Most websites follow a similar pattern: You realize your site no longer meets your needs, and so you scramble to build a new one. The process is chaotic, messy and the end-result is sub-par, but hey, it’s better than its predecessor, right?
Three months in, you hit your first snag. That critical feature the sales team wants added? It’s eight weeks of development time, minimum. When it finally goes live, it causes another critical site function to break. After some panicked troubleshooting, the site gets fixed…But four weeks later, what was supposed to be a small tweak to the user interface causes the dreaded White Screen of Death. The next request for a design update to the homepage? It gets met with a resounding no.
Another year passes, two if you’re lucky. Maintaining your current website is now completely untenable. You rush to reinvent it. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseum.
How do you break free of the cycle? You balance short-term expectations with a long-term view, and build your website to scale with you as you grow. The goal is to avoid incurring too much technical debt—the delayed maintenance costs you end up paying later for sacrificing strategic thinking and quality for expediency upfront. If the balance between speed, strategy and/or quality is off, the resources, time and energy required to fix problems and implement future changes will significantly exceed that of doing it right in the first place.
Most discussions of technical debt focus on cutting corners in website engineering—skipping usability tests or writing sloppy code. But we’ve found that the greatest contributor to technical debt isn’t technical in origin at all. The number one culprit is a siloed view of website needs—and a failure to account for all stakeholder goals and requirements in current and future-state planning. While your external user should hold the most sway over the design and functionality of your website, you also need to factor in the needs of everyone from the marketing and sales departments to HR and IT to your customer-facing professionals.
If you take the time to canvas all stakeholder needs at the onset of website development—using a mix of qualitative and quantitative assessment methods—you’ll have a better picture of the full universe of desired capabilities. While you may not be able to address that full universe now, you can make strategic choices that will make it easier to integrate those capabilities down the line.
We get it: Sometimes deadlines are nonnegotiable, and speed really is of the essence. But make that decision intentionally, with your eyes wide open. And even on a condensed timeline, a rapid assessment of user needs can help you mitigate technical debt and extend the longevity of your website.
However, a short-term mindset and an overly narrow view of what your website can do means you’ll never realize the full potential of your investment. Your website is more than a digital parking lot for company information. It’s a powerful prospecting and sales engine. It’s the external embodiment of your brand, and the foundation of your digital customer experience. It’s a recruiting tool. And on the flip side of the coin, it’s also a potential security and legal liability.
If you have the time to be strategic, take it—and end the cycle.
The Bliss Group’s Website Development Solution
We’re excited to introduce our new website development offering. Created in collaboration with our sister agency in The Next Practice, Victory CTO, our solution removes the friction in the web design and development process by integrating multiple disciplines into a single, holistic approach. We combine the power of storytelling with data and analytics, UX design, and engineering capabilities to create digital experiences that can scale and evolve with you.
Underpinning our solution is our Digital Experience Diagnostic (DXD), a data-driven discovery model to align your website with your business goals and systematically assess:
- Target audience (external user) needs
- Internal stakeholder needs
- Competitor positioning and SEO
- Brand experience gaps*
Through the DXD, we’re able to create the blueprint for a user-centric website that is worthy of your brand and built to last.
*We define a brand experience gap as inconsistencies between what your brand promises and the digital experience you deliver. Brand experience gaps fall into four buckets: narrative and messaging, visual identity, site usability, and site performance.
Stay tuned for more website best practices!
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