Compugen is about to launch our totally made-over, written-from-scratch website. I’m thrilled that we’re at the 90-yard mark and overall, really pleased with the results. We went in with clear objectives and I believe that we’ve largely achieved them. Having said that, it has been an enormous, time-consuming, and at times, wrenching task. This was my first website redesign and despite a lot of research, I learned a lot of things the hard way, first hand. In the hopes that I can save anyone else in my role a bit of time and frustration, here are some of the top things I learned through the process.
1. Like a house renovation, take your budgeted timeframe and double it. And then add a bit
I feel like I should have known this – everything takes longer than you think – but given that we were working with an outside firm on the development and we had a site to begin with – I assumed our timelines would be accurate. What started as a 6-month project has taken just over a year.
2. Ask a LOT of questions of your developers up front
The single largest point of debate and discussion between me and my developers was the gap between my knowledge about the web development process, and the level of knowledge that the developers assumed I had. This was all new for me – as I’m guessing it is for most people designing or re-designing a website. Things that I thought were general guidelines (wire frame templates) turned out to be very specific requirements and others that I thought were specific , were actually more open to interpretation. And while this caused a number of setbacks as my team rewrote to specs and re-examined templates, the good news is that my developers were absolutely fabulous about adapting and helping us get back on track.
3. Be crystal clear on your audience and your goals
We were and it made all the difference in keeping the writing and the project on track. We knew that our new site needed to be all about insight and the style needed to speak to our specific audience. What could we offer our customers and prospects that wasn’t just feeds and speeds and all about our internal structure– but insight and solutions aligned to their business, written in a way that would be helpful to them. Even with defined goals and upfront agreement from stakeholders, there were still many conflicts along the way. The ability to go back to the objectives for guidance meant that resolution was never difficult to obtain – even within a group of highly creative and opinionated people (my favourite thing about Compugen!) at the table.
4. Welcome opinion and never take it personally
There were times that this was really difficult. In a project that consumed hundreds of hours, and as someone who had a personal hand in every word written and every creative decision made, it’s tough not to feel some pain at even the most constructive criticism. In the end, there is no way to make everyone happy with every element of a project – but some of the harshest critics can provide some of the best insight. I deliberately invited individuals to comment on the site that I knew would be less likely to approve – and I dreaded the reviews that might result. While there were moments of anguish, mostly, the feedback was incredible positive and gratifying; and the comments that were less positive forced us to review whether things needed to be adjusted to achieve our stated goals. Ultimately resulting in a better design and experience for our customers. There are so many elements to a good web design experience – but combined with a terrific team, both internal and external, these are what made the difference for me. Want to see how it turned out? Check us out after October 1st at www.compugen.com. What have you learned from your web development project?