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Website Tips — Hitting Your Due Date

Launching our own responsive website taught us some valuable lessons. Chief among them, why it can take almost as much time to birth a site as to gestate an elephant (22 months).

The day we decided to develop a new website it all seemed so easy. And, in fact, the initial part was. Building out the architecture and designing the site are ‘conception’ and just like in mammals, conception happens pretty quickly and with a flurry of passion.

Making the site a real, living, breathing beast is what takes the time. In our case, it took nearly 15 months from when we first thought, ‘Crap our site looks old’ to last week when we launched our new one. That’s about five months longer than our initial ‘very generous and makeable’ schedule.

Seem long? It isn’t unique. During site development there are many things that can cause delays. But generally speaking, 90 percent of them are a direct result of content lag — whereby the architecture, design and templates are done, but there’s nothing to fill them with.

Now, that doesn’t happen if you’ve hired an agency to build out all of your content, but most organizations can’t afford to do that. Instead, they hire out design, development and some limited content, while developing a lot of the deeper content themselves. This (as we, ourselves discovered) can really extend a timeline.

So, without further ado, here are a few website tips gleaned through the gestation of

Be realistic about content:
Everyone (us included) has grandiose plans for content — insightful white papers, pithy bios, cool animated videos, hyperactive blogs — but when the rubber meets the road getting everything written, photographed and videotaped can bring site development to a halt. Our first suggestion then is to consider a phased approach to content — what has to be up at launch? Start there, and bring the rest online after the site’s up and running.

Assign and empower a project lead:
At the end of the day, someone has to be responsible for getting content done and loaded on the site. It is best to give this authority to someone whose time you can dedicate to the project. Otherwise, the work inevitably falls to the bottom of the pile. Despite our own best efforts in house, this happened repeatedly (cheese alert: serving clients comes first at PartnersCreative!). If we’d have made our site a stronger priority, you’d have been reading this last September.

Divide and conquer:
This site has dozens of pages and each of those has content. No one person generated it all. For example, the work section alone took a team of five to curate, re-size and write explanations for campaigns and individual pieces. Most large sites get bogged down because a company can’t put enough people-power behind the project. So, create an internal content team up front and have your project lead make assignments and deadlines. You’ll be much more likely to launch on time.

Start content development on day one:
In most cases, websites aren’t 100 percent new content. And much of the content isn’t dependent on a look or concept. Start writing components such as bios, case studies and blog articles at the beginning of the project. Identify through mapping, the content you may want to migrate from your old site or other media and edit it so it’s ready to roll when the site templates are built out.

No studying your own navel:
Any new website should have a Content Management System. So evolution of content is easy and expected. Yes, what you load to the site initially must be accurate, well thought out and compelling, but don’t treat the medium like it’s a stone tablet. If you have to run every word by a committee to get it up and on the site, prepare to deliver well after your expected due date. Instead, empower the team to make decisions and get the content in place. You can always update it once the site is live.

Don’t get distracted by shiny objects:
The Web is constantly changing, which makes it easy to start looking around at new, cool things halfway through site development and think, ‘I want that, too!’ Make a list of those functionalities and save it for future evolutions of the site. If you try to shoehorn them into your schedule, it can mean delays and additional programming dollars.

We also encourage you to check out the sites we’ve developed for our clients. Most of which were much less work than the delivery of an elephant or even our very own, beautiful little

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