be competing with others.
If you’re struggling to get the information together, consider working with a copywriter or outsourcing different aspects to speed up the process and free you up to concentrate on your other work.
When you appoint your web designer, discuss project timelines and set aside time to collate the information and images needed. While things crop up in business and that’s completely understandable, try as hard as possible to stick to deadlines so your website can stay on track.
ISSUE 8: DRIP FEEDING YOUR CONTENT
Where possible, it’s great to give your web designer as much of the copy and imagery as possible. Sure, we can put dummy content in as a placeholder until your final copy is finished, but if content and imagery is drip fed to us, it’s hard to create the big picture design. Back to our house example, it would be like a builder trying to build the house without knowing exactly what materials he’ll be working with.
Yes, we can get started, but it may lead to changes being needed down the track, which in turn can delay your project.
Pull together as much of the content and imagery as possible up front. Work with your designer to create lists of content required so you can set aside time to do it in one hit. This is also a better use of your time as you can create in batches and give it a burst of focused attention rather than spurts of attention here and there.
ISSUE 9: WRITER’S BLOCK
Many clients will decide to write their own website copy in an effort to save money on the project. But unless you are a writer, this copywriting can take a LOT of your time and energy.
Of course as the expert on your business you will need to spend time pulling together the appropriate information, but consider having a copywriter craft the text. Sure, it will cost some money, but if you placed an hourly rate on the time you take to write it all, it’s usually a better investment to get a professional to do it.
Hire a professional to do the copywriting for you.
If you want to do it yourself, you can read some blogs to get you started:
ISSUE 10: FINDING IMAGES
In our visual world, the right images can make or break a website. Wherever possible, I recommend having professional images shot for your website. That way you can make sure you have exactly the right photos to represent your brand and capture the attention of your target market.
But where budget or time doesn’t allow this, aim for high quality stock photography. Avoid the cheesy “man or woman in suit staring into the distance” or “business people shaking hands while staring into the camera” images. There area some great stock image libraries around that have high quality, non-cheesy photos available. (If you are using stock photography, make sure you have adequate permission to use the photo on your website. Check the copyright / licenses and don’t assume that because they’re on a “free” stock library that you’re allowed to use them in that way. Hefty penalties can apply for misusing photos.)
Sourcing these images can be time-consuming, so don’t leave it until the last minute.
If you have professional images taken for your website, share as many as possible with your web designer as they may see ways of using the images that you haven’t considered.
If using stock photography, download comp images and share them with your designer so they can identify those that work best within the design, and can save you purchasing images that won’t work.
ISSUE 11: TAKING TOO LONG TO RESPOND TO REQUESTS
As well as providing the content for the website, throughout the project there will be times where you’ll be asked for feedback or approval before the next stage can be started. The quicker you’re able to respond to these requests the more smoothly your website project will travel.
There will be times you’ll want to take some time to think about your feedback, or gain input from stakeholders or advisors, and that’s to be expected. However when feedback or approval is a long time coming, it can interrupt the project’s momentum and severely delay the delivery of the website.
Another issue can occur if the project leader leaves or goes on holidays. It’s a good idea to have a project deputy ready to step in if this is an issue.
If you have a project plan as mentioned earlier, you can have time allocated to work on the website project. Wherever possible, respond as quickly as you can to keep the momentum going.
ISSUE 12: UPDATING / REMOVING OLD OR OUTDATED CONTENT
A website redesign is a fantastic opportunity to spring clean your website and remove old or outdated content. And while that sounds like a straightforward thing to do, it can take some time and resources.
For example, if you’re removing outdated pages or old blog posts, redirects need to be put in place to ensure there aren’t any broken links in your site. (These can be a problem from both a user experience and SEO perspective). If you’re significantly changing the design of your blog, each blog post may need imagery to be updated or changed. And if you’re website is a few years old and you’ve been consistently adding new content, this can mean a significant number of pages that need updating.
Work with your designer to factor in this spring clean and the work needed to bring all your existing content up to date.
ISSUE 13: TECHNICAL ISSUES AS YOU GO LIVE
If, as part of your web design, you’re moving web hosts or changing the technical aspects of your web site, it’s important to identify this up front and provide all the relevant information to your web designer.
This includes account details for your web hosting and domain registration, payment gateways, email marketing systems and premium plugins.
Also, if your email server is linked to your web hosting and may be impacted, a robust plan needs to be put in place to make sure you don’t lose any valuable emails or have your email down for any length of time.
Discuss these requirements with your web designer up front, and provide all the appropriate logins and information early in the project.
So there you have it! Thirteen issues I’ve encountered that can lead to delays in your website project, each of which has a simple fix to avoid significant impact.
The more work you can do up front to build the foundations of your project, and the more you communicate and work in consultation with your web designer, the more likely it is that you will have smooth and problem-free web design experience.